Madras IIT student Fathima Latif’s death rocks Lok Sabha

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NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: MPs from Kerala and Tamil Nadu demanded in Lok Sabha on Monday a high level investigation into the mysterious death of Madras IIT student Fathima Latif.

 

DMK MP from TN M K Kanimozhi and RSP MP from Kerala N K Premchandran N K Premachandran raised the issue in the zero hour after their notice for an adjournment motion was rejected by the Speaker.

Premchandran termed the move on the part of the IIT management to initiate legal action against the parents of Fathima on the charge of defaming the premier institution unfortunate and sought the intervention of the Union government into the matter.

Kanimozhi alleged that the TN police investigating the case was trying to protect the culprits. “There are reports that the student had suffered religious discrimination in the institute. The victim had blamed one professor for her death. The police has not arrested him till today,” she pointed.

Human Resources Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal has assured stern action against the guilty. MPs from Kerala are planning to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appraise him with the seriousness of the issue.

Meanwhile, the Central Crime Branch investigating the case has issued summons to three teachers, including Professor Sudarshan Padmanabhan, whose name was mentioned by the deceased in her suicide note, for questioning. Earlier, they were asked not to leave the campus.

Fathima, a first year student of Humanities and Social Sciences from Kollam in Kerala, was found dead in her hostel room on November 9. Fathima’s suicide is not the single such incident.

Indian Express reported that 14 students had committed suicide in Madras IIT in the last 10 years. A compilation of data accessed through several RTI responses revealed a whopping 52 suicides were reported across eight IITs in the last 10 years. Of this, IIT-Madras tops the list with 14 suicides.

This year was the worst for IIT-M with four student suicides, including the ‘mysterious’ death of Fathima who was found hanging in her room, the Indian Express report said.

Many students and PhD scholars Express spoke to described the ‘toxic environment’ at these institutions including, high expectations, solitude, cut throat competition, apathy, and peer pressure, apart from general discrimination as the main cause for the increasing suicides.

Fathima’s death has evoked strong protests from the students. A section of the students have begun a hunger strike outside the campus demanding an internal investigation into the death of Fathima. Earlier, activists of various students’ organisations staged protests in the campus.

The IIT management has responded to their demands by announcing their decision to set up an expert committee to study the mental health of the students. However, the students are continuing their protests demanding internal investigation.

Image Credit: Siasat

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