Students of IIT Madras claimed that there were many reasons at play behind the death of Fathima. Kaushik Senthoor, a member of Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT-M, said that no one would commit suicide for one reason, especially for scoring low marks.
“Fathima was a bright student, she would not have committed suicide for small reasons,” he opined. He added that there are many reasons for a student to end life or to suffer from mental health issues. “It is either clinical depression or the culmination of many reasons that pushes a student to take her life,” he said, adding, “There would be several reasons, including academic pressure due to harassment by the teaching staff.”
Kaushik said that Fathima’s life could have been saved if the management of the institution had set up complaints and grievances redressal committee in all departments by appointing counsellors.
Another PG student who stayed close to Fathima’s hostel room said, “She used to leave the hostel just in time for class and comes back after class. To my knowledge, she was not lonely and used to be in touch with her family on a regular basis.” Claiming that Fathima does not have financial issues as such, she said, “She was not a spendthrift.”
Besides IIT students, several youngsters took to the social media to blame the institute management for Fathima’s death. “This campus, particularly the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, is ridden with anti-Muslim and anti-caste sentiments. Every academic discussion in our classrooms ends up with reference to Pakistan and questioning of Muslim women’s agencies,” Alfiya Jose, an IIT Madras research fellow wrote, on Facebook.
Pointing out that Fathima was a brilliant student, she questioned the speculation that she secured low marks. There is no clarity, she said, adding that several students scored low marks, but they do not end their lives over it. “The college hasn’t made Fathima’s marks public yet and therefore, there is a lack of transparency,” she added.
“Harassment might be the reason for her death,” a PG student of Humanities Department said.
Faculty & Teachers
Contradictory to the students’ version, faculty at IIT say loneliness was the main reason for Fathima to commit suicide.
“Systems and structures are in place at IIT Madras to cater to the holistic health needs of students,” a senior professor of the Humanities Department said, adding, “If she was harassed, why was it not reported either to the management of the institution or to her parents?”
Stating that investigation was still on to probe Fathima’s suicide, the staff said that it was reported that the victim was lonely and did not have friends.
“She should have at least reported her issues to the students’ union, which has been active for years,” he said, adding, “Therefore, it seems she does not move with the students.”
“Since 2018, all first-year students, whether they were undergraduates or postgraduates, are being given mental health counselling at the beginning of the academic year. The class will teach mental wellness, physical wellbeing, social adaptation and academic support to the students and also organising team building and motivational events,” he said.
The professor added that besides academic pressures, socio-economic pressures, future professional and career pressures, the reasons for Fathima’s suicide can also include pressure from family and loneliness among others.
“We can’t blame the faculties alone for this tragedy. Everything has to be analysed thoroughly before coming to any conclusion,” a teacher said.