The suspected suicide of a Class X girl student hailing from an impoverished Dalit family in Malappuram on Monday sparked off a political controversy in the State. The incident has raised questions whether the government had commenced online classes in haste on June 1 and without ensuring that students from the lower rungs of society had the means to access the digital method of remote learning.
Opposition student organisations confronted the government with the charge that the victim, daughter of a daily wages labourer financially ruined by lockdown, had committed suicide as she could not attend classes remotely. The family had no smartphone and their television was faulty.
Law enforcers caned Muslim Student Federation (MSF) activists who marched to the office of the Deputy Director of Education (DDE) in Malappuram on Tuesday demanding that the government suspend online classes till the State ensured that every child had equal access to e-learning.
(DDE K.S. Kusumam said out of the eight lakh students in Malappuram, the most populated district in the State, 64,000 currently did not have facilities for online classes.)
The Kerala Students Union (KSU) and the Fraternity Movement held separate protests in Kozhikode. The Youth Congress attempted to lay siege to the Malappuram Collectorate.
‘Leave none behind’
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala termed the suicide shocking.
District Police Chief U. Abdul Kareem said that primary evidence indicated that the girl had set herself ablaze between 3.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. on Monday near an unoccupied house a little away from her home at Irimbiliyam, near Valanchery. The girl’s parents had reportedly told the police that their daughter had been upset that she had missed the online classes on the school-reopening day.
Neighbours and school friends testified that the victim was a brilliant student. A photo of her accepting an award for academic brilliance still hung on the wall of her house.