BJP Alleges Conversion Attempt Behind Tamil Nadu Girl’s Suicide, Police to Probe
The FIR and statements to the magistrate and child welfare department do not mention conversion.
A class 12 girl student of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu died by suicide, on 19 January, as she was allegedly under pressure to convert to Christianity, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) state unit has alleged.
The BJP's allegation is based on a video that has surfaced, in which the 17-year-old is heard accusing the hostel warden of scolding her, forcing her to clean rooms in the hostel, and asking her parents to allow her to convert. The video was also shared by BJP State President K Annamalai.
The warden, a 62-year-old woman, was remanded to judicial custody on Friday. The deceased was studying in a boarding school.
The Quint spoke to Thanjavur Superintendent of Police Ravali Priya Gandhapuneni who said that her team is investigating the authenticity of the video clip. The police have also recorded statements of the deceased student's family.
FIR and Girl's Statement Do Not Mention Conversion
The student's father, who hails from Ariyalur, was informed on 10 January that his daughter was admitted in a hospital after had she vomited and complained of severe stomach pain the previous day.
He then transferred her to the Tanjore Medical College Hospital. When she regained consciousness, she told the doctors that she had attempted suicide by consuming Agrosone, a pesticide.
The parents approached the police with a complaint on 15 January and an FIR was registered. The police then met with the girl at the hospital and took her statement. In both the FIR and the statement there was no mention of conversion, the SP said.
"The boarding school warden used to take me out when she had to run her personal errands. She made me clean the floor and pull out weeds. I couldn’t focus on my studies at all," the girl's statement in the FIR reads.
On 16 January, at 4.10 pm, the student's declaration was recorded on video by the Judicial Magistrate. This video is now being considered as her dying declaration as the student died on 19 January. SP Gandhapuneni said that the girl had not mentioned conversion even in her statement to the Child Welfare Committee.
Video of Girl Submitted to Police 24 Hours After Death
The student's mother, in an interview to media persons given on 20 January said, "For the past two years, she was made to do the accounts and work all night. She had to even travel with the warden to Trichy. If there was any error (in the accounts) she was scolded badly. My daughter was very upset with all this. She told us that she was not able to study at all because they never allowed her to."
The Thanjavur SP said the video was submitted to the police 24 hours after the death of the girl.
"They should have given the video before the girl passed away because we could’ve taken action immediately and recorded a dying declaration in front of the judicial magistrate. This could've helped the case and made investigation easier. And it would’ve stood the test of law," she said. The mother's statement about conversion also came after the student's death.
"Earlier, when I had gone to pick her up, the school authorities had told me that I should allow them to convert her to Christianity so that they can take care of her education. I fought with them. So they don't like me."Deceased Student's Mother
The BJP district workers have been protesting since 19 January.
Video to be Checked
The SP explained that the police will have to verify whether the new video complies with section 32 of the Evidence Act.
"According to Section 32 of the Evidence act, if we have to consider that (video) as the dying declaration, the person who recorded the video will have to testify. This is because he is not a police officer, doctor or a judicial magistrate – the parties empowered to record the dying declaration."Ravali Priya Gandhapuneni, Thanjavur Superintendent of Police
The SP said that the police will have to access the phone and send it to forensics lab in order to ascertain that it was not tampered with. The police will also have to ascertain that the statement was not given under coercion or any external influence.
The police are also speaking to fellow students and faculty members of the school to find out if the girl had confided in them. The police are also checking whether there have been other students who have been forced to convert to Christianity.
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