Allegedly tortured to convert to Christianity by the school, a minor girl in Tamil Nadu committed suicide by consuming poison. Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Thirukattupalli near Thanjavur was reportedly torturing 17-year-old M Lavanya, saying she could continue her studies in the said school in District Thanjavur only if she embraced Christianity.
Lavanya hailed from Village Vadugapalayam in District Ariyalur. The minor girl was a student of Class XII at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School, a government-aided missionary school. Her mother had died eight years ago. She had been living at the St Michael’s Girls Hostel near her school for the past five years.
The minor girl refused to be blackmailed by the Christian institution, say locals.
While other children of the school went home for the Pongal holidays, the school staff forced Lavanya to do chores like cleaning the toilet and washing dishes. Unable to bear with the humiliation, the minor Hindu girl attempted suicide by consuming a pesticide used in gardens.
Lavanya vomited again and again since the night of 9 January. As her health deteriorated, the hostel warden took her to a nearby clinic for treatment. When the primary treatment did not help, the warden of the hostel called her parents and asked them to take her home. When she went back home, Lavanya had not disclosed that she had consumed a pesticide.
The minor girl was admitted to the Tanjore Government Medical college hospital on 15 January. It was found that almost 85% of her lungs were affected. Her kidney too had failed. She was being treated at the intensive care unit.
Lavanya had disclosed that she consumed poison to the doctor not before 18 January. However, the girl died shortly thereafter.
A tweet shows the Hindu minor girl’s last words, where she describes the tortures she was put through in the school: “My name is Lavanya. 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 says in the video. She also names a certain Rachael Mary who had allegedly tortured her.
On 17 January, Lavanya’s relatives gathered in front of the Thirukattupalli police station and protested, saying that the minor girl had consumed a pesticide as the hostel warden Sagayamary had forced her to convert.
Meanwhile, newspapers have secularised the reportage of the incident, overlooking the religious conversion angle. They did not mention the name of the school, passing it off as a “government-aided higher secondary school in Michaelpatti village near Thirukattupalli in Thanjavur district”.
The headline suggests not only that this is one of several suicide stories reported from cities, with an insinuation that the victim despised work.
Despite the girl mentioning that she was forced to convert to Christianity in her dying declaration video, the Times of India, for example, has brushed the matter under the carpet.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Munnani and other Hindu organisations had come in support of the child. VHP state spokesperson Arumuga Kani said, “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad will not rest until justice is given to the student Lavanya.” As a first step, he said the VHP held a hunger strike on 19 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,” Kani said.
A section of the media had dramatised the sexual harassment incident that had surfaced in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (PSBB) school, but the incident inside the Christian school does not bother their collective conscience. Leaders of the DMK and its allies who had given elaborate statements following the PSBB incident are silent too.
This is not the first incident of crime reported from a Christian school. In the last week of December 2021, a case had been registered against the headmaster of a school run by the Church of South India (CSI), Tirunelveli, for sexually harassing girl students.
Amplified on request of the original publisher, The Commune Mag, via SMaRT