A group of residents of Michaelpatti approached the Thanjavur district administration on Friday demanding that ‘independent committees’ formed by political parties and religious outfits should not be allowed to conduct inquiries in their hamlet in connection with the recent death of a Class XII girl student from Ariyalur district.
The girl’s father too petitioned the Collector, seeking action against school authorities for “forcing his daughter to end her life.”
In the memoranda, one penned by members of Hindu and Muslim communities residing in Michaelpatti and the other by the villagers, the residents claimed they had been living in harmony for over five generations and no issues had cropped up among them based on religion.
After the unfortunate death of the schoolgirl, some groups with religious affinity have started propagating that religious conversion was rampant in the village, particularly at the school, they said and condemned attempts to project the village in bad light.
‘Independent committees’ should be barred from entering the village and conducting inquiries about the cause of death of the schoolgirl, they said.
[The State BJP, citing a short video clip, had claimed the girl took the extreme decision because of attempted religious conversion. While in another video clip, the girl complained of being burdened with non-academic work by her hostel warden and indicated she was not discriminated on religious lines. Both video clips are subject matters of police investigation, and the Madras High Court’s Madurai Bench is also seized of the matter.]
The parent-teachers association president, residents, parents of students and alumni of the school, in a separate petition to the Collector, sought protection for the Christian Missionary School, where the Class XII girl had studied.
They claimed that after the recent incident, some parties/outfits having strong religious affinity have embarked on a “smear campaign” to defame the 163-year-old school and its teachers and sought action against the organisations concerned.
In his petition to the Collector sent through registered post, the girl’s father sought legal action against those who drove his daughter to take the extreme step and demanded the withdrawal of the recognition given to the school.
As per the petition, he had received information from school authorities on January 10 that his daughter, staying at the hostel, was unwell and was asked to take her for treatment. As her health deteriorated, she was taken to the Thanjavur Medical College Hospital on January 15. “After examining her, the doctors suspected my daughter might have consumed some poison. She revealed that the school authorities had insisted that she convert to Christianity by stating that they would take care of educational expenses,” he claimed.
The girl, her father further claimed, said she was taken to a church in the neighbouring Tiruchi district, where unidentified persons urged her to convert. When she refused, she was tasked with non-academic chores at the hostel, including cleaning toilets, he claimed.
When she expressed her inability to bear the workload, the school authorities asked her to end her life, the father alleged. The district administration has forwarded his petition to the Thanjavur Superintendent of Police for inquiry, according to sources.
Meanwhile, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) K. Balakrishnan affirmed the party’s solidarity with the management and staff of the school by calling on them on Friday.
Talking to reporters here on Friday, he said the politicisation of the girl’s death by the BJP had caused immense stress to the teaching and non-teaching faculty of the school and expressed apprehensions that it could even prevent children of the region getting quality education.
Urging the people not to pay heed to the BJP on the issue, he urged the state government to ensure a fair probe into the cause of the girl’s death.
Claims such as the step-motherly treatment meted out to the girl by her family members should also be probed, he demanded.
Mr. Balakrishnan urged the government to initiate action against the BJP State president, K. Annamalai, for what he called “raking up communal tensions”, which would harm social harmony in Tamil Nadu.
(Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050)