Lavanya Suicide Case: Are The Authorities And Tamil Media On A Crusade To Protect The Church In Tamil Nadu?
The way a section of the media and the Tamil Nadu government are handling the issue of Lavanya's suicide suggests that their primary concern is not to deliver justice to the family of the girl but to protect the school management.
Tamil Nadu has been witnessing a strange phenomenon for the last one week. A section of the media seems determined to protect a school management from any culpability in effecting the suicide of a schoolgirl.
Lavanya, a 17-year-old student, consumed poison and died. In a recorded video, she was seen making a statement before dying. In it, she is saying that she was harassed by a woman in charge of the hostel she stayed in—a Catholic nun. She had also stated that two years ago she was asked to convert to Christianity.
A section of the media and even the Tamil Nadu government seem to be determined to remove the conversion angle from the story. Toward this end, many questions have been raised. It was highlighted that the girl had lost her biological mother and it was her stepmother who had clashed with school authorities when the girl was asked to convert.
Aspersions have been cast on the family. The girl's stepmother was rudely asked by a reporter why they were making a hue and cry over the conversion issue now when they could have done the same two years ago. To this heartless question, a visibly-upset and agitated mother pointed out that it was now that they have lost their child.
Meanwhile, after the video of the girl's statement was submitted to the police for forensic investigation, a reporter, on 27 January, released another clipping from the video that had not surfaced until then.
In that, the girl clearly talks about the harassment she went through in the hostel. She was asked to do chores — from closing the gate to accounts. The girl was the school topper in the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) exam. But soon her performance started faltering because she was overloaded with other work. This troubled her and in distress the girl consumed poison.
When the person who was recording her statements asks her if the school forbade students from wearing flowers and vermilion, the girl answers in the negative.
The releasing of this new video clip, therefore, seems to deliberately downplay the conversion angle to her suicide.
However, let us list the entire sequence of events.
1. The girl secures first rank in the school in SSLC. She is asked if she would convert to Christianity. She as well as her family refuse.
2. Subsequently, after Covid lockdown is eased and school reopens, the girl joins the school a little late. Now, she gets inexplicably overloaded with work — from locking the gates of the hostel, maintaining accounts to bearing scoldings from the nun.
3. In the video, which was aimed at debunking the conversion angle, there is a strong indication of religious abuse. During the Christmas holidays the girl, though a Hindu, was forced to stay back in the hostel of the Christian institution. She wanted to go back to her family, but the Christian management cited education as a reason and forced her stay in the hostel during a Christian festival. This could be construed as illegal confinement of a minor. The religious angle is too obvious.
Further, the fact that the girl clearly says in the video that she wanted to go back home and did not want to stay in the hostel during the holidays clearly shows that the girl preferred the family atmosphere to that of the hostel. If the family environment was not good (as alleged), then the girl would have preferred staying in the hostel. She did not. This makes the school management doubly guilty.
4. In the video, the girl could be heard mentioning a male hostel warden. Why did a girls' hostel have a male warden? Was he a Catholic priest too? This is another question arising out of this video.
5. Of course, in many (not all) Catholic schools, girls are nowadays allowed to wear tilak and flowers. Many Catholics themselves do. Yet in some schools (as in the case of Omallur Sukanya suicide/murder case — 2006 Fatima convent, Salem, TN) this is prohibited. So the person recording the statement had asked the question. That the girls were allowed to wear vermilion and flowers in no way repudiates the conversion angle.
6. The fact is the girl was given an offer to convert. She refused and then harassment started. She committed suicide because of harassment. Therefore, the sequence shows a strong possibility of refusal to convert as the point of origin of the troubles for the girl.
The way a section of the media and the Tamil Nadu government are handling the issue suggests that the primary concern here is to protect the school management than deliver justice to the memory and family of Lavanya. So many netizens and concerned citizens are demanding that the case be transferred to Central Bureau of Investigation.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.