‘Fathima’s Death is Institutional Murder’: Tamil Nadu Muslim Women Demand Justice

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Father of Fathima Lathif speaking to media.

The Federation of Tamil Nadu Muslim Women demands immediate arrest of the culprits and early dispensation of justice to Fathima and her family.

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

CHENNAI — The Federation of Tamil Nadu Muslim Women on Tuesday condemned the situation leading to demise of Chennai IIT student Fathima Lathif and demanded that justice be meted out to her and her family. A humanities student, she was found dead in her room at Sarayu hostel on the campus on November 9.

The Federation sought the immediate arrest and suspension of the concerned faculty and an end to the “castiest discriminatory practices” existing in educational institutions in Tamil Nadu. Speaking to Caravan Daily, A.S. Fathima Muzaffer, convener of the federation and also member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, termed Fathima Lathif’s ‘suicide’ as another instance of “institutional murder” at IIT Madras.

She said IIT Madras was making the lives of students from the minority Muslim community a hell in many ways. This was the sixth suicide on the campus within two years, she pointed out with serious worry and concern. In the last ten years, as many as 14 students committed suicide in this institution, a rate which is cited as the highest among all the IITs in the country.

The federation leader quoted Fathima’s father as saying the girl student faced “severe discriminatory practices” from the faculty even as she was the topper in the entrance test – something that could not be “digested” by some of the “prejudiced” teaching faculty there. She said the false pretentions of upper caste ‘superiority’ killed a brilliant teenager who came to the institution with many dreams. She also alleged that the police and the authorities have been trying to cover up the cause of the death – which was tantamount to a murder, as was reported by  an influential individual in the faculty.

Fathima Lathif with parents at their residence

The Federation of Muslim Women has demanded that the culprits be arrested and suspended from the IIT immediately. “We also demand rooting out of castiest and discriminatory practices forever from all educational institutions in Tamil Nadu. A PhD scholar Rohith Chakravarti Vemula of Hyderabad Central University and an MD student Dr Payal Tadvi from Mumbai were among the recent victims of caste discrimination in higher educational institutions,” it stressed.

Indefinite Hunger Strike

Meanwhile, two students — Zahra Maiden and Justin Joseph from IIT Madras  — have gone on an indefinite hunger strike at the educational institute, demanding justice for Fatima Latif. They launched the strike calling for an end to student suicides on the campus. Their main demand is that an external expert study be done into the issues faced by students on the campus, which also should help ensure the overall mental well-being of the students.

Zahra, who studies at the Humanities and Social Sciences Department where Fatima was a student, said that ample time was given to the institute to respond. The students made a representation to the Director last Thursday, protesting the inaction of the administration regarding the structural issues that have led to a series of suicides on campus.  “We had submitted our representation to the Director in a protest on Thursday, in which 200 to 250 students participated,” Azhar said.

The federation extended support to the protesting students and vowed to continue the struggle till deceased Fathima and her family got justice.

Fathima Lathif, a first-year student in humanities and social science department ,committed suicide because of “religious and casteist discrimination” from the IIT faculty, as was revealed by her in a suicide note. This incident has turned into major political controversy in the state as Opposition parties, particularly the DMK, has taken up the case in a serious manner.

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