A few drops of blood had stained the back of 13-year-old Fazana Karim's* uniform when she was at school on August 26. The events following this realisation, are what allegedly led to the suicide of this young girl from Tirunelveli District, early on Monday morning.
According to Fazana’s mother, the seventh standard student got her period while attending classes at the Joseph Matriculation school at Senthil Nagar in Palayamkottai. Having attained puberty two months ago, she was unprepared for the situation, says her mother Rasavamal Banu.
"Her friends pointed out that she had stained her uniform and so she asked her class teacher Ilakiya for help," says the grieving mother. "The teacher did not even take into account that there were boys in the class. She asked my daughter to lift top of her salwar up and then gave her duster cloth to use as a pad," she says outraged.
That is not all, the young girl was allegedly chastised for staining her uniform and taken to a higher authority. Relatives TNM spoke to alleged that in Principal Kalavathi's cabin she was mocked and scolded for not knowing how to handle herself while menstruating.
"When she came back home on Saturday, all she told me was that she needed to take a bath," says her mother, her voice choking. It was apparently a boy from Fazana's class, who told them what had happened on Saturday.
"Even on Sunday she seemed fine. At 12 in the night I accompanied her to the bathroom because she didn't want to go alone. But a few hours later, she jumped from the second floor of the neighbouring building," sobs Rasavamal.
On hearing her screams, her parents and people from the neighbourhood rushed out and found the girl in a pool of blood. She was immediately taken to the Palayamkottai GH but died on the way.
TNM has accessed the suicide note, the family claims the girl left behind and it roughly translates to -
Amma please forgive me, I don't see another way. I have to die. Was there any complaint against me when I was in class six? But when I reached class seven, why did my miss (teacher) make such complaints against me? What mistake have I done that they're torturing me like this?
But I'll tell you one thing - that miss won't live happily. She's torturing me....It is true that I (unclear)...But how can she torture me like this. I couldn't think of any other way. So I have committed suicide."
When TNM asked how the family knew that the staining incident had led to her suicide, Fazana's family said that the abuse has been prolonged in nature. "She came of age two months back and couldn't attend school for a week. She missed classes and a test. Since then, they have been scolding her and putting her down," says her cousin Umara Banu, who is of the same age.
"What happened on Saturday was the final straw. How will a girl go back to school after being humiliated like this in front of so many boys?" she asks.
Fazana's father is an autorickshaw driver and would drop and pick his daughter up from school every day. When he enquired about how she was doing, her class teacher allegedly complained that the 13-year-old was not doing her homework. "She used to come tell us that she was getting beaten in school. But we told her that if she finished her work, it won't happen," says Rasavamal. "She was a very sensitive child...The school is responsible for my daughter's death," she says, angrily.
The Palayamkottai police have, however, denied the family's allegations.
"The Revenue District officer visited the school and has spoken to students and teachers. No such incident has been mentioned so far," says an investigating official. "A report will be submitted to the collector shortly. But from what we have found, the girl had some family problems," he adds, not elaborating.
"That is outrageous," says Fazana's mother. "There are no problems. These are lies they are telling to hide the truth behind my daughter's death," she cries.
Police meanwhile, are waiting for the collector's orders to take further action in the case.