Tamil Nadu: Another School Student Found Dead; Fourth Such Case in 2 Weeks

New Delhi: A class 11 girl student was found dead in her home in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district on Tuesday, July 26, suspected to have died by suicide in the fourth such case in the state within a span of two weeks.

Three class 12 students in the state were found dead prior to the current case; one in the state’s Cuddalore district on July 26 itself, another a day prior in a school near Kilacheri in the Tiruvallur district, and the first on July 13 in a school near Chinnasalem in the Kallakurichi district.

While the victims are suspected to have died by suicide in all four instances, the parents of the victim of the Kallakurichi case alleged wrongdoing on the part of the school authorities and a legal case is currently underway.

In the present case, a police officer told NDTV that authorities will desist from making any comment until the investigation is complete, but did mention that no suicide note was recovered from the girl’s home, where she was found dead.

The officer also told the news outlet that the victim often suffered from acute stomach pain.

Kallakurichi case

The first in this recent string of tragedies in the state took place on July 13 when a 17-year-old Class 12 student in Kaniyamoor Sakthi Matriculation School was found dead on the hostel premises.

School authorities had suspected death by suicide, however, on the basis of certain facts in the case – a suicide note reportedly discovered by the police which alleged “torture” at the hands of two teachers; alleged injury scars revealed in the initial autopsy which were thought to have occurred before her death; and even her mother’s claims that there were bloodstains a considerable distance from where her body was thought to be discovered – the victim’s family questioned the school’s narrative and moved court, seeking a repeat autopsy.

The Madras high court granted the family’s request, giving a month’s time for the report from the repeat autopsy to be filed. Justice N. Sathish Kumar, hearing the case, also ordered that all future cases involving the death of a student in an educational institute shall be transferred to the Crime Branch – Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) for investigation.

Also read: TN Student Death: SC Refuses Stay on Madras HC Order for Repeat Autopsy

Five arrests were made after the recovery of the note, which included the principal of the school and two teachers.

Further, the Kallakurichi case had seen large-scale protests, led by the victim’s family members. On July 17, the fourth day of the protests, thousands of protesters arrived at the spot and engaged in violence – lighting buses, including a police bus, ablaze; pelting stones at police personnel; and destroying original documents of thousands of students of the school.

Several police personnel were reportedly injured in the melee.

Justice Kumar had, in his order, also sought action against the violent protesters, ordering the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) of the police to investigate supposed planned action to collect protesters and to identify them and bring them to account.

Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin had, in the wake of the protests, called the incident “deplorable” and tweeted that the culprits would be punished.

Tiruvallur case

The second such incident took place on July 25 when a student was found dead in her hostel room at the Sacred Heart school in Tiruvallur, a government-aided senior secondary school for girls.

No suicide note was recovered in the case, however, the parents of the victim protested and blocked a road near their home village, reportedly because school authorities had failed to provide them with adequate details about their daughter’s death.

Heavy police presence had been deployed both outside the school in Tiruvallur as well as in the victim’s home village in Tiruttani to avoid large-scale protests, as seen in the previous instance.

The girl’s body was sent for an autopsy on June 26, under heavy police supervision.

Cuddalore case

A day after the Tiruvallur incident, another class 12 student was found dead, this time in her home in Cuddalore.

The police also reported finding a four-page suicide note in the home in which the victim described academic pressures on her to clear the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) entrance test, as well as her recent poor performance in a Tamil test in school and an alleged scolding from her mother.

Also read: Why Student Suicide Is Such A Sensitive Subject

Further, her parents reportedly tried to perform her last rites when they found her body, without informing the police. However, police eventually arrived at the scene and an investigation is underway. 

Chief minister Stalin had made mention of the recent spate in suspected suicides while addressing an event at the Guru Nanak college on July 26, saying that students  should have “strong minds” and “shun thoughts of suicide”.

If you know someone – friend or family member – at risk of suicide, please reach out to them. The Suicide Prevention India Foundation maintains a list of telephone numbers they can call to speak in confidence. Icall, a counselling service run by TISS, has maintained a crowdsourced list of therapists across the country. You could also take them to the nearest hospital.

The featured image is an illustration by Pariplab Chakraborty. To view more such illustrations, click here.

This article was first published on The Wire.