Ryan murder case: We all have blood on our hands

Pradyuman Thakur was found dead in a school toilet on September 8. Photograph:( WION )

Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Nov 13, 2017, 12.58 PM (IST) Madhumita Saha

What is more chilling: To know that a 7-years old has been murdered or to be told that a 16-years old could have been the killer. 

As a parent, I don't want to be put in a situation where I would not know if I would shed tears for the dead or the accused.

My deepest regret is that we have failed both these kids collectively.

Not only have the school administration failed to protect one of its pupils, in shielding the perpetrator, they are exposing other kids of the school to a very dangerous environment.
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We failed to provide a safe environment for Pradyuman - a kid who was too young, too weak, too vulnerable to protect himself. I still don't know for certain whether, as the CBI has been pointing out since this morning, Dr Augustine Francis Pinto, Chairman of Ryan International Group of Institutions and other members of the Board of Trustees, was indeed involved in a cover-up.

If that allegation proves to be true, it is treachery of the highest order. Not only have the school administration failed to protect one of its pupils, in shielding the perpetrator, they are exposing other kids of the school to a very dangerous environment.

Teachers may have their favourite pupil but they are not supposed to discriminate between students. As a teacher, I had my favourites, however, I did not let that dictate my professional life. I can still recall, the quiet, bright boy sitting at the corner of the classroom or the argumentative, energetic girl sitting at the front desk. I liked few of them more than the others. But I was not allowed to privilege one over the other. If this more benign form of favouritism is a taboo in academia, can you imagine how heinous it is to cover up the death of a murdered student because the school administration is close to the parents of the accused?

Speculation, based on circumstantial evidence, is already rife that the Pintos had been trying to hide facts because the parents of the accused were members of the Board of Trustees.
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What could be the reason behind Ryan management's attempt for a cover-up? Speculation, based on circumstantial evidence, is already rife that the Pintos had been trying to hide facts because the parents of the accused were members of the Board of Trustees. The CBI did point out that the Gurgaon police did plant the knife on the co-accused who happens to be the school bus conductor.

Framing a less-privileged member of the working class for a crime they have not committed is not happening for the first time in India. It most possibly happened with the security guard Dhananjay Chatterjee who was hanged on charges of raping and murdering a 13-year old Hetal Parekh.

Our punishment doesn't end with knowing, reading and writing about these horrifying crimes. As if the brutality of these acts were not enough. We are pushed to the nadir of our civilised existence on knowing that people very much like us were complicit in these acts. Not monsters but very common people like us. The banality of evil did not die with holocaust perpetrators, such as Eichmann. This kind of people very much lives amidst us.
 
There is no doubt that we have failed to protect Pradyuman, Hetal, Arushi and many others. But have we done our duty towards the accused either?

We may give a vent to our anger and frustration with Pradyuman's death by making the accused look like a monster. Yes, he has committed a monstrous act if we believe in what CBI is telling us. But we have to stop and ask ourselves what caused the boy to act that day. At 16, he is of an age when he will play football and not plan a murder. What was he so scared of that murdering someone looked less scary to him?

We all want spectacular success for our kids which is not an illegal thought but if that pressure of expectation is pushing our kids into life-threatening in activities, there must be something terribly wrong with our dreams.
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As per the CBI, the 16 years old wanted to postpone an exam. Having sat for all kinds of exams -- nursery admission test to PhD defense-I know for sure that no exam is worth giving or taking a life. But this knowledge was drilled into me by my father, my school principal, and my teachers. Sister Cyril, the famous principal of Loreto Day School who later won Padma Shri for her educational efforts, did not believe in exams nor in the ranking system. She never allowed her students to compete with others. Her words, I still remember, emphasised on the need of improving one's own self.

I strongly feel that we are not adhering to this life motto anymore. We all want spectacular success for our kids, which by itself is not an illegal thought but if that pressure of expectation is pushing our kids into life-threatening activities, there must be something terribly wrong with our dreams.

Let all of our kids prosper. Let them live a life of milk and honey. But as parents, as teachers, as members of the civil society, we have to make sure that we act as their lifeguards. Rather than seek escape routes in the dark alleys of crime, they have to reach out to us if they feel insecure. 

We shouldn't fail our children. If we do, then the blood they spill is in our hands too.

Madhumita Saha

The writer is an academic-turned journalist. She taught history at Drexel University and New York University before joining WION.