CBI to probe IIT-M student Fathima Latheef’s death

By Najiya O, TwoCircles.net

The CBI will enquire the alleged institutional murder of IIT Madras student Fathima Latheef, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday assured the same to the family of the girl. 

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Abdul Latheef, the father of Fathima, informed the media about the matter after the family along with some Kerala MPs met the PM. A woman officer in the rank of Inspector General would lead the enquiry, he added. 

The CBI will also look into the various mysterious deaths and tortures in the higher education institutions all over the country. The centre’s assurance comes a day after the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal stated in the Parliament that 60 students have committed suicide in the IITs and IIMs in the last five years, many of whom were students from the lower castes and minority community.

In another development, Fathima’s father Abdul Latheef raised doubts about terming the death of his daughter as suicide. He told media in Delhi that her body was found in the room with her knees on the floor. The room was in total disarray with books and papers scattered all around, which was confusing as Fathima was a very organised person. Her roommate’s belongings were not seen in the room after the death of Fathima. A student had said earlier that she had seen Fathima crying in the mess hall at night on November 8, but later she changed the statement. 

There was a birthday celebration in the hostel that night which extended till dawn. Doctors said that death took place between 4 and 5 am. The CCTV visuals of all these have been tampered with, Latheef said in a press conference held in Delhi on Thursday. He added that his daughter had written the names of three teachers and seven students who harassed her mentally.

 Legal experts shed light on what the future course of action will look like in the case of Fathima. “In cases like that of Fathima or Rohit, we don’t have options other than the IPC 306 to move legally. And this section alone cannot fully speak for the various areas in these cases,” said Adv Hashir K Muhammed while talking to TwoCircles.net. “It is high time we change the old colonial laws. New issues are coming up in the country and we should have more options to bring them under the purview of the law.” As per the IPC 306, abetment of suicide can give those guilty 10 years’ imprisonment and fine, he added.  

Considering the several cases of suicides and harassment in the higher educational institutions, Adv Hashir also spoke about the need to introduce new laws like the Rohith Act for the protection of minority students which should include Islamophobia as a crime.

The demand to introduce the Rohith Act to protect Dalits and other downtrodden sections in educational institutions came up after the death of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University. However, the clauses of the Act are yet to be finalized. Adv Hashir expressed his hope that the Act would have clauses against Islamophobia too. He also spoke about the irony regarding the ‘oppressed Muslim woman in the community’ having reached the secular modern educational institution but forced to end life there. 

Fathima Latheef, a native of Kollam district in Kerala, was a first-year MA Humanities student at IIT Madras. The 19-year-old was found dead in her hostel room on November 9. Her family said she had to face harassment at the institution, and named three teachers who Fathima had mentioned on her mobile phone responsible for her death. The family also hinted at religious discrimination she had to face there. 

The family of Fathima Latheef had also alleged that the local police was not taking the issue seriously and had behaved badly with the family. The investigation was then handed over to the Chennai City Crime Branch. While talking to TwoCircles.net earlier, Abdul Latheef said that he was satisfied with the way the investigation was going on under the Crime Branch. Earlier this week, he handed over to the Crime Branch all the records with him related to his daughter’s death, as well as her laptop and tablet. 

The forensic enquiry has confirmed the authenticity of the suicide note found on Fathima Latheef’s mobile phone, which named three teachers. The police had reportedly questioned the accused professors (Sudarshan Padmanabhan, Milind Brahme and Hemachandran Kare) three times already and they have been instructed not to leave the campus.