The students’ body of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), ChintaBAR, has started an indefinite hunger strike for their demands following the suicide of Fathima Latheef in the campus. Two students, Azhar Moideen and Justin Joseph, launched a hunger strike on Monday morning, near the main gate of IIT-M. They want the university administration to accept the demands of the students’ body—including pertaining to a survey on the issues faced by the students of the institute. The IIT-M has denied to meet the students’ body representatives.
The suicide of Fathima Latheef also reverberated in the winter session of the Lok Sabha, which began today.
IIT-M DISCARDS DEMANDS
The students have started the hunger strike after the administration failed to accept the demands put forth by the students’ body and Latheef’s parents. The students’ body had announced earlier that the hunger strike would start from November 18, if the IIT-M administration fails to concede to the demands raised. As there has been no sign of any confidence-building step from the administration, the students began the strike today morning.
ChintaBAR—an independent students’ body recognised by the administration of IIT-M—has demanded an internal probe against the faculty as requested by the family members of Fathima. Her father, while addressing reporters after meeting the Tamil Nadu chief minister and director general of police, pointed fingers to the faculty members of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, accusing them of being the reason behind Latheef’s extreme step.
Owing to the several incidents of suicides in the campus, the students’ body had insisted that the administration conduct an external survey into the issues faced by the students of the institute. The demand was unanimously by the students’ council. The administration, however, has not considered this resolution for implementation.
IIT-M WORRIES ABOUT REPUTATION
The IIT-M administration, in a press release on November 15, had expressed more concern regarding ‘tarnishing of reputation of one of the finest institutes in the country’. The authorities were highly worried about the social media trolling of the institute, faculty and students and trial by the media, while the release remained non-committal to the welfare of the students. The report failed to mention Latheef’s suicide note—in a desperate attempt to protect its reputation.
Abhinav Surya, an alumnus of IIT-M, while speaking to NewsClick, said, “The IIT-M authorities have always been worried about the image and reputation of the institute and shown lesser interest in the mental well-being of the students. Such institutes have always worried about the market value of their products and not much humanitarian thinking happens. We need urgent introspection of the reasons behind the continuing suicides in the campus and other higher education institutes.”
16 SUICIDES IN IIT-M SINCE 2006
The IIT-M campus has witnessed 16 students’ suicides since 2006, of which, 14 have taken place in the last 10 years. In the last one year alone, four students have resorted to the extreme step. In many of the incidents, the family pressure and personal reasons have been cited as the reasons for the suicides while the student community and many academicians blame the academic system which exerts high pressure on the students. The issue of harassment on basis of religion and caste too cannot be neglected.
“The academic system of IIT is more like getting people ready for the market. When the market decides everything, the pressure faced by the students is unimaginable. Some students end their lives yielding to the tremendous pressure,” Surya added.
ISSUE RAISED IN LOK SABHA
The issue was raised in Lok Sabha by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member Kanimozhi Karunanidhi. She alleged that even as the suicide note accused three faculty members of being the reason for the suicide, the police had not included any name in the first investigation report. In the meantime, the CB-CID have reportedly issued summons to the three faculty members to appear for enquiry.