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Friday 18 November 2011

Ragged for 2 years, boy drops out of Jharkhand school

Ragged for 2 years, boy drops out of Jharkhand school
Shankar, along with many freshers was made to do 500 push ups as part of ragging.
Like many children of his age, the immaculate military olive uniform fascinated Shankar Xalxo. He dreamt of becoming an army officer, but his poor tribal father hardly had the resources to send him to a good school - and fulfill his son's dream.

Shankar's determination fuelled his ambition: literally burning the midnight oil in his small, dark home. In 2009, he cracked the tough entrance exam of Sainik School, Tilaiya, in Jharkhand's Koderma district, about 160 km from Ranchi.

Two years later, the 14-year-old Class VIII student sneaked out of the school of his dreams and returned to his father's tea stall. Sustained ragging by his senior hostel-mates for over two years forced the boy to run away.

With tears in his eyes, and a heavy glint of fear, he narrated how on September 20 this year he was forced to do 500 push-ups by his seniors. "My hands were swollen and I couldn't appear for my exam," he said.

When the school closed for a month-long vacation in October, Shankar came home with a list of demands from the seniors.

"They told me bring two bags of eatables and enough money. If I failed, they warned, that consequences will be severe," he added.

The school reopened on Monday, but Shankar has flatly refused to return - rather bury his ambition than face the relentless torture every day. His parents did not force him either. "What can we do? Our son's safety is more important to us," his father Munna Xalxo said.

Shankar alleged that his complaints to the teachers and the principal fell on deaf ears.

Principal Lt-Col T. D. Premlal denied any knowledge of bullying in the hostel, saying his school has strict anti-ragging mechanisms and that no student had complained to him or the hostel wardens.

Shankar, however, stood by his allegation.

"My friends Vishwanath Oraon and Satyam Sonu had already left school as they could not cope with the ragging," he said.

Principal Premlal insisted that Shankar was accusing his seniors of ragging because he could not cope with the physical exercises, which was part of the curriculum, and needed an excuse to drop out.

Finding no option, his parents have approached the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement, an NGO, who in turn has written to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

"The best way to tackle ragging is by making it mandatory for every school and college to do a weekly or fortnightly survey of the first-year students. The idea is to encourage the students by approaching the entire batch and maintaining absolute anonymity rather than waiting for a whistleblower to come forward and report the incident," Gladson Dungdung, convener of the NGO, said.

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