DMK Protests, IIT Students Start Online Petition to Press for Fair Probe in Fathima Latheef's Suicide Case
Chennai: A week after the death on campus of IIT-Madras student Fathima Latif, protests by political parties and students have snowballed, demanding a fair and unbiased probe into the suicide. The Congress and DMK on Friday staged protests, demanding the arrest of the professor who is said to have been named in a "suicide note".
The move came three days after Fathima's parents, natives of Kerala, approached Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleging that harassment and discrimination by a faculty member had driven her to suicide.
Cadres of the DMK youth wing, the Congress-affiliated National Students Union of India, and the CPI's student wing, All India Students Federation (AISF), staged protests in front of the institute seeking justice for Fathima. DMK cadres held placards embossed with images of the deceased student and slogans like "besiege IIT protest; seeking justice for Fathima Latheef."
Several others, including women activists, waved placards that said, "It is not a suicide, it is institutional murder."
Raising slogans condemning the Tamil Nadu and central governments, they demanded justice for the student.
A posse of police personnel was deployed in front of the main entrance of the institute in view of the protests. It had also increased the number of private security guards.
Students of IIT-Madras have also started an online petition demanding justice for Fathima. Among the major demands put forth by the student body is an independent inquiry to be set up by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) and the Minority Commission into the possibilities of academic harassment and discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or ethnicity on campus. The students have also urged the institution to implement the SC/ST/OBC/minority Students Grievance Welfare cell at IIT-M.
In a statement, the IIT-M administration expressed grief over the death and said it was "fully cooperating with the police investigation". However, the administration slammed students who it said were trolling faculty members. The social media trolling against it, the faculty members and students and "trial by the media, even before the conclusion of the police investigation, is gravely demoralising," it said, adding it "tarnished the reputation" of one of the finest institutes in the country.
Asserting that its faculty is known for high quality, integrity and fairness, IIT Madras said, "We reiterate that we are fully cooperating with the police investigation... our humble appeal to all concerned is not to initiate or spread any rumours about the institute" and let the inquiry be completed.
The institute said it continued to mourn the loss of the promising young student and assured continuation of all efforts to ensure the physical and mental well-being of its students, faculty and staff.
The family is scheduled to meet Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK leader Edappadi K Palaniswami on Friday. "I am here to meet the Chief Minister and demand the arrest of the professor who is the reason for my daughter's death," Fathima's father, Abdul told News18. He had earlier raised concerns about the probe and the "contradictory statements" by IIT-Madras officials, which he said were issued to "cover-up" the matter.
The case has been transferred to the Central Crime branch even with the police conducting inquiries for about three hours with the students and the faculty member.
Reports had earlier said that the "suicide note" that had been found on Fathima's phone had blamed one of the professors to be the "cause of her death". According to her family, Fathima was facing "constant harassment" by her professor, which had "hurt her dignity".
(With PTI inputs)