The bodies of three students of Vagad Gurukul International School at Sakwar village of Virar, off the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, who went missing on the night of August 25, were found floating in a stream behind the school campus in what could be a shocking, mysterious and unbelievable case of triple suicide.
Parents of the three 14-year-old Class 9 students allege they would have been murdered and the bodies dumped in the stream which is too shallow for three boys to drown together. The clamber back from the narrow and shallow stream would have been easy for the three boys. The boys according to their friends were brutally beaten up by a teacher with a belt and shoes after scoring low marks. The three were beaten up and warned earlier as well and the plan to escape the brutal, stentorian monastic atmosphere of the hostel was made much earlier. Getting beaten up with a leather belt seems to have been the last straw for the young kids.
The boys, Prahul Narayan Patel, Meet Chadwa and Kushal Dhada were the best of friends. On August 25 they were beaten up by an yet unnamed teacher. At around 8.30 at night the three, who resided in the school hostel, jumped through a broken window, scaled the school wall and walked into the night never to be seen alive again.
"When we spoke to the students who had tried to stop them flee they confirmed that they were punished and beaten up by a teacher while sexual assault and harassment cannot be ruled out . We will question the teacher and the management," a police officer at the spot said.
"The boys scaled the main wall and walked towards the stream, which is marshy, and they might have drowned. We are investigating all angles and the post-mortem will throw up some clues. We will book all the people responsible for this, " said Mohd Suvez Haque, district superintendent of police, Palghar.
The bodies were swollen and this indicates that the death could have happened at least a day earlier. There was blood on the face of the bodies. The postmortem is being conducted at the JJ hospital.
The heartbroken parents of the boys suspect murder. Suresh Chadwa, father of Meet and a businessman dealing in wholesale garments said: "Meet was admitted to the school in Class 5 and he never complained of any harassment but when we spoke to his other classmates they confirmed that the boys were beaten with leather belts and shoes since they scored less marks and the teacher threatened them with further punishment. I had an only son and now he is gone. The school teachers are to be blamed."
Inconsolable Narayan Patel, father of Praful, whose face reflected the deep shock and sorrow within, said that he suspects that the kids were first murdered and dumped in the stream to make it seem a suicide.
Nilesh Dhada, father of Kushal blamed the school for killing his son. "Being a school of our Vagad (Jain) community we had admitted Kushal here. The school authorities showed no interest in searching for them and we were informed of very late about their bodies being found."
For such a serious and shocking tragedy, the school management was callous and unrepentent and continued blaming the students instead of offering any condolence or regret. "The students were very mischievous and were punished several times and warmed also but they did not mend their ways and decided to flee the hostel," a senior school official said even as the families of the dead were in shock and crying inconsolably.
Amrutbhai Gada, managing trustee of the school, said that an urgent meeting of the trustees has been called and an inquiry committee has been set up.
The incident has sent shock waves through Virar and Navi Mumbai area which has a lot of new residential schools.