"I spoke to my daughter that night… She sounded happy, and said she was on night duty," said D Narender, the father of Dr D Preethi, a first-year postgraduate student in the anaesthesia department at Kakatiya Medical College in Telangana's Warangal, who allegedly attempted suicide on 22 February.
The 26-year-old succumbed four days later on 26 February at Hyderabad's Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS).
Preethi, who belonged to the Banjara community (Scheduled Tribe), allegedly injected herself with a lethal substance while she was on duty over purported harassment and ragging by one of her seniors at the medical college, Dr Mohammed Saif.
Speaking to the media after her funeral in Jangaon on 27 February, Narender added that his daughter's death was no suicide but a murder. "If this is investigated properly, it will be revealed that this is a murder. This is a murder," he told the media.
As Preethi's death raises several questions about what had transpired on the night of her alleged suicide attempt and afterward, The Quint looks at what has happened in the case so far.
Preethi, the youngest of three sisters, completed her MBBS at Kamineni Medical College in Nalgonda. She secured a PG seat at Kakatiya Medical College and joined classes in November 2022.
Preethi's family alleged that for over 90 days, she was subjected to ragging by 27-year-old Saif. She, however, stood up to him and raised the matter with the principal of the college.
Narender, an assistant sub-inspector in the Railway Protection Force (RPF), said that Preethi had called him on 20 February to speak about the alleged harassment by Saif.
In a purported audio clip that is now viral, Preethi is also heard telling her mother that the head of her department asked her why she reported the matter to the principal. She is also heard saying that she wasn't the only one being harassed by Saif.
In the early hours of 22 February, Preethi was found unconscious inside the staff room of MGM Hospital in Warangal, where she was working the night. The same day, she was shifted to NIMS in Hyderabad.
Two days later, the Warangal Police arrested Saif, who is a second-year student in the anaesthesia department. He was booked under abetment to suicide, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and the Anti-Ragging Act.
After her death at NIMS on 26 February, several student organisations staged a protest outside the hospital, demanding justice for her. They also tried to block the ambulance carrying her body to Gandhi Hospital for the post-mortem exam.
What the Family Is Saying
Hours after his call with Preethi, Narender received a voice message from a colleague of hers saying that she fainted. He then asked if it was because she had not eaten.
"Sometimes she used to skip meals. Sometimes I would send her food if the mess had closed," he told the media.
Narender claimed that Preethi could not have killed herself. "They are saying there is evidence that she had searched for the substance she had consumed, on her phone. But when we were with her at the hospital, her phone was unlocked," he said, alleging that someone could have used her phone to create a fake search history.
He demanded that the HOD of the anaesthesia department at KMC be suspended and that a probe by a sitting judge be launched into his daughter's death.
'Management Acted on Complaint'
Meanwhile, Warangal Commissioner of Police AV Ranganath said that the college management took action over Preethi's complaint against Saif. He said that the principal of the college spoke to Saif and Preethi, and let him off with a warning.
"The management acted upon the complaint and cannot be blamed for inaction at this point. In the course of the investigation, if we find out that they were aware of the harassment and still did not act upon it, we will take appropriate action against them," said the commissioner.
After her death, Panchayat Raj Minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for Preethi's family. He said the government was probing the incident and would take stringent action against those responsible for her death.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Telangana attributing a communal angle to the incident, the state's Information Technology Minister KT Rama Rao said on 27 February that whether it was a "Saif or a Sanjay," the government would take action against those responsible for Preethi's death, according to TNIE.
Meanwhile, ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, on 28 February, wrote an open letter to Preethi's family, assuring that justice would be meted out to their daughter.
Preethi's funeral took place on 27 February at her village in Jangaon. Several leaders from political and caste organisations were present at the funeral.