Kallakurichi school riots: Indian protesters demand transparent inquiry into girl's death

Fifty police were wounded by protesters who claim authorities are covering up the cause of a 17-year-old student's death

People walk past school buses burnt during a protest over a female pupil's death in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Reuters
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Authorities have imposed prohibitory orders that ban gatherings of more than five people in parts of India’s southern Kallakurichi district, in Tamil Nadu, after protesters clashed with police over the death of a pupil aged 17.

More than 50 policemen were wounded after they were pelted with stones by protesters who burnt more than a dozen school buses and police vans, and vandalised property belonging to Sakthi International ECR school in Kallakurichi on Sunday.

The situation turned violent when the parents and local villagers gathered outside the private school to demand action against administrators after the Grade 12 pupil jumped from the top floor of a hostel on July 13.

A postmortem examination determined that she died of blood loss and shock. However, the girl's family has called the initial medical report false and refused to take her body.

With the support of villagers, they have staged protests for several days, demanding a federal investigation and the arrest of the person responsible for her death.

A final autopsy report is pending while the probe continues.

The district's senior police officer, SP Selvakumar, said that they had expected between 500 and 1,000 protesters on Sunday.

However, the number swelled to more than 4,000 and the situation spiralled out of control.

“They were eager to enter the school. As we prevented them, they turned into an unruly mob and started pelting stones,” Mr Selvakumar told The National.

The mob also reportedly set fire to school records, forcing police to call for an additional 500 personnel as reinforcements and use batons to disperse the protesters.

“We struggled to control the situation for three hours,” he said.

Mr Selvakumar said the moment the girl fell was recorded by closed-circuit cameras and police were examining the footage.

“They have different opinions but our investigation is based on scientific evidence. We have collected all the evidence and our investigation is still under way,” he said.

The school’s principal, secretary and an administrative officer were arrested on Sunday for failing to maintain safety at the hostel and the case was transferred to federal investigators.

State Chief Minister MK Stalin gave an assurance that a fair probe would be conducted and urged people to “keep calm and trust” the government's actions.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 10:40 AM