The suicide of an 18-year-old Kerala college student on Friday, following alleged harassment by college authorities, has sparked widespread anger.
On Friday evening, Jishnu Pranoy, a first-year student of Computer Science in the Nehru College of Engineering and Research Centre in Thrissur, was found hanging in the bathroom of his college hostel. The student killed himself only hours after he was allegedly caught cheating during a semester examination.
Jishnu's friends told the media that the invigilator accused him of copying in the exam when he was caught turning behind in his seat while the exam was underway. Despite Jishnu claiming that he was not cheating, the authorities threatened to debar him and made him cross out his answer sheet.
"On Thursday, we were together in the exam hall. Then, suddenly we heard our invigilator, Praveen, shouting at him and telling him to go to the Vice Principal's room. After that we did not meet him, later in the evening, we found him hanging in the room. Usually, if students are caught for copying, the management debars them from writing exams for three years. Apart from that, teachers behave very rudely with us. He might have been harassed by the college PRO and other teachers," one student told The News Minute on condition of anonymity.
Denying the alleged harassment, college principal Dr AS Vardharajan told NDTV:
"We did not even complain about him copying to the main authorities. We only explained to him the implications of copying and he himself crossed out his answer sheets and gave us in writing that he was doing so because he copied."
He also told the media that Jishnu was given a warning not to cheat during exam and that other allegations against the college were baseless.
However, following Jishnuâ€™s death, many students have been raising allegations against the college authorities. One student, who did not wish to be named, told The News Minute that the PRO of the college was also involved in allegedly harassing Jishnu. According to the student, the PRO had also barged into the examination hall to question Jishnu.
"What is his role in the academic affairs of the college? Why was he in the exam hall. Earlier in 2010, two faculty members visited the ladies hostel at night and misbehaved with girls. The students had held a huge protest and those who protested in that issue have still not got their internal (assessment) marks. Even after his (Jishnuâ€™s) death, no one representing the college attended his funeral or informed their condolences to the family," the student said.
Even as SFI has decided to stage a protest march to the college on Monday, social media have been awash with posts condemning the incident, with many terming Jishnu's death, an "institutional murder." The incident has now paved the way for many students and alumni of the college to raise allegations of harassment meted out to students in the name of maintaining discipline.
Claiming that the college management ran the institution with "goons", some students alleged that the situation in the Coimbatore campus of the college was even worse. One former student alleged on Facebook that the management often resorted to beating the students with rods to ensure discipline.
A Facebook page "Justice for Jishnu" was also created, with several posts alleging that emotional harassment by the college authorities was an everyday affair.
Speaking to television channels, Jishnu's mother too, accused the college management of harassing her son. Citing injury marks on his body, including blood clots on his leg, she has alleged harassment at the hands of college authorities.
Several popular figures on social media, including film maker Aashiq Abu, have also condemned the incident. On Twitter, writer NS Madhavan said that the college was an "avaricious teaching shop that gleefully employs perverts with previous history because they come cheap."
A Change.org petition addressed to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also been doing the rounds, which demands proper action against those responsible for Jishnu's death.