Kerala Student Suicide: Sradha's Death Due to 'Culture of Shaming', Say Peers

A 20-year-old student at Amal Jyothi College of Engineering died by suicide on 2 June.

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(Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide. If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)

"She was so bold and outspoken – we still haven't recovered from the shock of her death," said a classmate of 20-year-old Sradha Satheesh, a student of Amal Jyothi College of Engineering in Kerala's Kottayam, who died by suicide on Friday, 2 June.

The student told The Quint that Sradha's death has highlighted how the management of the college – in Kanjirapally – has been 'mistreating' students and fostering a 'toxic environment'.

On Tuesday, 6 June, tensions were high at the college, where hundreds of students staged a protest demanding 'justice for Sradha'.

A meeting of student representatives, college management, and Kerala's Higher Education Minister R Bindu was held on Wednesday, 7 June, wherein it was decided that the Crime Branch DYSP will probe the case and that the college would make its counselling system more accessible to students.

The Quint has learned that the protests have been suspended until further information from the Crime Branch.

The college was closed indefinitely on Tuesday, after students accused the management of 'mentally harassing' Sradha, driving her to suicide, and failing to give her timely medical assistance.

Protesting students alleged to The Quint that many of them were locked out of the campus, whereas others were confined to their hostels without any food.


Who Was Sradha?

Hailing from Thiruvankulam in Ernakulam district, Sradha was a second-year student pursuing Food Technology at Amal Jyothi College. Her college mates remember her as someone who was very talented.

"Sradha was very popular and was very involved in extracurricular activities. She used to sing and dance, and recently, we organised a fashion show – and she was leading it," her classmate told The Quint.

Sradha returned to college after the semester holidays on Thursday, 1 June, and the next day, she was reportedly caught using her mobile phone inside a lab – and it was confiscated by a teacher. She was called to the Head of the Department's room, where the HOD, Anoop, and another teacher were present, a third-year student, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Quint.

"The HOD and the teacher mentally harassed her inside. She was slut-shamed, called a 'red street girl', and they told her she will never succeed in life. She came outside crying, and she told her friends she wanted to die."
The student

The student said the HOD had called her family too, saying she had backlogs. "But her friends and roommates say she was visibly upset by her interaction with the HOD and that she was fine until then," he added.

'Management Lied'

The student claimed the hostel warden Maya also scolded Sradha over the incident.

Later that evening, when Sradha's roommates were at the mess having dinner, she reportedly attempted suicide by hanging.

"When they returned, they found that the door was locked – and they saw her through the window. They immediately informed the warden, who broke open the door and locked herself inside for another five minutes. Later, the security came in and cut her down."
The student

He said that she was taken to a hospital, which was 3 km away, but the management reportedly told the hospital she had fainted. "When the nurse put her on IV, she started having a seizure, according to a bystander. She passed away when she was being moved to the ICU."

The students were informed of her death on Saturday morning. On Monday, they launched a protest against the management, alleging that they failed to deal with the situation sensitively.

"When we began the protests on Monday, they cancelled all classes. On Tuesday morning, they asked everyone in the hostel to vacate the premises. They asked everyone to go home. When students went to the campus to protest, they closed all the gates and locked those students who were inside. They denied them food as well," the student alleged.


Culture of Shaming

Protesting students say Sradha's death is a result of a culture of shaming and harassment at the college.

"The management is always rude. If they see a girl and a boy sitting together, they will immediately call their parents and say they're not behaving according to the rules of the college. Because of this, parents also lose their trust in their kids," the third-year student alleged.

He added, "If a male student scores low marks, they [the management] will immediately say he is doing drugs and is distracted. If it is a girl student, they slutshame her. They torture students a lot and call their parents."

Reports also suggest that Sradha had recently taken part in an online survey, which had a hypothetical question about what she would do differently in her life. Sradha had shared that she would choose a different college.

In a video from the protests shot by News18, a group of female students can be heard saying how the management often calls female students 'red street girls' and slutshame them.

In a video on Instagram, Sharis Mohammed, a renowned Malayalam scriptwriter and a former student of the college, extended solidarity with the protests and said, "Her friends and family said she was emotionally tortured and pressured by the college. As someone who studied there 14 years ago, I can say I also went through the same thing."

Minister R Bindu had ordered an immediate probe into the matter on Monday and instructed Higher Education Principal Secretary Ishita Roy to submit a detailed report.

Meanwhile, the college manager, Fr Mathew Paikatt, said they had no role in Sradha's death. "Let the police investigate. We want to find out the truth as well. After vacation, the students returned on the first (of June) and this happened on the second. What the students now say emotionally need not be correct," he told the media, as per The News Minute.

The Quint is trying to reach out to the college management, and this story will be updated as and when we receive a response.

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