The circumstances reveal a case of insecurity and anxiety over relationships and the dangerous use of social media that could have led to the death, police said.

Representative image of an Instagram post of a couple posing during sunsetRepresentativeImage/Picxy.comprudhvichowdary
news Social media Wednesday, January 12, 2022 - 18:04

Swetha and her family were at home watching TV on the night of June 6, 2021, when her family members began to wind down and go to bed. Swetha was looking at her phone, and remained in the living room with her grandmother, while everyone else went to sleep. Later that night, at approximately 11.30 pm, her grandmother, who had fallen asleep in front of the TV, woke up to find that Swetha wasn’t there anymore. Panicked, the rest of the family was woken up, and they searched for Swetha. But it was too late. The young woman, who was last seen alive at about 10.30 pm, was found dead, at 3.30 am.

A detailed investigation led the police to believe that Swetha's death was a case of suicide, but the circumstances reveal a case of insecurity and anxiety over relationships and the dangerous use of social media that could have led to the death, police said.

Swetha was a third-year BCom student in Tamil Nadu’s Chengalpattu, and she was reportedly in a relationship with Aditya (name changed), who also studied at her college. But the couple didn’t have it easy. After Swetha’s death, police found several fake social media accounts that posted images of the couple and had handles like ‘Swetha-Aditya love’. The handles were also harassing Swetha and Aditya through direct messages.

Aditya, the police later learnt, belonged to a Scheduled Caste (SC) community, while Swetha and her family belonged to a Most Backward Classes (MBC) community. The investigation, led by ADSP Adarsh Pachera, found that her family did not approve of their relationship.

“We were apprehensive that it may have had something to do with caste. It is not usual for families to accept such (relationships). First, we had to decide whether the family had anything to do with Swetha’s death,” ADSP Adarsh Pachera told TNM.

The police began to suspect that Swetha’s brother, Sumanth (name changed), may have created the fake Instagram accounts to harass Swetha and Aditya, which may eventually have led Swetha to take her own life.

The fake profiles

The police believed that Swetha’s death had something to do with the fake profiles. “Maybe her image was being tarnished in front of all her college mates. So we needed to find out who created these fake profiles,” ADSP Panchera said.

An official request was sent to Instagram to ascertain details of the profiles. According to the data, some of the fake accounts were registered using phone numbers of Swetha’s family members. Additionally, the fake profiles used the same IP address as Swetha’s own Instagram account.

“We thought that someone else must have been using her phone, her internet connection, or someone who had access to family members’ phone numbers must be behind the accounts,” the ADSP told TNM.

They also quickly ruled out the possibility that her phone had been hacked. “Hacking is difficult. We were not dealing with people who have a history of cybercrime, or are technically savvy,” he said.

New revelations

With these new findings, police zeroed in on Swetha’s brother Sumanth as a suspect. Maybe he knew her phone’s password, and would use the device when she stepped out or wasn’t paying attention. These moments could have given him time to create the fake Instagram profiles and send harassing messages to his sister and her boyfriend, they speculated.

The fake profiles shared an IP address with Swetha’s own account. Police questioned Sumanth and found that he would regularly use the hotspot connection from Swetha’s phone, as the house did not have wifi.

However, on June 6, the day of Swetha’s death, she had received messages from one of the fake profiles between 4 pm and 6 pm. Sumanth, however, had an airtight alibi, as he was seen by several people playing football at the Chengalpattu Medical College grounds at the time. So the police had to rule out all the suspects behind the fake profiles. All except Swetha herself.

The face behind the fake profiles

Based on their investigation, it became clear to the police that no one other than Swetha could have created the fake profiles. But why would the young woman go to these lengths to send harassing messages to herself and her boyfriend?

That’s when Keerthi*, another young woman, became a part of their investigation. A college mate of the couple, police learnt that she and Aditya had developed a close friendship. “He was drifting away from Swetha, he was leaving her,” Panchera said, adding that this may have given rise to feelings of insecurity in Swetha.

The police found that the fake social media profiles didn’t start with Aditya and Swetha. Around January 2021, Swetha turned to social media to get her revenge on the burgeoning romance between Aditya and Keerthi, police said. She created fake profiles targeting, making abusive, sexual and pornographic posts against Keerthi in an attempt to publicly humiliate her, police told TNM.

The ADSP speculated that Aditya confronted Swetha about the profiles and threatened to break up with her. That’s when Swetha decided to use her social media to “win” Aditya back. She began to create fake profiles to post about her and Aditya’s relationship, in an attempt to show their peers that their love was strong. And these accounts, based on the registered phone numbers and IP address, were also run by Swetha.

“The Aditya-Swetha accounts never used abusive language, never had pornographic content. This was somebody who was pro-Aditya-Swetha,” ADSP Pachera said.

Ultimately, Swetha’s death comes as social media continues to have an increasingly toxic and outsized effect on a young person’s life. In her case, it was tragically enough to lead her to take her own life.

It must also be added here that social media platforms have been revealed to have an overwhelmingly negative effect on people’s mental health.

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.

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

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 am and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to individuals 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.

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