The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has directed the parents of the Class 12 student, M Lavanya, who committed suicide after the Christian authorities of her school allegedly forced her to convert to their faith to accept her body and bury her. Following the court’s order, the parents have officially received their daughter’s body.
The 17-year-old girl’s relatives had been protesting, demanding that action be taken against the school and hostel. The student’s father had filed a petition in the Madurai branch of the Madras High Court, seeking an order to transfer the case to the CBCID.
Following a re-appeal by the petitioner, Justice GR Swaminathan took up the plea as an urgent matter on Saturday. The judge said the body of the student should be received by the parents and buried.
The judge noted that prior to her death, the girl recorded a video, which was shared on social media, where she claimed that the school management had coerced her to convert to Christianity. “The Tanjore superintendent of police has stated that action will be taken to find the person who took the video. The body of the student has already been autopsied by the forensic doctors of Tanjore Medical College. There is no suspicion of sexual harassment. Therefore, there is no need for re-examination. I request the parents of the student to retrieve the body,” the court said.
The judge directed that necessary arrangements be made to transport the student’s body to her hometown. He ordered the police not to interfere and adjourned the case until 24 January.
The warden of the hostel allegedly abused Lavanya, studying at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Thirukattupalli near Thanjavur, and forced her to do domestic chores. In a video that surfaced on social media, the girl alleged that she was also constantly being forced to take up Christianity.
The juvenile allegedly attempted to take her life as she could not bear the cruelty. She did not respond to treatment by doctors and died at Thanjavur Medical College Hospital on 19 January.
Police have arrested the warden of the missionary school hostel and registered a case under IPC Section 305 (abetment of suicide of child) and Sections 75 (punishment for cruelty to child) and 82 (1) (indulging in corporal punishment with the aim of disciplining a child) of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media has begun acknowledging the incident. On the day this was reported on Sirf News and several other pro-India news websites, apologists of religious conversions in India were claiming this was “fake news” since big media houses had not reported it yet.