The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has reserved its order in the case of the suicide of Lavanya on Friday, January 28. The court was hearing a petition filed by the girl’s father seeking transfer of the case to CBCID or any other independent investigating agency. They had stated that they have lost faith in the investigation after several crucial documents related to the case were leaked.
The prosecutor said that Muthuvel — the VHP person who shot the video of the girl — has not been cooperating with the investigation, and added that the police are looking into several angles and many witnesses have been examined. The prosecution argued that allegations of conversion were not made by the parents at the time the FIR was filed. He said that Muthuvel’s statement has been recorded and a forensic examination was underway, along with the examination of 53 witnesses.
The prosecution added that they are not yet aware of how many videos were taken in total. He also argued that as the said videos were not released until after the girl’s death or allegations were not put forth until January 20, it was an attempt to make it a political issue.
The girl’s parents submitted that she complained of harassment in the hostel and was made to do other work, including accounting work, and that she complained that she won't be able to study amid such work. Further, the counsel for the petitioner (the girl’s parents) said how the girl obtained poison in the hostel needed to be investigated.
The counsel for the petitioner also said that the SP had given a press statement saying that there was no allegation of religious conversion in the FIR, soon after the death of the child. According to LiveLaw, the counsel said that ‘the interview was given by police when there was an agitation to take action. After the agitation, the police took the complaint and arrested one person who was remanded to custody. After that, the girl’s parents sought a change of investigation agency’.
He further added that a press statement was made by the Education Minister saying that the shooting of the video was wrong and there was no clear cut answer regarding conversion. “On one hand, the senior police officer ruled out forcible conversion, despite the video. On the other hand, the State Education Minister said the taking of the video was improper. Another inquiry has concluded that there is no conversion attempt”, reported LiveLaw.
He further questioned how the dying declaration recorded by the magistrate was leaked. He alleged that it cannot be from the court and it has been published only through the police. He said that the circulation of a second video after handing over the phones to the police has created suspicions on the investigation.
On behalf of the school, advocate Dr Xavier Arulraj appeared and said that a confidential affidavit was sent to the judge, as it contains private matters related to the family. He also added that the school was like a second home to the girl, who had to face ‘stepmotherly treatment’ at her house. He also questioned why the allegation of forced conversion was not put forth two years back, as soon as it is alleged to have happened.
Stating that the girl was under treatment for depression, he said that the school provided her with the necessary support even during the lockdown period.
The advocate also added that the school has been facing a ‘media trial’ and there was a ‘political narrative’ behind the entire issue.
Lavanya, a 17-year-old student of the Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School died by suicide on January 19. Prior to her death, on January 15, a 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, in which 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 was heard alleging that there was an attempt made by a nun 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 her death, on January 20, her parents approached the police with the clip alleging that the child was forced to convert. On Thursday, January 27, 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.
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.