Athira, a class 10 student of Nemam Victory Girls Higher Secondary in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram has tragically died by suicide after caste discrimination at her school. Her family has asserted that the Dalit student had endured relentless harassment and degrading treatment at the hands of her teacher for the past year and a half.
Athira made her way to school for the final time this Friday. She came back home to recount another incident of harassment by her teacher, the family claims. The teacher, suspecting that the student had possessed a mobile phone, publicly inspected Athira’s bag but failed to locate any such device. Consequently, the student did not attend school on Monday, telling her mother that she had a headache.
The child had also revealed to her mother and sister on multiple accounts that her teacher mocked her for wearing gold in addition to making derogatory remarks about their caste and family background, her family adds.
On the day of suicide, the 15-year-old girl called the police station complaining that she could not go to school because of the casteist discrimination from teacher, family members said.
In connection with the incident, Bhim Army Kerala president Ratheesh Pathanamthitta, treasurer Anil Kumar, Kottayam district president Saravanan and state committee member Lenin visited Athira’s parents and assured the family of all support of the Bhim Army.
“Even though Athira called the concerned police station that day and complained that she could not go to school due to caste harassment, she did not receive any comforting response from the police station. She died by suicide on Friday. Even after 3 days of her death, the police are yet to arrest the criminal teacher responsible for this “murder.” The Dalit-tribal community here does not even get the legal protection that a stray dog gets in Kerala. Kerala is becoming a graveyard for Dalits,” Bhim Army Kerala president Ratheesh Pathanamthitta said to Maktoob.
“Bheem Army will go to any lengths for the justice of Athira because of the assurance that natural justice will not be given to Dalits in Kerala,” he added.
This incident follows a broad pattern of similar suicides taking place in esteemed education institutes across the country. Maktoob has also recently reported on the recent suicide of 20-year-old B.Tech student Ayush Ashna on the IIT Delhi campus. The passing away of Ashna, a Dalit student, follows the tragic deaths of 4 other students from marginalized backgrounds on IIT campuses.
Nehla Salil is an editorial intern with Maktoob.