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Institutional murder of Dalit engineering student Ajith Kumar

 

Note compiled by Joshua Isaac

Ajith Kumar, age 21, was studying in second year of B.E Civil Engineering in St. Joseph College of Engineering, Pennalur village, Kanchipuram district. He was the youngest son of Gnanamani, age 56, a daily wage laborer from Allur village, Sethiyathopu post, Cuddalore district. Ajith was staying at the St. Xavier Men's hostel which is located inside the college campus. The campus is situated near Chennai which is at a distance of 200 kms from his native village.

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 On 1st March, 2016 Ajith's father Gnanamani received a phone call from the college management who complained about his son, and asked him to take his son out of college. The next day Gnanamani visited the college along with his elder son Gunasekaran. The college management, comprising of the principal and two college administrators, discussed the issue with them and asked them to take Ajith out of college or pay a fine of Rs. 5000. Initially Gnanamani protested that an investigation shouldn't be done without his son present in the room. Later he accepted to pay the fine and asked for a week's time since he couldn't get the money immediately.

On the same day, Gnanamani met his son Ajith in the hostel and enquired about the complaint made against him. Ajith informed his father that he hasn't done anything wrong and that he was being punished just for questioning the quality of food in the hostel mess with the management. The father advised his son that these issues with food are normal in hostels and that he needs to adapt to it.

After a few days Gnanamani received a call from his son Ajith, who said that he is afraid, and that the college management, chiefly the administrator Fr. Jude, are abusing him verbally in the classroom. He complained to his father that Fr. Jude told Ajith "You Paraiyars are useless. You dogs are studying free of cost. Even if you get free education you still complain about rice and sambhar? You should get lost and die''. Gnanamani asked his son to come home and Ajith responded positively. The entire abuse happened in front of the students inside the classroom and it was happening on a daily basis since his father had visited the college. It was said that Fr. Jude was always inspecting the hostel rooms, beating the students using mobile or laptop chargers during those visits, abusing students verbally in classrooms and in hostels.

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The culprits: the college management. From left: Fr. Jude, principal Dr. M.A. Leo Vijilious and college administrator Fr. L. Savariappan

On 10th February, Vinoth Kumar, a computer science student, was suspended by the college management. Vinoth was dragged out of the hostel and beaten up by Fr. Jude before sending him out for suspension. The other students were concerned and tried to report the violent behavior of Fr. Jude to the principal. When Fr. Jude found them standing outside the Principal's office they were immediately suspended for 15 days. Ajith Kumar was one among the nine students who got suspended. Everyone was thrown out of the college as well as from the hostel. Ajith spent his suspension at home and came back. Initially he was denied entry into hostel but later admitted, and it was then that the casteist abuses started anew.

On 7th March, 2016, at around 11 pm Gnanamani received a call from Ajith's friends who informed him that his son has committed suicide by hanging himself in the hostel room. The family rushed to the college immediately. They saw his body in Sriperumbudur Government Hospital. On the morning of 8th March, Gnanamani filed a complaint with Sriperumbudur police detailing the events and causes that led to his son's mysterious death. In his complaint, he demanded that postmortem has to be done by experts and videographed. He named the college administration (college administrators, Principal, and hostel warden) and the casteist abuse they hurled as being the reason for Ajith's death.

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 Page 1 of Gnanamani's complaint

VCK Sriperumbudur Constituency Secretary Menagadevi Komagan and party cadres assembled in the hospital. She assisted the family in dealing with the police. The police filed a normal case of suicide naming the college administration as suspects. Police refused the demand of VCK for the case to be filed under Atrocities act.

 On the same day police took Ajith's body to Kanchipuram government hospital and conducted postmortem without informing his parents. VCK leaders from the town of Kanchipuram and other movements protested against conducting postmortem after 6 pm against the rules but the police still carried it out. Gnanamani immediately filed a petition before District Collector demanding a re-postmortem and for the case to be filed under Atrocities act, but the demands were refused.

The next day, on 9th March, on the instructions of VCK President Annan Thol, Thirumavalavan, the party's General Secretary Sinthanai Selvan joined the protest in Kanchipuram Government hospital. He submitted a petition to the administration detailing the issue and demands of the party which included application of atrocities act (PoA), immediate arrest of college management, protection and assurances for the protesting students from any witch hunt, 20 lakh rupees compensation for the family and finally a white paper on the deaths of students in institutions.

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Protests

The police refused to file cases under PoA and to arrest the culprits with investigations still on. Opposing this, VCK, Makkal Mandram and communist parties jointly led a 'road-roko' outside the hospital. Deputy Collector of IAS rank met the protesters and assured them of proper investigation including arrests, but they refused to accept the body till demands were met. Later that evening Ajith Kumar's family thanked the protesters for their support and requested to get his body for a dignified funeral. VCK General Secretary received the body, paid respects on behalf of the party, and the family took it to the native place where the funeral was done the next day on 10th March. VCK has announced a protest on 16th March along with other parties in the People's Welfare Front.

This note was compiled based on Gnanamani's police complaint, Ajith's friends' accounts and details collected by local party leaders. Till now the suicide case of Ajith Kumar is not filed under PoA and his killers remain free.

~~~

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