2 students launch fast in IIT-M backing Fathima family'sdemand

(Eds: Adds fresh inputs) Chennai, Nov 18 (PTI) Two students of the IndianInstitute of Technology (IIT) Madras on Monday launched anindefinite fast on the campus demanding an internal inquiryinto the conduct of faculty as sought by the family of a womanstudent who committed suicide recently.

Azhar Moideen, a final year humanities student, andJustin Joseph, pursuing Phd in the same stream, launched the'hunger strike' holding placards and also demanding internalinquiry, a promise for fair and unbiased investigation andsetting up of a grievance redressal committee.

'Our main demand is an internal inquiry into the conductof faculty; Fathima's family in their letter to the director(of IIT) had sought an internal probe into the conduct offaculty and we are backing their demand, there are otherdemands as well,' Azhar told PTI.

Asked whether the management has called them for talks,he said, 'they have expressed their willingness to meet us...

we will meet them once they confirm the time.' The prestigious institute has been rocked by protestsafter Fathima Latheef, a first year humanities student,committed suicide in its hostel on November 9. Her Kerala-based family has alleged a senior faculty was responsible forher taking the extreme step.

Father of the deceased student Abdul Latheef had lastweek called on Chief Minister K Palaniswami and the Tamil NaduDirector General of Police, seeking a fair, expeditious probe.

Political parties, including DMK, too staged protestsover the incident and the case, handled by the local policeinitially, has been transferred to the Central Crime Branch.

The IIT-M has said it is extending full cooperation tothe police investigation and appealed to all concerned not toinitiate or spread any rumours about the institute and let theinquiry be completed.

Meanwhile, Police sources on Monday indicated thatquestioning in the case was on but declined to elaborate.

The fasting students are also demanding among others anexternal survey into the issues faced by the students insidethe institute as demanded in a resolution passed unanimouslyin the Students Council.

'Chinta Bar', a students body of which the two aremembers, said they decided to go ahead with the hunger strikesince the management was yet to accept all their demands.

'It will be called off if and when the administrationissues a statement or sends a smail (a mail transferplatform) to all students saying that all our demands will bemet at the earliest,' it said in a statement.

The students demanded implementation in full of theStudents Legislative Council resolution of the last semesterwhich asked the administration to set up a body of outsideexperts to study the overall mental wellbeing of the studentsand on the effectiveness of the existing mechanisms to tackleall issues faced by students.

The experts should include psychologists, educationistsand mental health experts and they must look into the pressurefaced by students especially those from marginalised sectionsincluding SCs/STs and women.

Setting up a Complaints and Grievances RedressalCommittee in all departments to hear grievances and appointingcounsellors to offer assistance to the friends and branchmates of Fathima who might be suffering from trauma, are theother demands.

They also wanted an official townhall meeting on mentalhealth involving all the stakeholders including students,student representatives (legislators and executive wingmembers) and the faculty. PTI VGNVS VS