Sradha suicide: Kerala Police recover suicide note from college hostel; family calls investigation a farce

The government announced the formation of 'grievance redressal cells' to look into complaints lodged by students in colleges and universities.

BySreerag PS

Published Jun 08, 2023 | 5:59 PM Updated Jun 08, 2023 | 8:12 PM

Sradha suicide: Kerala Police recover suicide note from college hostel; family calls investigation a farce

The Crime Branch (CB) police in Kerala’s Kottayam district have begun a probe into the alleged suicide of a student of Amal Jyothi Engineering College, even as her relatives expressed a lack of trust in the investigation.

Sradha Satheesh, a second-year student of Food Technology, was found unresponsive in the hostel on the college campus at Kanjirappally in Kottayam on 2 June. The police found a note, purportedly written by the 20-year-old student, in her room.

The note, however, neither mentioned any motive nor named anyone. “It just said that ‘I am going’. No mention about any other things,” district police chief K Karthik told reporters.

Following Sradha’s alleged suicide, the state government decided to constitute grievance redressal cells in colleges.

Meanwhile, the students who were protesting against the college management, accusing it of harassing Sradha to death, withdrew the protest.

The protest was withdrawn after the state’s Minister for High Education R Bindu and Minister for Cooperation and Registration VN Vasavan held a meeting with students, the college management, and the parent-teachers association on Wednesday, 7 June.

The decision to hand over the probe to the CB was taken in the meeting. Minister Bindu assured the students that all their demands would be met.

Speaking to South First, Sradha’s uncle Nandan expressed dissatisfaction over the probe. Terming it a farce, he said it was being held to facilitate the smooth admission process for the upcoming academic year.

Related: Kerala suicide pits students against the administration

College to meet parents

District police chief Karthik said the investigators were looking into the incidents that preceded Sradha’s death and all other related details.

Sradha Satheesh. (Amal Jyothi website)

Sradha Satheesh. (Amal Jyothi website)

It has been alleged that a faculty member seized Sradha’s mobile phone while she was in the laboratory and took her to the Food Technology Department head.

Her friends later said that Sradha looked depressed after her interaction with the department head. However, no one knew what had transpired.

“I can’t take this anymore, I am going to die,” she reportedly told her classmates after meeting senior faculty member Anoop.

Karthik said the statements of students who were with her and those close to her would be recorded.

However, Sradha’s classmate who spoke to South First said he and his friends would like to “believe” the suicide note only after a thorough investigation.

“We don’t know the veracity of the letter. The management will do anything to conceal the truth. They are highly powerful and may interfere in the case.  We would wait until the police conduct a thorough investigation,” he said, requesting anonymity.

He added that the college management has invited the parents of all students in batches for an “executive meeting” on Monday, 12 June.

“We don’t know why the college authorities suddenly took such a step. We will get to know the details only after the meeting,” he said.

Also read: Southern states saw 2,900 student suicides every year since 2014

Candle-light vigil

Sradha’s uncle Nandan said the family was not pinning much hope on the outcome of the probe by the Kottayam police.

“The investigation is a farce. The (college) management is keener on the upcoming admissions to the college. There is no guarantee that our child will get justice,” he told South First.

He also reiterated the students’ allegations that there were lapses on the part of the college authorities in providing timely treatment to Sradha. It has been alleged that the hostel warden, Sister Maya, who took Sradha to the hospital, tried to conceal that she was found hanging.

Instead, the doctors were told that she had fainted. However, the doctors grew suspicious at seeing the marks around her neck.

“She was taken to the hospital after a long time, and even then she had a pulse. When the doctors in the causality enquired about the issue, the nun told them that she had fainted in her room,” Sradha’s friend Jhanak Mathew alleged on Wednesday.

“Had the doctors been informed of the truth, her life could have been saved,” he opined.

Nandan also added that their family would conduct a candlelight vigil at Trippunnithura in Ernakulam on Thursday night.

“We are holding it as a sradhanjali (homage) to our child,” he added.

Also read: CJI highlights suicides by students from marginalised sections

Assurances by administration

After the meeting with ministers, the college administration released a video message saying that a deputy superintendent of police (CB) would lead the investigation.

Amal Jyothi College of Engineering at Kanjirapally. (Supplied)

Amal Jyothi College of Engineering at Kanjirapally. (Supplied)

“We welcome the investigation with an open heart,” Fr Mannamplackal Boby Alex of the Eparchy of Kanjirappally said on behalf of the college administration.

The college also assured that no retaliatory action would be initiated against the students for protesting against the administration. It also promised a better counselling system for the students.

Alex said the college had been following the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations outlined by the Supreme Court for student elections, and would continue to abide by them.

He did not respond to South First‘s repeated calls.

Also read: Why is NIT Calicut director accused of saffronising it?

Govt to form grievance cells

Meanwhile, the Kerala government on Thursday announced the formation of “grievance redressal cells” to look into complaints lodged by students in colleges and universities in the state.

The announcement came after students of Amal Jyothi College of Engineering alleged that some teachers were harassing them in the name of internal tests.

But, the college management rejected the charges and said they didn’t know why Sradha committed such an act.

Student outfits including the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and KSU had held separate protest marches to the private engineering college in Kanjirappally, protesting against the college management.

The proposed panel would be headed by principals in colleges and heads of the departments in universities, respectively.

Composition of the cell

Minister Bindu, who made the announcement in Thiruvananthapuram, said besides the two teachers recommended by the panel chairpersons, representatives of student unions and nominees of the Parent-Teachers’ Association (PTA) and university syndicate would also be part of the new committee.

One of the representatives of the teachers and students of the grievances cell would be a woman.

“Seven members will be the quorum of the meetings of the grievance redressal cell and the chairpersons have the moral responsibility to implement the decisions taken by the majority members,” the minister said.

Noting that the powers of the panel have been fixed, she said the students can approach it regarding various issues including the denial of certificates without any valid reason, imposition of exorbitant fees, exam-related complaints and division in the name of caste, religion and sex.

Any kind of physical and mental torture from college/university authorities, teachers, other staff or co-students can be brought to the new panel.

If the students have not got justice from the existing forums in the respective institutions, they can approach the grievance redressal cell with their complaints, the minister said.

Clear-cut criteria for internal marks

If the student has any complaint regarding the decision of the cell, he or she can approach the appellate committee or the existing tribunal with an appeal and its decision would be final.

Each institution has the legal responsibility to implement this final decision and those who violate it would face stringent action including imposition of fine, cancellation of affiliation, withdrawal of government funds and so on, the minister warned.

On the complaints regarding internal marks, Bindhu said they were envisaged for the constant evaluation of students’ abilities and should not be used as a tool to control and threaten students in educational institutions.

Directions would be issued to universities to ensure clear-cut criteria for giving internal marks, she added.

(With PTI inputs)