Family dismisses CBI report on Fathima Latheef’s death, seeks new probe

9 November marks three years since 19-year-old Fathima Latheef, a first-year student of MA Humanities at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, was found dead in her hostel room. Months after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) concluded its probe into the matter, the family is not convinced by their findings.

CBI declared it as a case of death by suicide due to homesickness. It ruled out the probability of any mental harassment — although her last note reads,” “Sudarshan Padmanabhan is the cause of my death.” Sudarsan Padmanabhan is an associate professor of Philosophy, Dept of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Madras.

Her notes stated that several faculty members and classmates harassed her, family members of Fathima Latheef earlier told Maktoob.

The family has filed a petition in Chief Metropolitan Magistrates Court Egmore, Chennai protesting the “flaws” in the CBI investigation.

“The professors named in the suicide note were not thoroughly questioned,” Aysha Latheef, Fathima Latheef’s twin sister, told Maktoob.

Fathima secured admission emerging first in the entrance test conducted by the premier institute in July 2019. But since the beginning, she had been complaining about being “ostracised”.

In an interview soon after the death, Fathima Latheef’s father Abdul Latheef accused that his daughter “faced casteist and religious discrimination” from her faculties, that her “name itself is a problem there.”

Aysha alleged that CBI didn’t look into the inconsistencies in the story and choose to conclude quickly. “We were disappointed by the probe after the team paid us a visit,” the law student said earlier this year to Maktoob.

On 17 October, CBI filed a report answering the allegations levelled against them.

Advocate Nagarajan appeared for the petitioner. The case was handed over to CBI after a vigorous campaign by Fathima’s father Abdul Latheef, backed by all the members of Parliament from Kerala. 

Latheef met the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu seeking help to bring justice to his family.

Following the CBI investigation, Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin directed Abdul Latheef to demand a re-investigation into the matter using the state’s law enforcement agencies, Aysha said.

The death triggered nationwide outrage, triggering a debate about the intimidation faced by Muslim students in India’s academic circles.