Class topper’s death rattles Madras IIT

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CHENNAI: The death of 19-year-old student on November 19 has rattled the Madras Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in the capital of Tamil Nadu with mounting protests.

 

Fathima Latheef, a first-year student of M.A. Humanities and Social Sciences, reportedly ended her life on November 9 in her hostel room on the IIT campus. The death came as a big shock to her fellow students, as she was one of the most brilliant students in the premier institution.

The police had initially suspected that the girl from Kollam in Kerala had committed suicide as she was depressed over scoring low marks in her internal examination. However, mystery thickened after the police recovered a suicide note from her room, blaming some teachers and students for her extreme step.

The note alleged torture and harassment from some teachers and students.  The family members of the deceased also found a mention about harassment from her professor in her mobile. Following this, the Kottappuram police have registered a case and began investigations.

Later, the Tamil Nadu government has transferred the investigation to the Central Crime Branch under Additional Commissioner of Police C Easwaramurthy. Chennai City Police Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan, accompanied by senior officers, visited the campus on Thursday.

This followed mounting protests from activists from various students’ organisations including the Students’ Federation of India, Campus Front of India and Muslim Students’ Federation. They staged protests in front of the institute demanding a high-level inquiry into the death and action against the guilty.

The family members of the deceased find no reason for the suicide as Fathima was a topper in her class in all subjects except one. Moreover, it was only an internal examination that does not count much in her overall performance. In face she had secured second position in the paper.

Curiously, this paper pertained to the professor whose name Fathima has mentioned in her mobile. Even her teachers and fellow students could not believe Fathima could end her life on account of her poor performance in one paper.  

Umakant Dash, head of humanities department at IIT-Madras, saying that the entire department, including students and professors, were clueless how and why she died. “I am told Fathima was expecting three more marks. But scoring two or three marks fewer (out of 20) in an internal exam. Is that a reason for suicide? It was very unfortunate,” Umakanth was quoted by Indian Express as saying.

Express also quoted her father Abdul Latif as saying that Fathima had never said or done anything that could have been deemed as reflecting a suicidal tendency, or exhibited any psychological problem. “There is a mystery behind this death. She told us about this professor earlier, too — that he makes some students cry. We also have information that she used to sit and cry regularly at the mess hall around 9 every night. So we demand that the police check CCTV footage.”

Latif feels that the police is trying to suppress the case. He said that the family will go to all extent to get justice. He has already met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking their intervention. He is also scheduled to meet Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Palani Swamy later on Friday.

Image Credit: News Minute

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