Thanjavur student suicide: No complaints over religion at school in 10 yrs, says dept

The report says that the Chief Educational Officer and the District Education Officer had inspected the school 16 times between 2011 to 2021.
Screengrab from a video of Lavanya, a student who died by suicide in Thanjavur
Screengrab from a video of Lavanya, a student who died by suicide in Thanjavur
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The Thanjavur District Education Officer on Thursday, January 27, released a report on the Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur, where 17-year-old student Lavanya who recently died by suicide used to study. The report says that in the past 10 years, there have been no complaints from students of the school over religion and that there were no religious campaigns carried out by the headmaster or any teacher at the school.

The report says that the Chief Educational Officer and the District Education Officer had inspected the school 16 times between 2011 to 2021. In those times, they had received no complaints from the students on the basis of religion, the report adds. “As the school was functioning smoothly, neither officers received any complaints regarding religion,” the report adds. “Despite being a minority-run (Christian) institute, given that most of the students were Hindu, I hereby declare that no religious campaigns were carried out either by the school headmaster or any other teacher,” says. 

The school has been in focus since one of the students Lavanya died by suicide on January 19. After her death, a video emerged of her, where she alleged that there was an attempt made two years ago by sister Raquel Mary, a nun at the boarding house of the school, to pressurise her to convert to Christianity. The BJP has been amplifying this allegation, and has demanded a probe into these allegations. The report was released by officials on the day the BJP announced that it was forming an all-woman committee to inquire into the student’s death. 

The report carries data on the religious background of students who have studied at the Sacred Heart Michaelpatti School in the last ten years (2013 to 2022). In total, the report says, 5,270 Hindu students have studied at the school in this ten-year period, as opposed to 2,290 Christians and 176 Muslim students. 

For the academic year 2021-2022, the report says that there are 444 Hindu students, 219 Christian and 14 Muslim students. “Based on these numbers, it can be concluded that there are more Hindu students in the school than Christian,” notes the report. 

Talking about the deceased student, the report says that as her home was in Araiyalur circle, Vadugapaalaiyam village, she was staying at a nearby hostel for the nuns. The report further adds that it has come to be known that the child suffered from the medical condition vitiligo and that though other students had the habit of going home during vacations, the student remained at the hostel. 

The report further states that the student only attended classes for 18 days while she was in Class 11, in 2021 — nine times in February and nine times in March which were in-person classes. She didn’t attend any of the online classes, according to the report. After going to Class 12, she intermittently attended classes between September 2021 to January 2022. 

On January 10, 2022, the report adds that her parents were intimated that she had taken ill. She had stomach ache and was vomiting. Further, according to the report, she was taken home to Ariyalur because of this. 

On Thursday, a second video emerged of Lavanya, where she narrates that she took the step to end her life after extra work by the hostel warden made her fall behind in her studies. There is no mention of conversion in this video. The newly-leaked video was shot at the hospital where she was admitted before her death, by a person named Muthuvel, who is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Ariyalur District Secretary. TNM had learnt that there are four videos in total which Muthuvel had recorded, out of which two have been released. Only one of them talks about the conversion. 

Lavanya has said in the second video that the hostel warden — Sagaya Mary — would make her do chores and accounting work which affected her studies. She says in the video that though she did not fully understand the accounts work, the warden would not listen and forced her to do the work. 

On January 15, Lavanya’s parents had first filed a complaint that the warden was making Lavanya do domestic chores and maintain account books. On January 16, at 4.10 pm, Lavanya’s last declaration was recorded on video by the Judicial Magistrate. These videos were recorded by Muthuvel on January 17, when she was admitted to hospital, two days before her death. A day after Lavanya’s death, her parents approached the police with the 44-second video clip alleging that the child was forced to convert.

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