Lifestyle & Belief

Violent protests in India after school lunch kills 22 children

The Indian state of Bihar saw violent protests Wednesday in the aftermath of 22 children dying and dozens more being hospitalized after eating a tainted free school lunch.

Parents and villagers took to the streets in Dharmasati Gandaman, where the children attended school. Four police vehicles were set on fire in the district and locals blocked streets and locked railway gates with poles and sticks.

Other demonstrations took place in Chhapra, where a crowd set fire to a bus and damaged private property. Political parties have called for a protest strike, but leaders have been chased from the streets by angry protesters.

More from GlobalPost: Tragedy in Bihar: 22 children dead, dozens in hospital after eating India school lunch

Bihar Education Minister PK Shahi said the school's principal fled immediately after the deaths became public.

Children arrived at local hospitals with their limbs dangling and heads lolling, and many laid listless on stretchers with IV drips in their arms.

"My children had gone to school to study. They came back home crying, and said it hurts," one distraught father said.

"I took them into my arms, but they kept crying, saying their stomach hurt very badly."

After running to the school to find out what had happened, the father said he saw "many bodies of children lying on the ground."

Doctors said a chemical used in pesticides was likely what contaminated the school lunch and caused the deaths.

"We feel that some kind of insecticide was either accidentally or intentionally mixed in the food, but that will be clear through investigations," said RK Singh, medical superintendent at the children's hospital in the state capital, Putna. "We prepared antidotes and treated the children for organic phosphorous poisoning."

India's Mid-Day Meal Scheme, introduced to fight hunger and boost school attendance, provides free food to students, but often does not meet proper hygiene standards.

Indian news service IANS has said that in the past, dead lizards, frogs, insects and a rat have been found in school meals.