IIT-M student who ended life often faced harassment, alleges father

IIT-Madras, IIT-M, Fathima Latheef
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami being presented a petition by Abdul Lateef, father of Fathima Latheef | PTI Photo

Six days after an IIT-Madras student was found dead in her hostel room, her father on Friday (November 15) alleged ‘suspicion’ over the death of her daughter, saying that she often complained to her mother about being harassed by someone.

Fathima Latheef, a first-year MA student and a class topper, had committed suicide on Saturday (November 9), according to initial reports. Her family, who were natives of Kerala, on Friday met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and demanded expeditious and fair investigation into her daughter’s death. They had earlier approached Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urging him to seek a fair probe by the Tamil Nadu police into the case.

Also read | Depressed IIT-Hyderabad student leaps to death from hostel building

After meeting the chief minister, the victim’s father, Abdul Latheef, told reporters he was promised that necessary action will be taken. Abdul claimed that his daughter used to write letters regularly, informing them about everything concerning her, and that she often complained to her mother about being harassed.

“This does not look like a case of suicide. Her room was in a disarray. Where is the rope that she supposedly used to hang herself? Where did she get the rope? We have asked for the CCTV footage in which my daughter was seen crying. But we were not given the footage,” he said. The deceased’s family has also submitted additional evidences to the DGP.

One of the student’s relatives said that Fathima had nurtured the dream of studying in IIT since she was in Class 8. On the allegation of harassment, her father said, “She always complained to her mother that some ‘SP’ is harassing her. We didn’t know then who that ‘SP’ is. But now we know.”

Also read | Amrita college student suicide: Four days on, no arrests yet

Abubacker, an Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader who accompanied the family when they met the chief minister, said that the Tamil Nadu government should take steps to prevent such suicides at the premier institution.

“The student had an opportunity to join an IIT in Uttar Pradesh. But she chose IIT Madras since she believed it to be a safer place for her. However, the professors here discriminated against her based on her religion. The government should take steps to end this discrimination,” he said.

The case was on Thursday transferred to the Central Crime Branch (CCB) of the city police. The move comes after Fathima Latheef’s parents found the name of a professor of the institute on her mobile phone.

Also read | Toppers fail, present marked absent: Spate of suicides after Class 12 exam

Following the developments, political parties in the state have started accusing the institute of discriminating against Dalits and religious minorities. Religious outfits too have alleged that the accused professor was closely associated with right-wing groups.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu police have formed a special team led by C Easwaramurthy, Additional Commissioner of Police, CCB to investigate the case. Meghalina, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Wing for Crime against Women and Children, has been designated as the investigating officer.

IIT says ready to coordinate

In a statement, IIT Madras said that the institute and its authorities are extending full cooperation in the case and that it is committed to do whatever is required as per the law to ensure a fair investigation.

The institute also expressed concern over social media trolls that are targeting the institution and its faculty members. A trial by media is “demoralising the students and tarnishing the reputation of the institute”, a statement said. The institution is taking all efforts to ensure physical and mental well-being of its students, it added.