TN police warn against ‘parallel media investigation’ into Kallakurichi death

Following the student’s suicide, several WhatsApp groups titled ‘Justice for [deceased student]’ had emerged, giving their own spin to the incident, in the days leading up to the violence on July 17.
Police assembled at the site of Kallakurichi protests
Police assembled at the site of Kallakurichi protests
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In the case relating to the death by suicide of the 17-year-old student of a school at Chinna Salem in Kallakurichi district of Tamil Nadu, the police has warned of legal action against any individual or entity involved in conducting a parallel media investigation by publishing and telecasting reports, including legal action to block their social media accounts and YouTube channels. 

The police said it has observed that many print, visual and even social media platforms are publishing and telecasting reports regularly with their own interpretations of the incident and are indulging in parallel media investigation, which affects the fair investigation undertaken by the probe team. “Under these circumstances, all are requested not to publish videos and posts in print and visual media including social media, as this would hamper the progress in investigation,” the police said in a release issued on Saturday, August 6.

Following the death of the 17-year-old student, who was found dead near her hostel on the school premises on July 13, the police had said that a note was found in her room which alleged that she was being tortured by two teachers, which led to her taking her own life. While the girl’s family had been holding peaceful protests since her death alleging that she had not died by suicide and suspecting foul play, the family’s concerns were soon spun into unverified theories and widely circulated online and over WhatsApp.

Several WhatsApp groups titled ‘Justice for [deceased student]’ were formed in the immediate aftermath of the incident, adding hundreds of members to each group, in the days leading up to the violence on July 17. With no police action initially against the teachers named in the note by the student, several forwarded messages and videos alleging a huge cover-up by the police and the school management surfaced. 

Making use of the viral hashtag seeking justice for the student, videos on YouTube put forward rumours as “evidence” and discussed theories holding the school management responsible for the girl’s death. Messages said that the owner of the school and their relatives had misbehaved with female students in the past, and that students had been harmed as well.

CCTV footage of a young man walking at night was shared with claims that it showed a relative of the school’s owner entering and leaving the school, and linking it to the student’s death. Subsequently, the Kallakurichi district police verified that the information is false, and that the video is unrelated to the incident. 

Some of the circulated messages and YouTube videos claimed that the girl had been sexually assaulted, while others even hinted that it could have been a case of ‘human sacrifice’. A number of these messages were circulated by political parties, youth organisations, and also fan groups of popular Tamil film stars.

After the postmortem was completed on July 14, some of the details of the report were also dissected on these WhatsApp groups. Messages were circulated claiming that one of the injuries discovered on her body had been inflicted before her alleged suicide, insinuating that she had been harmed by someone. It must be noted that the postmortem report does not indicate sexual assault.

The police said that CBCID (Crime-Branch Crime Investigation Department) Villupuram has undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the incident, and the probe is being monitored closely by the Madras High Court. If anyone has got any specific information related to the case, it can be shared directly with the Senior Officer of the CBCID on 9003848126, the police added.

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