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Madras high court orders CBI probe into Thanjavur schoolgirl’s death by suicide

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Madurai: The Madras high court on Monday ordered a CBI probe into a 17-year-old schoolgirl’s death by suicide case in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu due to alleged pressure for religious conversion.

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The girl, a student of class 12, died days after she took poison at her home in Thanjavur on January 9, allegedly after she was harassed by her hostel warden. 

The hostel warden was arrested last week.

Justice G R Swaminathan passed the order in a plea moved by girl’s father S Muruganantham seeking to transfer the investigation in this case to the CB-CID or any other investigation agency.

The petitioner stated that the hostel warden had harassed his daughter by giving punishment work such as cleaning cooking utensils, toilets and school campus, compelled to cook food in the hostel and not allowed her to go home even during school holidays.

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He stated that his daughter had died by suicide only because of the torture meted out by the school management following her refusal for religious conversion.

In a video that surfaced last week, the teen said she could not study properly because she had been forced to clean rooms, do accounts and other chores by her warden. She feared falling grades, she said.

“I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. I took poison as my marks would drop,” the girl said, according to the unverified video.

“I had to look after accounts and do all the work,” she said.

In a previous video that emerged after her death, the minor girl had alleged that she was harassed and abused likely because her parents had refused to convert to Christianity.

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“Two years ago, they asked me and my parents to convert to Christianity. They said they will take care of my education,” the girl said in the video. On a specific question on whether she was targeted for not converting, she says, “Maybe”.

The videos were filmed on a mobile phone that has now been sent for a forensic examination.

The videos were handed over to the court, which told the police not to harass the person who recorded her on a mobile phone and instead focus on the investigation.

The police say neither the girl nor her parents had ever alleged conversion earlier, either to the police or a magistrate or in any dying declaration.

The court had ordered a magistrate to record the statement of her parents.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit has taken up the case as an example of forced conversions and has demanded action.

However, Thanjavur district superintendent of police gave a press statement stating that there was no complaint of forcible religious conversion.

The father of the deceased stated that the statement of the SP and the compulsion by the police created a strong suspicion that the police were attempting to safeguard some people who were responsible for the death of his daughter.

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