Every evening, Harsha Sri used to write about his day in a notes app on his phone. Sometimes, it would be just one word to describe how his day went. On October 14, he wrote: ‘Threatened’. And the next day, October 15, he wrote: ‘Blamed’. The notes app was never updated with a post again. Six days later, the fourth year Electronics and Communication Engineering student at the Amrita School of Engineering in Bengaluru killed himself.
“I hold the college responsible for my son’s death. He was a sensitive boy. He was hoping to get a placement soon. But now, he is no more,” Harsha’s father G Vijay Bhaskar tells TNM.
An employee of a private company in Visakhapatnam, Vijay Bhaskar, his wife Rama Devi, daughter Sushmita, and son Harsha had a memorable time during the Dasara holidays this year. The family had moved into a new home last year, and bought a new television among other things for their house. Though the celebrations were on in the house and the family went for their regular temple visits, there was a sliver of a worry.
On September 23, the college had witnessed unrest, with students who were angry with the management for not providing them good food and water, participating in protests. Windscreens and windows of seven college-owned buses, and a CCTV camera, had been damaged in the ruckus. Almost all students in the hostels were asked to vacate immediately following the incidents of vandalism. Harsha, like all his friends, went back to his hometown, and soon the Dasara holidays started.
On October 13, Harsha got a call from Ravi Kumar, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering department. “He said that Harsha and I should come to the college the next day. When I told him that I was not in town, he said it’s fine, and that they would call me if needed.”
On October 14, when Harsha went back to college, he was not allowed to enter the campus or the hostel. “My son was worried and he called me,” Vijaya Bhaskar says, “I immediately called Ravi Kumar and asked him what the problem was. His answers were vague and he asked me to come to the college. I rushed to Bengaluru.”
The next day, Harsha and his father were allowed inside the campus in the afternoon. The duo was made to appear before five people including professors Ravi Kumar, TK Ramesh and BL Bhaskar. In what Vijaya Bhaskar describes as an ‘interrogation as if by the police’, the members went on to question Harsha about what happened on September 23.
“He kept saying that he did not have anything to do with the protest, and that he had been studying in the hostel. They kept asking him about a CCTV camera that was damaged in the hostel, near his room. They were acting like the police. After almost an hour of questioning, we were asked to leave,” he says.
The committee made Harsha give in writing that he had nothing to do with the protest and that he was not aware of who damaged the CCTV. “I asked them how many more days the suspension would continue, they said they would get back to me within two days. They told me that I was not needed to stay back in Bengaluru anymore,” Vijay Bhaskar says.
He, however, decided to stay back in a hotel with his son. “My son is a sensitive person. Even when he had a fever, he would stay back a day to be with his family. He had been to four or five interviews for placement. He was confident of getting one job. I didn’t want to leave him alone, and so I decided to stay back.” the father says.
On October 19, Harsha received a call telling him to join the college on October 21. “He was relieved. But a few hours later, we got another call saying he had to come for a meeting at 10.30 am and then they will decide about him,” Vijay Bhaskar recalls. A worried Harsha and Vijay Bhaskar reached the college at 10 am on October 21. Vijay Bhaskar was not allowed to enter, and surprisingly Harsha was not allowed to even take his bag or mobile phone.
“I waited outside. I have no clue what happened in the meeting and what they told him. Around 11.45 am, Associate Dean and professor Rakesh SG came in a car to the gate. He got down and told me that Harsha had a medical emergency and I had to go to Columbia Asia hospital,” Vijay Bhaskar says.
The distraught father rushed to the hospital and at the gate of the hospital stood an ambulance and Harsha’s body on a stretcher: “He was dead. My son was dead. They hadn’t even taken him inside the hospital. I asked the doctor and he said there was nothing to do.”
Vijay Bhaskar rushed back to the college after some time. By then he knew that his son had killed himself. “I went to the spot. There was not a speck of blood there. They had cleaned it. Why? Why did SG Rakesh not tell me that my son had killed himself? Why did no one even come with me?”
Vijay Bhaskar filed a complaint at the Parapana Agrahara police station against 10 officials of the college, and a case was registered against them subsequently for abetment of suicide and tampering with evidence.
“My son had high hopes of getting a job. In all these years, he has not even complained about the college. He would sometimes tell us that the food isn’t good, but that’s all. My son was innocent. Even if the college had some notion that he was involved in something, why did they behave like this? What happened in that meeting? My son kept saying nothing would happen to him as he was innocent. I don't know what happened but I know they are responsible for his death. I will go to any court to get him justice,” he says.