Chennai

IIT-M student suicide: police question professors, students

Family alleges that she faced harassment from faculty

The city police interrogated a dozen persons, including three professors, staff and students of the Indian Institute of Technology - Madras (IIT-M), following allegations by the family of a 19-year-old girl student who ended her life in her hostel room last week.

Fathima, a first-year student of the five-year integrated Humanities course and a rank holder, joined the IIT in July 2019 and was found dead in her room on Saturday. The family has alleged that she killed herself after facing harassment from the institute’s faculty.

K.N. Sudarshan, Assistant Commissioner of Police, told The Hindu: “As soon as the case was reported, everything was done properly, all procedures were followed. So far, 12 persons, including witnesses such as students, her classmates, roommates and even professors have been questioned. The mobile phone was handed over to us and it has been sent to the forensic lab for analysis. Investigation is on and we cannot come to a conclusion as yet.”

On Tuesday, the family of the deceased approached Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan demanding immediate intervention and a fair probe. Her father Abdul Latheef said a suicide note which was retrieved from her mobile phone named the faculty responsible for her death.

He accused the Chennai city police of improper investigation and dismissed the police version that she took the extreme step as she could not score good marks, as wrong. The family claimed she was a topper.

Last Saturday, when Kollam Mayor V. Rajendrababu accompanied the family and relatives and reached the Kotturpuram station for completing autopsy formalities, they found her phone on a table. The police hadn’t bothered to check it even after 14 hours of her death or list it as an evidence, said one of them.

After switching on the mobile, they found a note that the girl was facing constant harassment from a particular teacher, the family said in Kollam. In the backdrop of those allegations, the Kotturpuram police began an investigation from Tuesday to ascertain the cause of death.

On Wednesday, political parties including CPI(M), Manithaneya Makkal Katchi and Campus Front of India voiced their protest. Campus Front of India staged a protest outside the institute demanding justice for the student. President of Manithaneya Makkal Katchi M.H. Jawahirullah said the case should be transferred to CB-CID and action taken against the accused.

K. Balakrishnan, State general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has urged the Ministry of Human Resource Development to conduct a thorough inquiry.

Efforts to reach out to the institute did not yield any result. Till late in the evening the institute did not respond, save releasing a note listing their initiatives to prevent suicides on campus.

Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 7:12:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/iit-m-student-suicide-police-question-professors-students/article29966851.ece

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