On 20 January 2022, a girl student aged 17, who was staying in the hostel of Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, a Catholic education institution in Thirukattupalli of Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, died after consuming poison.
The hostel management, on seeing the condition of the girl, merely asked the parents to take her home for treatment without informing them of the reason for her distress. It was only at the medical hospital that the parents found to their shock that their girl had actually consumed poison.
In a recorded video statement, the girl said that she was humiliated in school after she refused to convert and that she was pressurised to convert by the school authorities.
Her mother, too, was asked to convert by an official from the school. When they refused, the ill-treatment began. It ultimately resulted in the girl attempting suicide and dying.
The incident has created a lot of anger among the people. However, it's not the first time that such harassment of students in missionary-run institutions has happened.
In the period of 2006-2011, when the DMK was in power in Tamil Nadu and UPA was in power in the Centre, multiple cases of children committing suicide in Christian-mission run schools got reported in the local news in Tamil Nadu.
In November 2006, there was the suicide of Omallur Sukanya. Sukanya was found dead under mysterious circumstances in the Fatima School campus, a school run by Catholic missionaries. When a minister from the then ruling DMK requested the diocese to transfer the staff because of public anger, the Salem Bishop replied that being a minority institution, they do not have to agree to that demand.
The Thuglak reported on 25 July 2007 that forensic evidence suggested that the girl had been sexually abused.
In February 2009, a 12-year-old girl, Ranjita, committed suicide after she was forced to read Bible verses and was humiliated for not reading them properly. The talisman she was wearing, which was tied to her in a Hindu temple, was removed forcefully. Though the official reason cited for her suicide was that she had got low marks, many of her friends had pointed to the psychological harassment heaped on her in school.
Again, in 2009, in Chennai alone, there were two prominent reports of girls committing suicide in Christian mission-run schools. In Chennai, in the Ambattur Immanuel Methodist school, a ninth standard girl, Ramya, committed suicide after she was humiliated by the class teacher for turning up in traditional attire. She was compared to a glamorous actress who had committed suicide.
Now with the suicide of the girl in Tanjore and her clear statement blaming the school official for psychological torment and pressure to change her religion, one wonders if the pro-Christian and anti-Hindu ideology of the Dravidianist polity has anything to do with such emboldened behaviour.
Historically, Paramacharya Swami Sahajananda, the great Hindu spiritual monk of Tamil Nadu, who had fought for social justice of the marginalised communities, had recorded how he was asked to convert to Christianity in the school he studied and when he refused, his father, who was poor, was forced to pay all the fees that the student had incurred. This led to the discontinuation of the education of Swami Sahajananda as a child and his parents becoming indentured labourers.
Goodness knows how many more Lavanyas are suffering in present-day Tamil Nadu.
Next year, when we remember Fateh Singh and Zoravar Singh, the Balidanis for Dharma on the day of Veer Bal Diwas, let us also remember children like Lavanya and Ranjita and Sukanya and Ramya...
They are the reminder to Hindu society that we have collectively and individually failed to protect our daughters from the predatory proselytising cult. And let us earnestly hope and work so that this harassment of the children of Dharma stops.
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