The residents of Michaelpatti village in Thanjavur submitted a petition at the Collector office on Friday, January 28, stating that unknown persons were trying to create communal disharmony in the village. They have also sought protection from people who might disrupt their peace.
Seventeen-year-old student Lavanya, who recently died by suicide, studied at a school in Michaelpatti. Allegations that Lavanya was pressured to convert to Christianity by a nun at the school two years ago emerged after her death.
Michaelpatti residents submitted a petition stating that the alleged conversion angle is being propagated to disrupt the communal harmony in their village, where there are nearly 800 residents. The residents, while addressing mediapersons in the collectorate, said that all of them were living in unity, including Hindus, Christians and Muslims and that there were no problems between them.
They also alleged that unknown persons have been visiting their village and have been asking for interviews ‘against the school’. “However, we don’t know who they are. That school is a pride for the entire Christian community, and it is being tried to deviate this issue as a religious issue. Our children study in that school, and there has been no issue of conversion in all these years. The inquiry into Lavanya’s death will bring out the reason,” they said and added that tension has been prevailing in the village since the incident.
Lavanya, a student of the Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School died by suicide on January 19. Prior to her death, on January 15, the first complaint was filed by the girl’s parents stating that the warden was making her do domestic chores and maintaining account books. On January 16, at 4.10 pm, Lavanya’s last declaration was recorded on video by the Judicial Magistrate. However, in this declaration, there was no mention of conversion.
However, after Lavanya’s death on January 19, a 44-second video taken prior to her demise emerged where she alleged that there was an attempt made by a nun Raquel Mary at the boarding house of the school to convert her to Christianity two years ago. The BJP has been amplifying this allegation and has demanded a probe into these allegations. A day after Lavanya’s death, her parents approached the police with the 44-second clip alleging that the child was forced to convert.
On Thursday, a second video was leaked in which Lavanya can be heard saying that she attempted suicide after she was made to do extra work by the hostel warden, which made her fall behind in her studies, and there is no mention of conversion in this video.
These videos were recorded by Muthuvel, the Ariyalur District Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), on January 17, when she was admitted to the hospital, two days before her death.
TNM had learnt that there are a total of four videos that Muthuvel recorded on his phone on January 17 when he went to the hospital, of which two videos have already been leaked. In the first one Lavanya speaks about her personal details, the second one is of her saying she was made to do extra work by the warden, the third is the viral video where Lavanya alleges forced conversion to Christianity, and the fourth video is that of her stepmother, who is also expected to be questioned over reports that Lavanya had made a call to childline officials two years ago alleging harassment by her.
Meanwhile, the Thanjavur District Education Officer on Thursday, January 27, released a report stating that 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, in the past decade. “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,” the report read.
If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.
State health department's suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584
Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222
Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 2361161
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.
State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 and 7 pm)
Aasara offers support to inidviduals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.
24x7 Helpline: 9820466726
Click here for working helplines across India.