#KeralaSuicide: ‘Our Daughters are Pawns in SAI Politics’
The parents of the rowers who attempted to kill themselves allege the girls were being harassed.
It was 17-year-old Sabitha Santosh who was sent to pluck the fruit of the “othalanga” that grew in the hostel campus of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Alappuzha, Kerala.
The Othalanga tree’s deadly fruit is used in pesticides and Sabitha had plucked enough for herself and her three friends.
Teresa Jacob, Sabitha Santosh, Shilpa KR, Aparna Ramabhadran – all \junior rowers consumed the fruit on the night of May 6. Aparna succumbed the next day. The other three are recovering at the Alappuzha Medical College hospital.
Since the incident first came to light, media reports quoted SAI “sources” who said that the girls attempted suicide as Paulose P Thomas, the girls’ hostel warden, had reprimanded them for partying in the hostel and had threatened to inform their parents.
However, all four girls have denied this, according to their parents. All of them including Aparna (the day before she died), told their parents that they were subjected to ragging by their seniors which they found “unbearable”. The girls’ parents allege that their daughters are now being made expendable pawns in the power plays of officials of the sports hostel.
“This is SAI’s politics playing out. Everyone has turned against Paulose, their trainer. The Rowing association is behind this allegation against the trainer as they have issues with him”, says a father of one of the girls.
I know that my daughter wouldn’t take this extreme step for a silly reason. Though all the girls say that these seniors are behind it, police is not ready to take action.
–Mother of Shilpa, one of the victims
Made to Wash Senior’s Clothes
Aparna’s mother, Geetha, says that Aparna hadn’t told them about her troubles because her only dream was to “give us a poverty-free life”. There were, however, signs of trouble that Geetha now recognises for what they were.
Aparna had last come home to celebrate the festival of Vishu in April. After the Vishu holidays, she was scared to return to the SAI hostel which is just 8 km away from their house, as her stay was allotted in two of the senior girl’s room who used to harass her.
The mother and daughter had a brief heart-to-heart conversation hours before the Aparna’s death.
She told me the harassment from her seniors in the hostel was unbearable. She told me that the seniors defamed them, spread stories that she used to hide a boyfriend in the room. My daughter wailed and said that was all false. She spoke about how they would abuse and make her wash their clothes,
–Geetha, Mother of Aparna
Superintendent of Police, KK Balachandran maintains that according to preliminary investigation, the girls were reprimanded for consuming beer, causing them to panic.
“A few seniors had taunted them for a mistake they committed. It is usual that if children do something wrong, parents, teachers and others older to them will take them to task”, he said.
When asked why no cases have been registered against seniors who the girls allege were behind the harassment, Balachandran said that they still had no names, and none of the victims had named anyone.
Geetha now wishes she had recorded her daughter’s statement on a mobile phone. “At least then I could prove to the world that this was a case of extreme ragging. No other daughter should suffer like mine did.”
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