19-year-old Fathima, a humanities student from IIT Madras, who committed suicide has reportedly left a note on her phone accusing her faculties, one of whom is an advisor to the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, of harassing her because she was a Muslim. Fathima, who hailed from Kerala, was pursuing her first-year undergraduate course in the humanities. She was found dead after committing suicide by hanging from a ceiling fan in her hostel room last week.
Fathima Lateef’s death has opened up another controversy after allegations propped up against faculties of the IIT-Madras of harassment, which according to her parents has supposedly led to her suicide. On Tuesday, Abdul Latheef, the father of the deceased, held a press conference and demanded an investigation into his daughter’s death. The father also stated that he had evidence to prove that his daughter had been harassed by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) where she was studying. He has alleged she was tortured by the faculties because of her being a Muslim.
Abdul said that Fathima spoke to her mother on November 8 when she told her that she would be switching off her phone to prepare for semester examinations. Fathima’s phone continued to be switched off on the next day as well which made her mother contact her daughter’s friends. The family received a call from the hostel warden who informed them of Fathima’s death.
Fathima’s parents alleged that humiliation and caste discrimination by a faculty member had forced their daughter to take the extreme step.
A purported suicide note written by the deceased Fathima on her phone is doing rounds on social media, in which she has blamed three faculties of the IIT-Madras as the reason for ending her life.
One of the note read, “In case of my death. This should be considered as my last non nuncupative statement. I never realised that I would miss my home so much. I abhor this place. How I yearn for my home, to be suspended in the delicious inertia like an inteminable sleep from which I can never be roused. In the case of my death the whole blame will be unremittingly upon Hemachandran Karah and Mr Milind Brahme”.
In an earlier note, the student had also accused Sudarshan Padmanabhan, an associate professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Madras.
Professor Milind Brahme is the faculty advisor of the controversial Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle of the IIT Madras. Milind Brahme, who holds his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi teaches Translation Studies or Comparative Studies at IIT Madras.
Ambedkar Periyar Study circle is a notorious group which while identifying itself as ‘group of socially concerned’ students who espouse ‘rational and secular’ thinking. However, APSC and its offshoots in other educational institutes like IIT-Bombay, IIT Delhi and JNU are more commonly known for spewing venom against Prime Minister Modi. The members of the group through social media also spread venom against other communities under the garb of ’empowerment’.
But maybe by Hindu Terrorism they mean acts of violence when the victims are other upper castes and muslims. That’s fine, then. https://t.co/3VmDAIAfcR
— APSC (@ambedkarperiyar) January 28, 2017
In September 2015, during the Jain festival Paryushan, there was meat ban in parts of the country for the eight days, as a mark of respect to the Jain community. Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle referred to it as ‘Jain appeasement’.
Please stop jain and upper caste appeasement in this country
— APSC (@ambedkarperiyar) September 10, 2015
Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle through its social media has issued a statement demanding fair and thorough investigation in Fathima’s death but has mentioned radio silence on alleged involvement of the faculty associated with that study circle.
In fact, even in the note which was issued prior to this, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle kept mum on harassment unleashed on Fathima allegedly by Brahme.
Interestingly, apart from the note that was allegedly written by Fathima on her mobile phone, no other suicide note has been found by the police. The Police had also said no suicide note was found from Fathima’s room and the preliminary probe indicated that she was concerned about her academic performance.
Reportedly, Umakant Dash, the Professor and Head of HSS Department, said that they were unaware of Fathima’s suicide note. “We are cooperating with the police investigations and the police have not discussed any suicide note. We only get to know information based on what the police are telling us”.
A senior Chennai police officer who is supervising the investigation in the case, speaking to the New Indian Express, stated that they were not aware of the allegations made by the student’s parents. He said no one has access to her phone, indicating the “suicide note” could be fake.