Pinarayi orders CBI probe into Sidharthan’s death after meeting his family

Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan welcomes the decision and ends Congress’s hunger strike.

March 09, 2024 02:16 pm | Updated March 10, 2024 12:38 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, centre, meets family members of Sidharthan, a student who died in Wayanad.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, centre, meets family members of Sidharthan, a student who died in Wayanad. | Photo Credit: Chief Minister’s Office

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on March 8 ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the suspected death by suicide of J.S. Sidharthan, a second-year student of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University at Pookode in Wayanad in mid-February.

The student’s death had rocked State politics with Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, the Congress and also the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the Student Federation of India (SFI) activists in the college had tortured, shamed and put Sidharthan on public trial for some perceived campus demeanor, and left him to starve in his room for days before fellow hostelers found the student dead in a shared shower room in the college’s boarding house.

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On Saturday, Sidharthan’s father, Jayaprakash, met Mr. Vijayan at his office in the government secretariat. Mr. Jayaprakash later told reporters that the Chief Minister heard his misgivings about the ongoing State police probe and promised a CBI inquiry.

A State committee meeting of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had reportedly weighed on Friday whether the controversy would have a snowball effect, negatively impacting the party’s Lok Sabha election campaign.

By consenting to the family’s demand for a CBI enquiry, the government hoped it could disarm critics, brush aside the cobwebs of conspiracy theories allegedly spread by vested political interests and also take the edge of opposition street protests.

The government also reportedly wanted to avoid a political loss of face, given Mr. Khan’s stated attempt to move the Kerala High Court for “a serving judicial officer” to probe the case on the premise that the State police investigation was untrustworthy.

Mr. Khan, also the Chancellor of State-funded universities, had attempted to cast the State’s higher education sector under an unflattering spotlight by suspending the university’s vice chancellor for allegedly neglecting the welfare and safety of students on the campus, particularly hostelers.

Discomfitingly for the CPI(M), the SFI, an allied left student organisation, also found itself in the centre of a political storm, at an inopportune moment for the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) Lok Sabha campaign.

Mr. Khan and also the opposition parties had alleged that Sidharthan’s “murder” had drawn the curtains back on how the SFI “exerted a political chokehold on campuses by using inquisitorial methods, including public shaming, mock trials, violence, intimidation and ostracisation, to stifle dissent and bend students to their will”.

Kerala Students Union and Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad workers took to the streets and clashed with the police across the State, resulting in arrests and scores of injuries on both sides.

Early last week, Youth Congress State President Rahul Mamkootathil and Jebi Mather, MP, attempted to exert further political pressure on the government by launching an indefinite fast before the government secretariat to press their demand for a CBI enquiry.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan hailed the government’s decision to institute a CBI inquiry into Sidharthan’s death as a victory for justice and humanity. He said the government had also accorded the Congress a political victory and called off the hunger strike by his party workers.

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