Parents of poisoned India pupils protest

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GANDAMAN: Grieving parents rampaged through a village in eastern India to protest the deaths of 23 pupils who ate a poisoned school lunch and the perceived slow police response to the tragedy, officials said on Friday.

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Parents smashed up the home of the school’s headmistress and attacked government offices in the village in impoverished Bihar state, where the children died after being served a meal, apparently laced with insecticide, on Tuesday.

“Why have the police not been able to arrest the headmistress who forced our children to eat poisonous food? She should be killed,” said bereaved father Surendra Rai, who took part in the raid on Thursday after most of the children were buried.

Many of the victims, aged four to 12, from Gandaman village, were laid to rest on a playing field adjacent to the primary school that served the free meal of rice, lentils and potatoes—the only meal of the day for many.

Some 30 children remain sick in hospitals, mainly in the state capital Patna, officials said.

Police said they are probing whether the food or the cooking oil was accidentally or deliberately poisoned, after initial tests showed traces of insecticide. The results of forensic tests on the food are expected to be ready later Friday.

The parents of the dead children ransacked the home of headmistress Meena Kumari, who fled the village as pupils started to fall ill, smashing windows and attempting to set the property on fire, angry that she had not been arrested.

Anguished parents overnight also tried to break into two small government offices where food supplies, which are rationed for residents, are thought to be stored.

Rai said his eight-year-old daughter had died within minutes of eating the lunch, echoing stories from other parents who said their children perished in their arms before they could get them to hospital.

AFP

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