The 17-year-old student who died by suicide in Thanjavur on January 19, 2022, has remained at the centre of heated discussions; her death has triggered a major political row in Tamil Nadu. It is now being called the “Thanjavur student suicide case” and many right wing groups have alleged that “forced conversion” was the reason behind the teen’s tragic death.
However, on Thursday, January 27, the Thanjavur District Education Officer released a report on the Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur, where the 17-year-old studied. According to The News Minute, this report says that “in the past 10 years, 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.” The report added that “the Chief Educational Officer and the District Education Officer had inspected the school 16 times between 2011 to 2021” and they received no complaints from the students on the basis of religion. He reportedly said, “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.”
On January 28, a petition was submitted to Thanjavur district collector by residents of Michaelpatti village stating “that unidentified persons are coming to their village and trying to create communal disharmony”. According to reports, the villagers told officials that they “are being asked to speak against the school where the class 12 student was studying.” They added that their own children have studied in the school and there is no question of forced conversions.
Thanjavur student suicide case:
A petition has been submitted to Thanjavur district collector by residents of Michaelpatti village saying that unidentified persons are coming to their village and trying to create communal disharmony. pic.twitter.com/RiGlZbFqek
— Shilpa (@Shilpa1308) January 28, 2022
While the right-wing eco system has fuelled its ‘campaign’ alleging that the teen was being “forced” to convert in a video, another video has now emerge where according to The News Minute, the teenager narrates that she took the extreme step “after extra work by the hostel warden made her fall behind in her studie. The teenager lived in a boarding house called Sacred Hearts Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur, “and the newly-leaked video was shot at the hospital where she was admitted before her death, by a person named Muthuvel, who is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Ariyalur District Secretary” stated the news reports. The teenager does not mention the alleged conversion in this video.
According to TNM the teen in the newly-leaked video, is heard saying that the hostel warden Sagaya Mary, made her do accounting work at the hostel in addition to her studies. “The sister at the boarding would ask me to do the accounts. Even if I told her, ‘No sister, I came late, I don’t understand anything, I’ll do it later, she wouldn’t listen’. She would say, ‘It’s okay, you first do the accounts and give, then do your own work’. She will keep making me do the accounts. Even if I write it correctly, she’ll keep saying it’s wrong and make me sit on it for at least an hour. I wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies properly at all. I kept getting low marks. I thought if this keeps going on, I won’t be able to study,” Lavanya reportedly said in the video as quoted by TNM. She added, “From the time everyone wakes up, I have to open the gate, switch on the motor, after everyone has eaten, check if the motor is running properly, the warden will give me all the work…”
Here the VHP leader Muthuvel asked the teen if the hostel officials “told her not to wear a bindi or pottu,” she replies in the negative, reported TNM adding that there are a total of four videos that Muthuvel recorded on his phone on January 17, 2022, when he went to the hospital, of which two videos have already been leaked. He reportedly deleted this second video of Lavanya — which talks about her marks decreasing — from his phone, but it was later retrieved by the investigator. Only one video out of the four videos by Muthuvel has any mention of conversion, stated the news report. The video that has gone viral is the third where the teen reportedly alleged that she was being forced to convert to Christianity.
Allegations that she “may have been tutored to talk about the conversion angle in the last video that was captured” have now risen since the new video became public. The teen in the viral video had said “two years ago, a woman called Raquel Mary” had asked her to convert to Christianity, which she and her parents refused. It was on January 15, that her parents had filed a complaint that the warden was making the teen do domestic chores and maintain account books. On January 16, “her last declaration was recorded on video by the Judicial Magistrate” reported TNM adding that after she died, the teen’s parents approached the police with the 44-second video. The 62-year-old hostel warden Sagaya Mary was arrested on January 21 and sent to judicial custody. The Madras High Court, hearing the teen’s father’s plea, had asked Muthuvel to surrender his phone to the police for investigation.