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Absconding school principal arrested

Rahi Gaikwad
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Meena Devi
Meena Devi

Eight days after the tragic mid-day meal incident in Bihar, police on Wednesday arrested Meena Devi, principal of Dharmasati Gandaman Primary School, who had been absconding. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hinted at a conspiracy saying coincidence or negligence did not result in such a large-scale tragedy.

He said the administration responded in the quickest possible time.

“The principal, who is an important accused, is in police custody. Police will investigate from all angles,” Mr. Kumar told a press conference here.

Police, who had launched a widespread search for Ms. Meena, arrested her based on local intelligence.

“She is being interrogated at a safe place. Rations came from her place pointing to her involvement to an extent,” Director General of Police Abhayanand said. Police probe is focussed on the conspiracy angle as intention “outweighs” negligence.

“The concentration of poison in the food was higher in comparison to commercial preparations. Prima facie inquiries have found that this cannot happen by mistake. The high level of poison is an outstanding factor. Intention is inferred from the level of injury. Since there has been a large number of deaths, prima facie it looks like there was an intention,” Mr. Abhayanand said. The police are also gathering evidence against Ms. Meena’s husband Arjun Rai to establish his role. “We have some evidence of his complicity. He came to the school on the fateful day at the time when the food was being cooked. He used to arrange for provisions for the mid-day meal. His involvement is clear, but the material we have so far won’t be enough to secure an arrest warrant against him. We are trying to cull out more information,” sources told The Hindu . Police are also probing the role of Dhruv Rai, a relative of Ms. Meena’s husband. So far, police have not found any evidence of intra-village enmity as a possible motive behind the incident. They have also discounted the caste hatred angle since children from all castes, including the principal’s Yadav community, have died in the incident.

“It is possible that an outside person with no interest in the village is involved. Different types of conspiracy angles are being explored,” sources said.

The FIR against Ms. Meena has serious charges of murder, attempt to murder, causing hurt by means of poison and criminal conspiracy. Police have spoken of conducting polygraph and brain mapping tests on her, if required.

Ms. Meena is slated to be produced before the court in Chapra on Thursday.


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