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Protests over student’s suicide turn violent in Tamil Nadu's Kallakurichi; buses torched

Students are protesting against the alleged complicity of teachers in the suicide of a student at a government school
Last Updated : 17 July 2022, 14:40 IST
Last Updated : 17 July 2022, 14:40 IST
Last Updated : 17 July 2022, 14:40 IST
Last Updated : 17 July 2022, 14:40 IST

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Prohibitory orders were clamped in parts of Kallakurichi district in northern Tamil Nadu Sunday after protests demanding justice for the alleged suicide of a 16-year-old student turned violent, with agitators going on a rampage on campus by torching vehicles, including those belonging to the police, and vandalising classrooms.

As many as 52 policemen, including Deputy Inspector General of Police M Pandian and district Superintendent of Police Selvakumar, suffered injuries when hundreds of protesters, who were mobilised through messages on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, clashed with them for nearly six hours on Sunday.

After inspecting the violence-hit area, DGP C Sylendra Badu, who was deputed to Kallakurichi along with Home Secretary K Phanindra Reddy by Chief Minister M K Stalin, announced the student’s alleged suicide case has been transferred to CB-CID wing. He also said three members of the school management have been arrested in connection with the student’s death.

Stalin, who is currently under treatment for Covid-19 at a private hospital, appealed for calm and promised that the guilty would be brought to book. Besides 13 school buses, three police vehicles, and a number of two-wheelers were also torched by the angry mob.

As the situation went out of control with the protesters breaking open the school gates and indulging in vandalism, the Kallakurichi district administration clamped prohibitory orders in Kallakurichi taluk and in Chinna Salem, where the private school is located.

The 16-year-old student, who belonged to neighbouring Cuddalore district, was staying in the school hostel, and allegedly jumped to death on July 12. However, the family alleged foul play in the death and demanded action against the school management citing the girl’s suicide note in which she blamed two teachers for “torturing her” and the postmortem report which spoke of injury marks in her body.

The “inaction” by the police against the management despite filing a case under 174 (1) of the CrPC prompted the relatives of the girl to demand a fair probe into the incident over the past few days. However, hundreds of students and locals converged outside the campus at around 10 am on Sunday and entered the premises forcibly by overpowering the police, who were outnumbered till additional personnel joined in quelling protests.

Television footage showed protesters pushing down barricades, entering the school premises, setting buses parked on fire, and vandalising school name boards – some were seen taking away the furniture as police looked on helplessly. Due to the violence, traffic on the Chennai-Salem highway was disrupted for a while and vehicles were diverted through a different route.

“We have so far arrested 35 persons involved in the violence. The mob has been brought under control,” P Thamarai Kannan, ADGP (L&O) told reporters outside the school.

The girl’s parents have approached the Madras High Court seeking a CB-CID probe into their daughter’s death. Kasi Viswanathan, counsel for the parents, said the girl’s parents had no role in Sunday’s violence. “If only the police had acted against the school management, protests wouldn’t have happened. Police are responsible for the violence,” he said.

The school management, expressing regret over the incident, pinned the blame on the girl’s parents, saying, “we are transparent, and we never hide anything.” The school also received support from an influential association representing private schools which declared a holiday for all matriculation and CBSE schools under it on Monday in protest against the violence.

Leader of Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami pinned the blame on Stalin for Sunday’s violence. “The protests were non-violent for the past few days. But the inaction on the part of the government paved the way for violence. Why didn’t the government act?” Palaniswami asked.

TN BJP chief K Annamalai said the protests reflected “people’s lack of confidence against the DMK government.” He also sought to know what prevented School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi from meeting the student’s parents and consoling them.

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Published 17 July 2022, 08:51 IST

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