A Class 12 student in Coimbatore died by suicide on Thursday, November 11. She was found by her father and a close friend. Her friend and parents alleged that she was under severe mental distress from alleged sexual assault and repeated harassment by a school teacher named Mithun Chakravarthy at the Chinmaya Vidyalaya school.
The incidents of assault and harassment are reportedly said to have gone on for six months. According to her mother, the student had asked her parents to change her school repeatedly but did not reveal the reason why. In September, this year, they had shifted her to a different school in the city, the mother added.
Speaking to the media, the mother alleged her daughter had even complained to the schoolâ€™s principal, who asked the student not to inform her parents. The school had also arranged for counselling, during which the student was allegedly told not to take the assault or harassment seriously and to brush it off â€śas she would if someone bumped into her on a bus,â€ť the girlâ€™s mother said.
The studentâ€™s close friend told media that the teacher, Mithun Chakravarthy, had befriended the student over phone chats and had dropped her home once. The studentâ€™s friend alleged that the way Mithun spoke to the victim from the beginning was inappropriate. â€śHe sexually assaulted her once in school and harassed her many times. His wife teaches in the same school, she and the principal knew about all this, but they did nothing,â€ť the friend alleged. He added that the school had asked the student why she had allowed Mithun Chakravarthy to drop her home and also said that they had told her â€śshe was to blame too because of this.â€ť
â€śShe was very distressed. She became scared of men in general. She was unable to forget the incident. She kept saying she felt disgusted,â€ť said her friend. He alleged that the school had promised the student that they would dismiss the teacher, but did not, initially.
The girl had also purportedly written a suicide note where she refers to the accused teacher and two others.
The principal of the school denied knowledge of the alleged incidents to TNM. She said that the studentâ€™s parents had cited economic reasons for changing schools. She claimed that they had told the school that they were leaving town due to their financial situation. She also said that Mithun Chakravarthy had resigned in September too due to medical issues.
Protests against the teacher and the school were carried out on Friday, November 12, by the All India Democratic Association (AIDWA), Studentsâ€™ Federation of India (SFI), Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, and Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK) outside the Coimbatore collectorateâ€™s office.
Speaking to media at the protest site, the general secretary of TPDK Ramakrishnan, said, â€śThe school did not take action against the teacher even though they knew that she was facing sexual abuse for six months. Now she has died. We demand that the teacher be arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The police and the district administration must take action against the school.â€ť
The RS Puram All Womenâ€™s Police Station (AWPS) is currently conducting the investigation. AWPS West has registered a case against the teacher under IPC 306 (abetment of suicide) and Section 9 (L) (whoever commits sexual assault on the child more than once or repeatedly) read with 10 (punishment for aggravated sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.
State health department's suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584
Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222
Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 236116
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.
State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 and 7 pm)
Aasara offers support to inidviduals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.
Click here for working helplines across India.