“Whenever I start giving up, I go to my son's room and think about him... Sometimes, I will get a call from a parent or child – mostly children who are from the LGBTQ community or just different. They tell me their stories, and I ask parents to be kinder and more accepting... The children thank me for helping them and this is what gives me the will to carry on,” said the mother of the 16-year-old boy who died by suicide after allegedly being bullied in a school in Haryana's Faridabad in February 2022.
A year later, The Quint spoke to his mother about the unending legal battle, coping with the loss, and drawing strength by standing with children from the queer community.
What Happened in February 2022?
On 25 February 2022, the 16-year-old died by suicide and had left behind a purported suicide note in which he alleged that he was sexually assaulted and bullied in school over his sexuality.
In a note to his mother, he wrote; "Dear mumma, you are the best mom on this planet. I am really sorry that I couldn’t be more brave. This school has killed me, specially the higher authorities."
An FIR was filed under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code against the senior academic coordinator of the teenager’s school. The coordinator was arrested and granted bail a few days later. In March 2022, the mother, who was working in the same school, was relieved from services until further orders.
Almost six months later, a chargesheet was filed in December 2022 and two court cases are ongoing.
Between Courts – Status Of the Cases
In 2022, the mother alleged to The Quint that students used all kinds of slurs for her son. “They didn’t realise the impact of their jokes on my son. He would have panic attacks due to the bullying. And then one day, he told me that he had been sexually assaulted too,” she claimed.
Now, one year later, the 41-year-old spends most of her time busy in court work. “I have to leave my aged parents at home and keep going to the court. We keep getting dates which keep getting pushed further,” she lamented.
Arpandeep Narula, the lawyer who is representing the woman, told The Quint, “We had filed two petitions in this case. In the first one, we had asked for cancellation of bail of the academic councillor. She was granted bail on the grounds of a factual inaccuracy.”
The mother said;
"While giving my statement, I made a mistake regarding the date on which the academic coordinator had scolded my son. Due to that, bail was granted. At the time, my son’s last rites were going on... I was not in a position to think properly and so I made a mistake."The mother of the teenager
In the second petition, filed in October 2022, the mother said that the police had not carried out a proper investigation and hence, she has sought a CBI probe. Narula said, “In addition to this, we asked for proper guidelines to safeguard the interest of the LGBTQ community. We want the Centre to issue guidelines. Even though there are some guidelines in place, they have not been implemented properly.”
Two months after this petition, the chargesheet was filed, against the principal of the school, under section 21 (punishment for failure to report or record a case) of the POCSO Act, and the academic coordinator, under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC and section 21 of the POCSO Act.
Narula said, “Not all the nine teenagers who were accused have been named in the chargesheet. Earlier, two minors had been apprehended and released in a day.”
‘I Join Pride Marches Like My Son Would Have’
The 41-year-old also takes out time to fight for the cause.
She said, “I attend Pride marches when I can. My son would have been there, so now I go on his behalf.” When she went to Punjab for the court hearing, she made it a point to go for the Pride march in Chandigarh. At many of these marches, she said, she comes across people from the LGBTQ+ community with posters demanding justice for her son.
The 41-year-old, who was earlier teaching in the same school where the son studied, claimed that she was relieved from the school after the incident. For now, she doesn't want to take up another job. "My purpose is to help other teenagers who are grappling with what my son did,” she told The Quint.
Once I got a call from a young boy whose parents were forcing him to go for conversion therapy when he came out to them. The boy was almost suicidal. Over a long call with his father, I requested him to be more accepting and take his son home. Now, his family is more accepting. The boy is in college, and he is also going to therapy.The mother of the teenager
Her voice quivered as she said, “I always request people to send their children to therapy because sometimes we do not know that they are going through so much.”
'Other Children Are My Biggest Support'
She said she gets calls from teenagers from different parts of the country – from Delhi and Jaipur to Bihar. She said that this is because of her Instagram page through which she is “trying to raise awareness." She shares posts made by teenagers from the community who are coming out or addressing the discrimination they face.
She shares photos of her son, photos of his artwork, and the resin necklaces that he used to make.
In the comments section, support pours in from the community with teenagers saying that it is not her fight alone. Others speak about their experiences with bullying while engaging with her posts.
She giggled as she said, “Some of the children have started calling me ‘mumma’. They ask me how I am doing and if I have eaten... They have been my biggest support.”
Her priority was to create a safe space for her son. Last year, she had told The Quint, "He wanted to get his ears pierced, and we did just that despite some disapproval from his grandmother. We would shop for earrings together.”
When other parents tell her that their children are “dressing differently” or “behaving differently”, her advice to them is: “They are your children, allow them to be themselves. Your children should not have to go through what my son did.”