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Tamil Nadu: Protests Over Schoolgirl's Death Turn Violent as Protesters Clash With Police

The protesters, including the victim's family, contested the school's claim that the student died by suicide and are seeking a CID probe into the matter.

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New Delhi: Violence broke out on Sunday, July 17, near Kallakurichi in Tamil Nadu as protesters demanding justice for the death of a girl student went on a rampage, setting fire to vehicles and pelting stones, in which police officers also became targets.

On July 13, a 17-year-old Class 12 student in Kaniyamoor Sakthi Matriculation School in Chinnasalem was found dead on the hostel premises. The girl, who resided in a room on the third floor of the hostel, is suspected to have died by suicide.

According to a report by The News Minute, a note was recovered from her room alleging “torture” by two teachers at the school

Moreover, a postmortem report indicated that she had sustained injuries before her death. The police have registered a case and a probe is on.

As such, the girl’s parents rejected the school’s narrative that the girl died by suicide, pointing to the injuries she had reportedly sustained before her demise. Further, the family alleged that the girl may have been sexually assaulted as well, and even claimed that similar incidents have taken place at the school in the past.

Shocked by her death, her parents, relatives and people belonging to her village, Periyanasalur, near Veppur in the Cuddalore district, have been staging non-stop protests seeking justice while blaming authorities of the school.

Their demands include a probe into the girl’s death by the state Central Investigation Department (CID) and that those responsible for her death be arrested. Their demands received support from the protests, which included political outfits and the youth wing of a left party, according to news agency PTI.

Also read: ‘Conversion’: SC Allows CBI to Probe 17-Year-Old Girl’s Death by Suicide in TN

While the protests had been on for the past four days, they had remained peaceful until Sunday.

During the clash on Sunday, police opened fire in the air at least twice to restrain the violent mobs. Chief minister M. K. Stalin appealed to the people to maintain peace and assured them that those guilty would be punished. 

Calling the incident “deplorable”, Stalin tweeted saying he has directed top officials to rush to Kallakurichi.

“I have ordered the Home Secretary and the Director General of Police to go to Kallakurichi. I request the public to keep calm by trusting the government’s actions,” the tweet read.

The agitators, pushing down barricades put up by the police, stormed the premises of an international school at Chinnasalem and set buses parked inside the institution’s premises on fire, police said. Some of them set ablaze a police bus as well. 

A car was turned upside-down and damaged using hammers. Several protesters managed to reach the terrace of the school and vandalise its name board while holding banners seeking justice for the dead girl. 

Outnumbered for a while, the police were unable to disperse the protesters. Police personnel from nearby districts have begun arriving to tackle the situation. 

A number of agitators even indulged in vandalism inside the school premises. Some of them took away things like furniture and cupboards from the school, damaged them and set them on fire on the road. 

The protesters include volunteers of a youth outfit who gathered in huge numbers following messages on social media urging solidarity and justice. 

While agitators flung stones at the police, several uniformed personnel picked up such stones and threw them back at the mobs. As a result of the violence, which began as a ‘road blockade protest’ on Sunday, traffic disruptions are being observed on the arterial Chennai-Salem highway. 

Director general of police, C. Sylendra Babu appealed to the people to maintain calm and warned against resorting to violence. Tough action would be taken against those indulging in violence, he told reporters in Chennai.

(With PTI inputs)

If you know someone – friend or family member – at risk of suicide, please reach out to them. The Suicide Prevention India Foundation maintains a list of telephone numbers they can call to speak in confidence. Icall, a counselling service run by TISS, has maintained a crowdsourced list of therapists across the country. You could also take them to the nearest hospital.