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St Joseph's School student murdered in HMI trek camp

St Joseph's School North Point Darjeeling
A Class IX student of St Joseph's School (North Point) last night allegedly stabbed to death his classmate in a camp organised by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, reportedly after he was disturbed while sleeping.

The 15-year-old, who is a foreign national and a hostel boarder, has been sent to a juvenile home and can be tried under Indian laws applicable to minors. He will be produced before the juvenile board on February 24.

School rector Father Shajumon said: "The boy (who attacked) said he was sleeping in the tent and he was being disturbed after which he used the knife. He said he remembered nothing after that."

His classmate, who had bleeding wounds in his legs and abdomen, was rushed to a private hospital in Siliguri but died on the way last night.

Police officers and the school were unclear about the detailed circumstances that led to the murder in Singla, 35km from Darjeeling town, where the school in arrangement with the HMI had organised a trekking camp from February 1. The camp was supposed to get over on February 13.

The boy who died, also a 15-year-old, was from Darjeeling and was a day scholar. His mother is at present in Siliguri for medical treatment, family sources said, while his father stays in Canada.

In the Singla camp, there were 115 students of North Point, a school that charges boarders about Rs 2 lakh a year and where several Bhutanese and Nepali royal family children study.

The two Class IX boys were in a group of 40 that was supervised by one schoolteacher and six HMI instructors.

The 115 students were divided into three groups with roughly 40 members each. "The first group had left Darjeeling on February 1, while the second and third groups departed on the next two days. They were to return to the HMI on February 13 for a graduation ceremony," said Colonel Gulshan Chaddhar, the principal of HMI.

Chaddhar said he had learnt that the murder happened after a bonfire. "A bonfire was organised at a playground in Singla where the tents were put up. The bell for the dinner was rung. While many boys went to eat, an incident took place in one of the four tents (for the second group)," he said.

Father Shajumon said there had been no apparent animosity among members of the group. Chaddhar also said that he had not heard of "fights in public".

Sharmila Chettri, the aunt of the dead boy, said the school should have sent more teachers and also arranged for more instructors to mind the boys.

Chaddhar, on being told about the aunt's compliant, said: "The incident is extremely unfortunate and our hearts go out to the family. However, we had sent enough instructors. There were six instructors from HMI and one from the school. Generally, one teacher controls around 40 students in a school. For the entire North Point students (115), we had deputed 18 instructors."

Chettri filed an FIR at Bijanbari-Pulbazar police station, naming the classmate of her nephew. "Around 7.55pm yesterday, we were informed by a teacher of North Point who was accompanying the students during the adventure course that a fight had taken place between two boys inside a tent and my nephew was seriously injured and that he was being brought to Darjeeling," she said.

Chettri said her nephew "had been stabbed in four places with a sharp weapon and was taken to a hospital in Darjeeling. He was immediately referred to Siliguri as there was internal bleeding. The doctor in the Siliguri hospital, however, said my nephew had died on the way."

The aunt said the school should have been more vigilant and should have sent more teachers with the group. "Only one teacher was accompanying the students. Moreover, the school should not make such courses compulsory."

Father Shajumon said "since the training is conducted by the HMI, there is an agreement under which the school sends one teacher and the mountaineering institute provides six instructors for a group of 40 students."

Asked if the adventure course was compulsory, the rector said: "Most of the Class IX students do the course which has been going on for many years. Of the 126 students in Class IX this year, 115 have gone for the adventure course."

The school is shut for winter vacation and will reopen on February 22.(TT)

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