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'Had He Told Me...': Father of Kota Student Whose Body Was Found After 8 Days

Rachit Sondhia went missing on 11 February. That was the last time his father spoke to him.

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"Rachit was a very good son. He didn't talk much. He used to be silent and was very sincere. I don't know what I can say about him now, if there's even anything to say at all."
Jagnarayan Sondhia

Rachit Sondhia, a 16-year-old JEE aspirant, who was preparing for the IIT entrance test at PhysicsWallah coaching centre in Rajasthan's Kota, was found dead in Chambal Valley on 19 February, days after he went missing on 11 February.

A native of Madhya Pradesh's Rajgarh, Rachit had moved to Kota in April 2023 with his school friends and had been living with them since, his father Jagnarayan Sondhia told The Quint on 21 February.

Rachit's is the fifth student death to occur in Kota in 2024 alone.

While the family is still dealing with the loss, Jagnarayan spoke to The Quint about his son and the intense search operation that was launched after he went missing.

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'We Would Have Brought Him Home...': Victim's Father

Rachit was the oldest child in his family of four. His father is a contractor, his mother Sunita is a housewife, and his younger brother is still in school.

All of them had been shattered since the day he went missing. But now, they are left wondering why this had to happen at all. Jagnarayan, almost breaking down on the phone, said:

"It was not like he could only be an engineer, there were other things he could have done. He never told us anything, had he said something to us, we would have brought him back home."

Rachit went missing on 11 February; that morning, his father spoke to him over the phone for the last time. Jagnarayan said that Rachit didn't pick any of his calls after that. His family started searching for him that same evening at railway stations and bus stops.

An Eight-Day-Long Joint Operation to Find Rachit

While speaking to the media on the fifth day of the search operation, Jagnarayan had said:

"I spoke to him at 8 am on Sunday. Then around 2:30 pm, he sent a WhatsApp message saying that he was in the library and will call in the evening."
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However, according to the CCTV footage that the police and the family accessed (that The Quint has also seen), Rachit had left the hostel at around 12:40 pm on Sunday.

In a note that Rachit had left behind, he had written that he would go to the Garadiya Mahadev Temple, where the family found his bag and cell phone, among his other belongings, on 12 February.

According to Chandrasheel Thakur, Additional SP and in-charge of the Kota Police Students' Cell, a joint operation was conducted with a team of 4-5 police officials, forest department officials, some people from the State Disaster Response Force, and one Municipal Corporation diver to look for Rachit.

On Monday, 19 February, after eight days of searching, the aspirant's body was found stuck in a tree in the forest of Chambal Valley near Kota.

Jagnarayan told The Quint, "I was with a police team searching a little upwards. My brother was searching for Rachit with another team in the valley below when they found his body."

The father added that a postmortem was conducted after the body was found. This story will be updated with further details of the postmortem report.

Meanwhile, outgoing SP Sharat Chowdhary, while speaking to news agency IANS, said, "It is sad to see coaching students feeling trapped in the pressure of studies... This time, student suicides, their illness and missing cases were reported when the JEE result was to be announced."

"At times, we feel that there is a need to send these students to their native places a week before the result is announced so that they can have emotional support from their parents. No matter what the result is, at least, they will have a certain support system with them."

The Quint reached out to PhysicsWallah, but their spokesperson wasn't available to comment.

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Topics:  Kota   Kota Suicide   Student Suicide 

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