Religious conversion row: HC orders CBI probe into suicide of schoolgirl in Thanjavur

Madurai : Observing that the investigation into the death of a 17-year-old girl, who died by suicide in Thanjavur on January 19, is not proceeding on the right lines, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Monday ordered a CBI probe into the case.

Justice GR Swaminathan passed the order on a petition filed by the father of the deceased girl who alleged that the Class XII student at a Christian missionary school in Thanjavur was forced by the school authorities to do chores reportedly because she refused to undergo religious conversion.

The judge criticised the Thanjavur Superintendent of Police G Ravali Priya for issuing a press statement that the religious conversion angle was ruled out. By stating so, the SP had brushed aside the written complaint made by the petitioner and the video submitted by him in which the child spoke about the conversion bid, the judge said.

He also spoke about the practice of religious conversion and how common it is in India. Hence it is not highly improbable for it to happen in a place which has been named ‘Michaelpatti’ (the place where the school is situated), the judge opined and said the police ought to have conducted an investigation into the parents’ allegations, instead of outrightly rejecting it.

Moreover, shooting the video of the girl was not an offence by itself. Only its subsequent circulation on social media, without suppressing the identity of the child victim, contravened Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), Act 2015, the judge further pointed out. He observed that the video was taken by the person Muthuvel only at the instance of the petitioner and the fact that only its truncated version was circulated on social media would not make it any less authentic.

Three dying declarations

The judge threw light on yet another aspect of the case. He pointed out that the case had been registered based on the information given by the deceased child to the police and said the information can also be taken as a dying declaration. Thus, there are three dying declarations in the case — one given to police, one given to the judicial magistrate and one privately recorded by Muthuvel. “In this case, there is no contradiction between the police video and the private video. The private video contains extra material,” the judge said. He quoted the legal maxim that “the person who is going to meet the Maker shortly will not utter a lie”. Even a conviction can be based solely on a dying declaration if the court is able to scrutinise its veracity, he noted.

Materials leaked

Justice Swaminathan also considered the allegations made by the petitioner’s counsel that the police have deliberately leaked some of the materials which were in their exclusive possession, such as the dying declaration obtained by the judicial magistrate from the girl and certain portions of the video that exonerate the school authorities. A counter narrative is also being built that the child’s father and stepmother are responsible for the suicide, he noted. “Such deliberate leaks raise considerable doubts about the credibility and impartiality of the investigation made by the state police,” the judge observed.

Though the parents initially had faith in the state police and had only sought a CB-CID probe, due to the above reasons, they lost their faith and requested a CBI investigation into the girl’s death, the judge said. Further citing a statement made by School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi, ruling out the conversion angle and questioning the authenticity of the videos, the judge held, “Since a high-ranking Hon’ble Minister himself has taken such a stand, the investigation cannot continue with the state police.” He directed the Director of CBI, New Delhi, to assign an officer to take over the investigation from the state police.

Also observing that the continued incarceration of the hostel warden, Sister Saghayamary, who has been in jail since January 18, would not serve any purpose as the formal process of transfer of investigation may take time, the judge further directed the jurisdictional court to dispose of her bail petition based on available materials.

Source : The New Indian Express

Tamil Nadu: Female student ends life after missionary school allegedly pressurized her to convert to Christianity

With the increasing incidents of conversion in missionary schools, all missionary schools should be investigated. Strict action should be taken against the schools involved in conversion activities and their recognition should be cancelled.

A minor female student of standard 12th in Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, Thirukattupali in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, killed herself after she was allegedly tortured by her school authorities for refusing to convert to Christianity. Reportedly, the school had said that she must convert to Christianity if she wishes to continue her studies in the school.

The student has been living at the St. Michael’s Girls Hostel near her school for the past five years, and the govt-aided Christian missionary school had been pressuring her to convert to Christianity. However, the student was adamant about not leaving her religion and refused to get converted. Angered by the student’s resistance, the school administration cancelled her leave application for Pongal Celebrations. She was supposed to visit home during her holidays was forced to do chores like cleaning toilets of the school, cooking and washing dishes. It is reported that the dejected student consumed pesticides used in the school garden to end her life.

The student showed signs of discomfiture on the night of January 9, where she was taken to a local clinic after continuously vomiting. The warden of the hostel called her parents and asked them to take her home. The student was then admitted to Tanjore Government Medical college hospital. She was being treated in the ICU with almost 85% of her lungs intoxicated. It is being reported that the student breathed her last on January 19, battling her condition in the hospital.

A video of the student’s call for help was published on social media where she was seen in an unconscious situation talking about her torture. The video, originally in Tamil (translated by The Commune) says, “My name is —. They (school) had asked my parents in my presence if they can convert me to Christianity and help her for further studies. Since I didn’t accept, they kept scolding me.” She also named one Rachael Mary who had allegedly tortured her.

The student’s relatives gathered in front of the Thirukattupalli police station on January 17 and protested demanding action against the school. They alleged that the student had consumed pesticides as the hostel warden Sagayamary had forced her to convert.

Taking cognizance of the incident, Hindu organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Munnani and political outfit Indu Makkal Katchi have raised voices for demanding justice to the student and against the predatory proselytization of Hindus. VHP State Spokesperson Arumuga Kani said, “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad will not rest until justice is given to the student. As a first step, VHP is to hold a hunger strike today (19th January) under the leadership of Thanjavur district secretary Muthuvel. We need to ensure that such incidents don’t happen again. Until then, we will protest.”

Founder of Indu Makkal Katchi, Arjun Sampath took on Twitter to announce the death of the girl and has raised serious questions about the school administration.

The incident has created a lot of anger among the people. The cases of deaths over targetted conversions of Hindus are rampant while the mainstream media refuses to cover them. A similar incident happened in Tripura in 2019 when a 15-year-old student died after being brutally tortured by a hostel warden for opposing forceful conversion to Christianity. Also, In in Tamil Nadu, an activist was brutally murdered after he attempted to stop the forceful conversion of Hindus by Muslim outfits.

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.

Source : Opindia and Swarajya

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