Even as alarm continues to spread across India over the frightening Blue Whale Challenge, another suspected case of a death in Kerala has arisen.
16-year-old Manoj, a student of Class 11 from Perumkulam in Thiruvananthapuram was found hanging in his bedroom on July 26. Vilippilshala police had registered a case of unnatural death, and were investigating the case.
However, on Tuesday, Manoj’s mother Anu told the police that she suspects that her son’s death was related to the Blue Whale Challenge.
The Blue Whale Challenge is a morbid social media ‘game’ which targets vulnerable teens and pushes them to self-harm and ultimately, commit suicide. The challenge involves 50 tasks, which are given by an administrator or curator, after the teen finished the previous one.
The tasks ranged from telling the participating teen to self-harm, send photos of the same to the curator, climb a crane or ledge, not speak to anyone all day, to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to watch scary videos and listen to music the curator sends, speak to other ‘whales’ (participants) and finally, commit suicide by jumping off a high building.
While the challenge has driven many teens to suicide abroad, the phenomenon is new to India, but has reportedly already claimed at least two lives.
Anu told Manorama News that her son had told her that he had discovered a new game called the Blue Whale Challenge. According to Anu, Manoj told her that there were three possibilities for how the game could end – either the player ends his life, kills someone else or loses his mind. Anu says that she had tried to make Manoj promise that he would not play the game. Manoj reportedly promised never to play the game, but may have done so without her knowledge.
According to Vilippilshala Sub Inspector Kannan, Anu’s suspicions about the cause of her son’s death were aroused after she came across numerous reports about the game.
Anu told Manorama that Manoj’s behaviour had changed drastically in the last nine months. A boy who had never gone to the beach before, he travelled all the way there alone. He also frequently visited a cemetery at night.
“His behaviour was strange after November. He never travelled alone, but he visited the beach after November. After that, in January he carved three letters on his hands – ABI – using a compass. When I saw his hands they were bleeding,” Anu recalled.
“His friend carved letters for him. The friend was frightened, but Manoj forced him to do it,” she added.
SI Kannan said that while Manoj was an introvert, he had further retreated from his family in the last few months. “He was a loner, addicted to mobile games. He had become more withdrawn in the months before his death,” the SI said.
Anu said that Manoj had also given hints about his possible death earlier.
“He asked me whether I would be sad if he died. He consoled me by saying that I should give all my love to his sister, if he dies. When I started crying, he said he was kidding. I told him lovingly that I will not be able to tolerate his death,” she said.
The Thirvananthapuram Rural SP Ashok Kumar told TNM that the police had not looked into the Blue Whale angle until this point, and there had been no leads on why Manoj had died. However, now that his mother had raised suspicions regarding the challenge, the police would follow up on this angle.
The police have taken custody of Manoj’s mobile phone and computer. The Cyber Cell may also be brought into the investigation.