CCB to probe Fathima's death; IIT-M students stage protest

Students demand setting up of a complaints and grievances redressal committee

kollam-fathima-lateef (Right) The suicide note of Fathima Latheef (left), distributed among mediapersons | via Onmanorama

Chennai city police commissioner A.K. Viswanathan on Thursday ordered transfer of the case relating to the suicide of an IIT-Madras student from Kotturpuram police to the Central Crime Branch (CCB). Viswanathan said the Crime Branch has an exclusive police team trained to handle cyber related issues.

Viswanathan, who visited IIT-Madras on Thursday and conducted inquiries, said a special team has been formed under the CCB to conduct a detailed probe into the death of Fathima Latheef (19).  

"Since this is a sensitive case, we thought it would be better if senior police officers probe it. We have shifted this case to the Central Crime Branch. A special team has been constituted, which will be headed by C. Easwaramoorthy, Additional Commissioner, CCB,” said Viswanathan.

The team also comprises Prabhakaran, the former Assistant Commissioner, CBI. Megalina, the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Crime against Women and Children), will be acting as the Chief Investigating Officer. 

Fathima, a first-year student of MA humanities and development studies (integrated), was found hanging in her hostel room on November 9. She hailed from Kollam in Kerala.

Following her death, the Kottupuram police registered an FIR under Section 174 of CrPC (unnatural death) and began probe. However, Fathima's father Abdul Latheef in a press release on Wednesday expressed displeasure and demanded a fair probe, after releasing screenshots of the text notes in her mobile phone. 

Fathima had recorded text notes in her phone with details of the harassment she had allegedly undergone. She had also named one of the professors, Sudarshan Padmanaban, in her note.

Media reports alleged that Sudarsan Padmanaban was a person with a right-wing mindset and had chaired several sessions of Swadeshi Indology which delved deep into Modern Hinduphobia and Dravidian ideology.

The Kotturpuram police had summoned Abdul Latheef on Thursday for a formal inquiry. However, he didn’t appear before the police. 

Meanwhile, students from the SFI and the Youth Congress staged protests demanding a fair probe into the case. 

“This is an institutional murder," alleged D. Chandru, south district secretary of he SFI. 

Recalling earlier incidents of suicide inside the IIT Madras campus, Chandru said, "There have been several instances in the past. Yet, no steps have been taken by the management. The police are trying to cover this as just another suicide. In her suicide note, Fathima mentioned those who subjected her to mental torture because of her religious background. Minority students are the most affected in all educational institutions. The SFI condemns this."

Meanwhile, in a representation submitted to the IIT Madras director, the students placed three important demands: 1. Full cooperation by the institute with the police  probe; 2. Implementation of full SLC resolution which had recommended the IIT Madras administration to set up a body of outside experts to study the mental well being of the students; 3. Setting up a complaints and grievances redressal committee in all departments.