Justice for Fathima Latheef: Hunger Strike Called Off at IIT-M
IIT-Madras’ students, who were protesting in want of justice for Fathima Latheef, called off the hunger strike on its second day after the administration accepted two out of three demands proposed by the Student Legislative Council and General Student Body.
The protest began on Monday, 18 November, morning when two students – Azhar Moideen and Justin Joseph – affiliated to ChintaBAR, an independent student body at the institute, sat on hunger strike at the main gate, holding placards. More students joined in and began raising slogans, demanding the management take measures to curb suicides in campus.
19-year-old Fathima from Kollam, Kerala, was a first-year student of MA in Development Studies at IIT-M. She was found having hanged herself from the ceiling fan in her hostel room on 9 November.
Just three days after her death, Fathima’s father alleged the cause of her death to be harassment at the hands of the Department’s professors – sparking protests across the country, with students demanding the police take quick action.
The case is currently being investigated by Central Crime Branch, headed by C Easwaramoorthy, Additional Commissioner of Police.
Demands Proposed by Students
The Quint spoke to several students who said they’ve been appealing to the management for over a week; many groups have even held candlelight vigils and protests asking for their active intervention. They argued that though some of the demands were passed as resolutions during the Student Legislative Council meeting the previous semester, the management hasn’t implemented them as yet.
Demands raised by the students were:
- Constitute an external expert panel to survey the overall mental well-being of students
- Set up a Grievance Redressal Cell for each department to deal with issues of harassment, discrimination, apart from academic grievances
- Conduct an internal probe into the allegations made by Fathima’s family
Dean of Students accepted the first two demands. He said the possibility of constituting an institute-level committee to inquire into the conduct of the faculty will be discussed with the Director when he returns on 21 November.
Fathima’s family had alleged they found suicide notes saved on her phone, which is now with forensics for verification. Meanwhile, the three professors who were named in the notes have been summoned for enquiry.
The on-campus student organisation ChintaBAR has been calling for the suspension of the professors and an internal enquiry into the matter since the news surfaced.
“ChintaBAR welcomes these moves and hopes to work with the IIT Madras administration and the entire student community so that all the demands are addressed at the earliest,” tweeted the student organisation.
Members of IIT-M’s alumni community have said they have sent letters to the management, urging them to work towards curbing suicides in campus as well as improving mental health of students.
Meanwhile student groups affiliated to political parties conducted protests across the city demanding a fair, time-bound investigation.
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