Ten days after the suicide of first-year IIT Madras student Fathima Latheef, the Central Crime Branch of Tamil Nadu Police has questioned three faculty members who were named in the deceased's notes, media reports said. Fathima's parents had long been claiming that institutional apathy and alleged communalism in the institute were behind their daughter's decision to take the extreme step.
Although there is no official confirmation, Fathima's father Abdul had claimed that his daughter had blamed a faculty member in the notes that she left behind on her mobile phone. Reports said that she had mentioned names of two other professors in her detailed daily notes. Abdul has also accused IIT Madras officials of giving "contradictory statements" to "cover up" the matter. The Times of India reported that the three professors were grilled separately for nearly an hour at a guest house on the campus. The police also plan to quiz Fathima's roommate and other members of the staff who came in direct contact with her.
The institute has been rocked by protests after Fathima, a first-year humanities student, committed suicide in its hostel on 9 November, merely five months after joining college. Her Kerala-based family has alleged a senior faculty was responsible for her taking the extreme step. Abdul had last week called on Chief Minister K Palaniswami and the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police, seeking a fair and expeditious probe.
Political parties, including DMK, too staged protests over the incident and the case, handled by the local police initially, has been transferred to the Central Crime Branch.
The IIT-M has said it is extending full cooperation to the police investigation and appealed to all concerned not to initiate or spread any rumours about the institute and let the inquiry be completed.
Meanwhile, student protests are raging on at campus, with two students sitting on an indefinite fast demanding an expeditious probe. The students also demanded implementation in full of the Students' Legislative Council resolution which asked the administration to set up a body of outside experts to study the overall mental wellbeing of the students and on the effectiveness of the existing mechanisms to tackle all issues faced by students.
The students' council demanded that the experts should include psychologists, educationists and mental health experts and they must look into the pressure faced by students especially those from marginalised sections including SCs/STs and women. Setting up a Complaints and Grievances Redressal Committee in all departments to hear grievances and appointing counsellors to offer assistance to the friends and branch mates of Fathima who might be suffering from trauma are among the other demands.
They also wanted an official town hall meeting on mental health involving all the stakeholders including students and the faculty.
With inputs from agencies