The Madras High Court’s Madurai bench on Saturday directed the parents of the 17-year-old girl who died by suicide on Wednesday – after alleging abuse by her school warden and attempts to convert her to Christianity – to collect her body and carry out the last rites today.
The girl’s father had moved the court seeking a probe by a team from Tamil Nadu Police’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) in addition to requesting a second post-mortem.
The court turned down that request but did direct appointment of a magistrate to record the parents’ statement, which is to be submitted when the court resumes its hearing on Monday.
Initially it seemed the girl, a Class XII student who died ten days after consuming a poisonous substance, had only alleged abuse by her warden; she claimed he had forced her to clean his room.
However, in an unverified video that emerged after her death, she also says: “Two years ago, in front of me once, they asked my father and mother if she (the warden) could convert me to Christianity… (said) she can educate me. Since then, she has been scolding me… I can’t stay here.”
Asked specifically if she was being targeted for not converting, the girl replies: “Maybe.”
Police are searching for the person who filmed and leaked the video in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act. Today the court also urged cops to focus on the conditions that led to the girl’s death.
The warden has been arrested under the Juvenile Act and also faces charges of abetting suicide.
Police have expanded inquiries and are speaking to classmates and others who knew the girl.
“We video-recorded her complaint, her statement to the Judicial Magistrate, and her dying declaration. She did not say anything about conversion nor did her parents allege this. We are now investigating this also,” Ravali Priya Gandhapuneni, a senior police officer, told NDTV.
The state unit of the BJP, which is in the opposition, has called this incident “forced conversion”, and has begun red-flagging it as part of its push for anti-conversion legislations, controversial versions of which have already been passed by states the party is in power.
State unit leader K Annamalai, who is a former IPS officer, also violated the law by tweeting a video of the girl; he called for an impartial investigation and the arrest of those responsible. Describing conversion as a “rapidly spreading poisonous plant”, he demanded the ruling DMK to “control it”.
Tamil Nadu does not have a law against conversion. The DMK has yet to comment on this incident.