‘Tied up, beaten with belts’: Police report details torture of Kerala student by collegemates

The report also mentions that further investigation will be conducted into 20-year-old Sidharthan’s death as his parents have filed a complaint that he was murdered.
JS Sidharthan
JS Sidharthan
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In a chilling incident of mob justice, a 20-year-old student was humiliated, stripped, assaulted with cable wires and belts and illegally confined to a room for two days, which eventually ended in his death. JS Sidharthan was found dead in the bathroom of the men's hostel of the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Kerala’s Pookode on February 18. The details of the torture he suffered at the hands of 18 of his peers in the college have been detailed in the police remand report. Of the 18 students accused of the crime, eight have been arrested. Most of the accused are members of the Students Federation of India (SFI).

"From February 16, he was illegally confined in a hostel room. He was assaulted, stripped in the courtyard of the hostel. Except for the 13th accused, all 18 accused in the case assaulted him using belts and cable wires. Till 2 am on February 17, he was tried in public by the mob and insulted. This forced Sidharthan to think that death is the only escape," said the report.

The punishment meted out to Sidharthan was a form of mob justice, an unspoken rule in the men's hostel of the college, the report stated. Sidharthan´s mother Sheeba told TNM that her son was on his way home (from Wayanad to Thiruvananthapuram) on February 15 but returned to the college after reaching Ernakulam (midway). He had left for home as the college would be closed for a few days.

According to the report, Sidharthan was called back to the college on February 15 by the accused, following an allegation that he misbehaved with one of his female classmates. They assured him that the complaint could be resolved but also threatened him, suggesting that the female student's complaint could escalate to involve the police if not resolved. 

The remand report said that once he returned to the college, he was assaulted inside the campus as well as inside the hostel. According to reports, he was initially assaulted in the shuttle court of the college, and later, inside the hostel. Sources familiar with a report submitted by the anti-ragging committee on the incident said that Sidharthan was brutally assaulted in the courtyard, dormitory, and room number 21. The report mentioned that the perpetrators asked other hostel inmates to witness the abuse and also encouraged them to assault him. Sidharthan was assaulted for three days. 

Read: Was Kerala student tortured over a Valentine's Day dance? Family demands justice

The remand report also said that Sidharthan decided to die by suicide as he did not see a way out of the torture he was being inflicted with. According to reports, a few students, suspecting that he might contemplate dying by suicide, stood guard over him inside the room. He was found dead in the bathroom, ostensibly having gone there when the others had left the room.

The police, however, will be conducting further inquiry as Sidharthan's parents have filed a complaint that he was murdered.

Sources said that, a female student complained about the misbehaviour of Sidharthan to the college SFI unit on February 12. According to some students, the student union functions as a kangaroo court, where they take it upon themselves to solve the issues inside the college. It was after this, on February 14, that he was called back. On February 16, he reached the college and was taken to the hostel.

The students also said that the woman who complained against him left the college for her house on February 14 and returned only on February 19, after which the complaint reached the women's cell. A member of the Internal Complaints Committee (IC) told The Fourth that it was only on February 20 that the complaint was handed to the IC, all of which raises questions about foul play on the part of the SFI and the college authorities. The IC met on February 20 and February 26 and decided against action because the person against whom the complaint was filed, had died. 

Meanwhile, a classmate of JS Sidharthan confirmed to his family that he was brutally assaulted by students, including his classmates.

"He was brutally assaulted in the courtyard of the hostel. Everyone knows that. Even the passerby students assaulted him using wires and belts. His batchmates are also involved in this. Those who pretend to be nice now are worse than vultures," said the student in a recorded conversation with the family.

Sidharthan’s uncle Shibu told TNM that the student was too scared to reveal her identity. "One channel altered her voice and used it, as her identity should not be revealed at any cost. She cried and told me over the phone that they all assaulted him badly," he said.

Sheeba had told TNM that some of the arrested students had visited their house earlier in Thiruvananthapuram and were Sidharthan’s classmates. “One of the accused is even our relative. They were friends,” said Sheeba. 

Sidharthan’s family also alleged that the college authorities delayed informing them about his death. But the college Dean MK Narayanan denied it. "I reached the hostel within 10 minutes after I was informed, took him to the hospital and tried to save his life. After the hospital confirmed the death, I asked a student, Krishnakanth, to inform Sidharthan’s family. Once the relatives reached here, I arranged all the facilities for them," he said.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, also the Chancellor of universities, suspended MR Saseendranath, Vice Chancellor of KVASU, on March 2. He also gave the charge of the varsity to PC Saseendran, a former professor of KVASU. 

Saseendranath had told the media that the Dean did not inform him about the incident and had merely told him that a student had died by suicide.

Eight of the 18 arraigned as accused have been arrested so far. The rest are absconding. The college has debarred 31 students in connection with the death. While 19 have been debarred for three years, 12 others have been barred from education for a year. The anti-ragging committee has recommended the expulsion of students from the hostel as well. None of the students can enrol in any other college during this period.

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)

Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 2361161
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers

Andhra Pradesh
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

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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