Two students from IIT Madras have gone on an indefinite hunger strike at the educational institute, demanding justice for Fathima Latheef, the first year student was found dead in her room in Sarayu hostel on the campus on November 9. Two students, Azhar Moideen and Justin Joseph, have launched the strike calling for an end to student suicides on campus. Their main demand is for an external expert survey into the issues faced by students primarily to do with the overall mental well-being of students.
This also includes a fair, transparent and time-bound internal investigation into the allegations made by the parents of Fathima-- they had alleged that she was subject to harassment from professors of the institute whom she had named in her suicide note. The students have called for the implementation of resolutions that were passed during the Student Legislative Council meeting last semester. They have also demanded the setting up of a Complaints and Grievances Redressal Committees in all departments.
Speaking to TNM, Azhar, who also studies at the Humanities and Social Sciences Department where Fathima was a student, says that ample time was given for the institute to respond. The students made a representation to the Director last Thursday, protesting the inaction of the administration regarding the structural issues that have led to suicides on campus.
"We had submitted our representation to the Director in a protest on Thursday where 200 to 250 students participated," he says.
The students, affiliated to Chinta Bar, an independent student body recognised by the institute, said on their Facebook page on Sunday that they would be forced to begin a hunger strike by 10 am on Monday if demands of students were not met.
"The issue of mental health is structural inside IIT, it is not an individual issue. I don't know whether in this specific instance she had any such problems or if she was harassed or if she faced discrimination. We have asked for an investigation because there has been a suicide note found. We need a fair investigation into it. But the problem of suicides in IIT and the mental health problems of students in IIT does not end there. It has been going on and increasing for a while now. Our demands are not justice for Fathima but for all of us as well. We don't want any more deaths in the institute," he says.
What SLC said
The Student Legislative Council resolution from last semester asked the IIT Madras administration to set up a body of outside experts to study the overall mental wellbeing of the students in the institute and on the effectiveness of the existing platforms and mechanisms to tackle all the issues faced by students in the campus. "The said body should include psychologists, mental health experts, sociologists, educationists, faculty of IITM and other professional stakeholders and must look into the pressures faced by students, especially those from marginalised social backgrounds including SC/ST, women, and queer communities. The recommendations of the body should be acted upon.” it said.
After Fathima's death, SLC also called for the setting up of a Complaints and Grievances Redressal Committee in all departments at the earliest.