The police suspect arson caused the fire that consumed a thatched shed in the precincts of Government Vocational Higher Secondary School, Paruthipally at Kuttichal, in Nedumangadu taluk early on Thursday.

Education Department officials said the shed housed six classrooms. The fire destroyed 78 pieces of furniture, chiefly benches and desks. Local residents noticed the blaze at 7.45 a.m. They informed the police and the Fire and Rescue Services. The fire had consumed the shed by the time the firemen reached the spot. The narrow entrance to the school impeded fire-fighting operations.

The police said the school was often a haunt of certain anti-social elements at nights, weekends and on public holidays. The police had earlier received anonymous information that students often found some classrooms littered with paper cups, empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts and food leftovers when the institution opened after weekends and public holidays. The police suspect that some of the anti-socials elements used the cover of a ruling front party for their illegal activities.

The police said the school authorities had earlier reported the loss of expensive study material, including a few computers, from the school premises. They were yet to detect the case. An investigator said there was also a complaint that some anonymous persons had attempted to sabotage the construction of a new classroom building on the school campus last year.

Hartal call

The local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called a hartal in Kattakada in protest against the alleged arson at the school. Local BJP leaders alleged that the fire was the handiwork of certain anti-social elements with powerful political links. They have urged the police to bring the suspects to book at the earliest.