Chennai Police have transferred a case involving the suicide of an IIT Madras student to the Central Crime Branch (CCB), after her parents recovered a mobile phone note that named a member of the faculty as the reason for her death. The parents have also claimed that three faculty members had subject their daughter to religious persecution. The police have conducted preliminary interrogations of her friends and some members of the faculty.
"We have constituted a special team. ADC Megalina will be the investigation officer and the team has experienced officers because it is a sensitive case," AK Viswanathan, the Chennai Police Commissioner, said today.
The young woman, a first year student of an integrated MA programme in the Humanities, had been found dead in her hostel room last week. At that time, the police had not found a suicide note. The note that has been recovered from her mobile phone is being investigated, the police have now said.
"We are sending the phone for scientific investigation. Only after that we can confirm or deny the mobile phone message her parents show with name of a faculty member," a senior officer told NDTV.
DMK chief MK Stalin, the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly has demanded a "fair, independent, transparent and time-bound probe".
"The student's mother says her daughter was belittled and subjected to stress. This is a shame... saffronisation of educational institutions should be avoided," he said, adding, "Do everything required to treat all as equals like the national flag's tricolour".
This is the fifth suicide at IIT Madras in the past 11 months; four have been students and the fifth was a woman faculty member. The victims included students from the B. Tech and M. Tech streams and a Ph.D. scholar.
According to reports, the students had complained of academic pressure, depression and stress. The faculty member reportedly had personal issues.
"Academic pressure at IIT Madras can get quite intense at times, especially when we have end-semester exams that are held on consecutive days. However, there are certain measures... there are counsellors whom students can approach if they feel like venting," a third-year B. Tech student told NDTV.
Meanwhile, the institution has issued a statement on the young girl's death.
"It is with deep grief and sadness that IIT Madras has to inform the passing away of a first year undergraduate student of Humanities and Social Sciences Department. IIT Madras faculty, staff and students extend their deepest condolences to the family, friends and other near and dear ones of the deceased student," the statement read.
The institution has also stressed that a number of measures have been enacted on campus to help students and faculty members deal with their mental health.
More than 20,000 students have committed suicide between 2014 and 2016. IITs across the country have reported 52 suicides over the past decade.
The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has mandated IITs and other institutions to appoint counsellors to help students through stress and depression, as well as to open "wellness centres" on campus.
However, experts say much more has to be done to get students to open up on mental problems affecting them. This includes removing the stigma on talking about mental health.
"Deep inside what is hurting me... what is my anguish... what is my pain? It is something most people don't talk about, or talk to very few people. Some of them at least confide to those close to them... then that person gets an opportunity to do something about it," Dr S Mohan Raj, a senior psychiatrist who has researched links student suicide and academic pressure, said.
(If you need support or know someone who does, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist.)
- AASRA: 91-22-27546669 (24 hours)
- Sneha Foundation: 91-44-24640050 (24 hours)
- Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health: 1860-2662-345 and 1800-2333-330 (24 hours)
- iCall: 022-25521111 (Available from Monday to Saturday: 8:00am to 10:00pm)
- Connecting NGO: 18002094353 (Available from 12 pm - 8 pm)