What Facts in TN Suicide Case Did BJP Ignore While Alleging ‘Forced Conversion’?

The investigation has exposed discrepancies in the videos, thus refuting the BJP's claim of 'forced conversion.'

5 min read
Hindi Female

The Tamil Nadu police has found several discrepancies in the allegation of “forced conversion,” that was till recently considered to be the reason behind the suicide of a 17-year-old girl from Thanjavur. The police's investigation has exposed several inconsistencies in the videos, submitted as evidence, in the case, The Quint has gathered.

According to the BJP and the parents of the girl, the student took the extreme step because she was under pressure to convert.

Meanwhile, the investigation has clearly questioned the premise of the week-long protest that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held across Tamil Nadu, accusing the school management of attempting to "forcefully convert the student to Christianity."

The Quint spoke to Childline (child helpline) officials and investigating officers to narrow down on the key facts that the BJP ignored before it took over the case, giving it a communal colour. Here's what we found.


1. Complaint of Harassment at Home Registered

First, the BJP ignored the history of complaints the girl had raised in the past. The Thanjavur police has found that an unknown person, presumably the child herself, had made a call in July 2020 to Ariyalur Childline number 1098, two year ago, accusing the stepmother of harassment.

The child helpline representatives visited her house twice after the call was made. Arulraj, the Childline officer who had received the call said, “When we visited first, the girl was at home but she denied making the call. Anyway, we counselled her father and stepmother and told them that in case they harass the child, they would be dealt with legally.” At this time, the girl was staying at home after her Class X examination.

A senior police officer confirmed that, “This angle of harassment at home will also be explored” while investigating the case.

When The Quint asked the father of the child about the allegation, he brushed it aside. “Her Amma (stepmother) is very kind to her and in fact only she knows all about her studies. I take care of only the payment of fees and other issues,” he said. Why did the BJP not consider this aspect before campaigning against 'conversion'?


2. Why Was a VHP Leader Inside the ICU?

The controversial videos which the BJP campaign had shared to allege ‘forced conversion’ were shot by Muthuvel, the district secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Ariyalur.

When The Quint asked the parents why a VHP member was allowed inside the Intensive Care unit (ICU) of the hospital, the mother responded, “My husband’s brother and nephew had brought a friend along just to pay a visit. I didn’t have a phone at that time and so I asked him to shoot the video.”

However, she later corrected her version and said, “Just when my child started telling me that she was tortured by her warden, these people walked in. I only know how to take photos and not videos, so I asked them for help.”

A senior police officer said that the “circumstances in which the video was recorded need to be investigated.” The VHP leader was also accompanied by an advocate, whose identity is yet to be ascertained.

As the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, had asked the police only to investigate the circumstances that led to the girl's suicide, and not the person who shot the videos, Muthuvel has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

“When we asked him why he recorded the video, he quoted the High Court order and refused to cooperate with the investigation. We are mentioning this in the High Court because we need to probe this further,” said a source in the police department.


3. Time Stamp on Videos Show Discrepancies

The Quint
has learnt that Muthuvel had recorded a total of four videos on his phone on 17 January, when he went to the hospital.

  • The first 44-second video surfaced on social media on 20 January, in which the girl 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. “They had asked my parents, in my presence, if they would allow me to be converted to Christianity; in return they will take care of my education,” she is heard saying. A man’s voice is then heard asking, “So because you didn’t agree to it, they tortured you?’ She responds with a “Maybe.”

  • The second video, that is two and a half minutes long, was accessed by media on 27 January where the girl makes no mention of forced conversion. The man is heard asking her, “Did they stop you from wearing a bindi?” She replies, “No.” And she also clarifies that the headmistress and others had nothing to do with this.

A senior police officer told The Quint that they believe Muthuvel deleted this second video of the girl from his phone as the time stamp shows 20 January and not 17 January. However, the investigating agencies have managed to retrieve the video from his phone as he had received it as a forward from another person. The police are investigating whom Muthuvel had forwarded the video to.

Muthuvel had also shot two other videos – one of the step mother and another of the girl.

"We suspect that since the girl made no mention of conversion in the video, they tutored her and recorded another video. The time stamp supports our suspicion. There are so many discrepancies. We will be able to find out if any more videos were taken or deleted once the forensic report is submitted."
Police Source to The Quint

4. Why Wasn’t the Video Submitted to Cops Before the Girl's Death?

It is to be noted that the parents had approached the police with a complaint on 15 January. The next day, the student’s statement was recorded in the presence of the judicial magistrate, and was considered as her final declaration as she died on 19 January. Muthuvel had recorded the videos on 17 January, in the presence of her mother.

The Thanjavur Superintendent of Police Ravali Priya Gandhapuneni had told The Quint that the video was submitted to the police 24 hours after the death of the girl. The parents and the advocate refused to answer why the video was not submitted to the police and was instead released on social media.

The investigation team has submitted a detailed report to the Madurai Bench on the Madras High Court that will hear the case on Friday, 28 January.

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