Roll No. 29 is now just a cold and lifeless number in Class 8 of Government Senior Secondary School, Khalra. Jagjit Singh, 13, of Narla village will no longer answer to this number during the roll call. The promising student, fondly called Love by his family and friends, was found murdered by his kidnappers on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, his school, situated about 2km from the India-Pakistan border, wore a deserted look. The management had closed the institution for the day to mourn Jagjit's death, but a few students and teachers were present on the campus. They were in a state of shock and disbelief.
Vice-principal Harjit Singh Chhina said, "He was part of our family. We cannot believe that he is no more. Jagjit was a disciplined student who respected his teachers. He had just taken one leave in the past month."
"The boy's parents came to me on Saturday evening after he did not return home. But when we went through the attendance register, it was found that Jagjit did not come to school that day," said principal.
Jagjit's classmates Sukhraj and Ranjit said, "He was our friend. We are shocked and sad." The boys took the HT team to their classroom and showed the bench where Jagjit used to sit. The boy had inscribed his initials, 'JS', on the bench.
Class teacher Inderjit Singh said, "He had come to my class just a month ago. But still we had developed a bond. It is hard to believe that he was killed."
Jagjit was kidnapped by his uncle, Surjit Kumar, and Lakhwinder Singh, alias Lakha, when he was going to school on Saturday morning.
The kidnappers called up the boy's parents, Ramjit and Geeta Rani, and demanded Rs 12-lakh ransom. However, Ramjit, who runs a grocery shop, asked the kidnappers to release the boy as he could not arrange the money.
The police recovered the boy's school bag and bicycle near a drain on Monday. His body was found in a field at Bhucher village the next day after Surjit told the police that the boy had been murdered.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Tarn Taran SSP Manminder Singh said, "We made all-out efforts, but the kidnappers killed the boy."
He added, "During questioning, Surjit said the boy had been killed on Saturday itself. We are conducting raids to nab co-accused, Lakhwinder."
Sports teacher Sawan Singh said Jagjit had opted for boxing during the sports period. "He was very enthusiastic about the sport and used to participate regularly in training sessions."
His schoolmate, Ranjit, said Jagjit was good at boxing.
Ramjit and Geeta Rani were inconsolable during their son's cremation at Narla village on Wednesday afternoon. Shopkeepers of Khalra, where the boy studied, downed shutters in mourning. Jagjit's younger brother and sister were also present.
Many Khalra residents gathered at the cremation ground to express sympathies with the family. They said the government should increase vigil for the safety of children in border villages.