Published: 06th July 2022
Girl dies by suicide in Odisha's BJB College; her parents sit on a hunger strike demanding justice
The girl alleged in her suicide note that three of her seniors were harassing her by ragging. The police investigation is on and the college authorities have made no comments on the matter
Aftershocks are being felt across all the colleges in Odisha after the suicide of a first-year undergraduate student Ruchika Mohanty. She was studying in Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar (BJB) Autonomous College in Bhubaneswar. She died by suicide on the night of July 1, when the state was busy celebrating the car festival. In her suicide note, which was found by the police during the investigation carried out the next day, she has alleged brutal ragging by seniors as the reason for her suicide. Since the day after her death, Ruchika’s parents have been sitting on a hunger strike in front of the college, along with student organisations, state organisations, representatives and college students.
In a conversation with EdexLive, Madhusmita Samal, a woman leader and representative of the group, says, “The death took place four days back. Everyone, including Ruchika’s parents, classmates and friends has confirmed that she was a meritorious student and was always focused on her studies. She was even preparing for UPSC. Why such a student would commit suicide is a mystery. She has alleged ragging by seniors. And her mother has confirmed that the note was written in her handwriting. But the problem is that no names have been mentioned in the note. So, it can be assumed that she was scared so much of the seniors that she didn’t mention names even in the end.”
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Ruchika hailed from Athagarh district of Odisha. She was found dead in her hostel room, at the Karubaki hostel, inside the college campus. Investigation revealed that though she had fallen to the ground after hanging by a rope, by the time she fell, she had been dead. In her suicide note, Ruchika had just mentioned that she was being ragged and mentally harassed by three seniors.
“She was an introverted person. She neither spoke about her problems to her parents nor her classmates,” informs Madhusmita. She also informed that the post-mortem report came out on July 5. “The post-mortem states that the death has occurred due to the girl’s inability to breathe or asphyxiation, which confirms the suicide,” she states.
When asked about the current protest they are staging, she says, “Ruchika’s parents have been fasting for three days and have been here continuously, day and night, even during the rains. We are constantly supporting them. Earlier, they weren’t allowed inside the college and could not talk to the authorities. But we stood up with them and then they gained entrance into the college, and a police investigation was carried out. Student organisation representatives, especially Md Manwar Ali and Sanghamitra Jena, along with their entire teams, have been continuously supporting them in the strike."
What has happened so far
AISF (All India Students' Federation), the student wing of Congress, Odisha Janata Party, NYCS (Nabanirman Yuva Chhhatra Sangathan), Odisha and the Anti-Corruption Core of India (ACCI) are the organisations actively involved in the strike. The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) took cognisance of the girl’s case on Monday, July 4. It has also directed the Commissioner of Police, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, to submit a report on this incident, along with a status inquiry, by July 19.
Minister of State for Home Tusharkanti Behera has additionally raised the issue in the state assembly and issued a statement on July 4. The incident created a ruckus in the state assembly, with opposition members hitting out at the speaker, Bikram Keshari Arukha, during Question Hour, leading to an adjournment of the session.
Talking about what the police said regarding the incident, Madhusmita says, “The police have not given any updates as yet. The investigation is going on. They are saying that it is a student-related issue and a sensitive issue. So, the investigation cannot be hurried and everything needs to be done properly, in a proper manner. The police has found information on the three accused seniors, but nothing is official and nothing has been declared yet.”
Meanwhile, she informed that the college authorities had made no comment on the matter. They were in denial that there was any ragging in the college, she noted. “But it has been confirmed that ragging was followed and we are urging the college authorities to look into the matter seriously and bring a change in the college environment,” Madhusmita says.
The ongoing protests
Speaking about the ongoing protest in front of the college gate, she says, “We have four immediate demands. The first is that we want justice for Ruchika. We want the accused to be arrested. Next, we want to bring this issue to the notice of all the higher authorities. We want all the colleges and educational institutions to be made ragging-free zones and this should be taken note of by all the officials and authorities in power, including the Union Education Minister. Thirdly, we want a toll-free number assigned to all educational institutions for female students. If any girl is in trouble or is facing any problem, she should be able to immediately call this toll-free number. And lastly, we want the police and college authorities to take action against all those involved.”
State Convener of NYCS Odisha, Md Manwar Ali weighs in, “A similar incident had happened in the college in 2005 also. Another girl had died by suicide. So, we have been urging the college authorities to take action and make the college an anti-ragging zone. But no action has been taken yet. We are planning a state-wide protest in all the colleges on July 7.”
And what are Ruchika’s mother demands? She tells us, “I have no demands. I have just one motive, which is justice for my daughter. I want the three people who harassed her to be arrested. And all the authorities, including the principal, the hostel warden and the superintendent, who are denying that ragging had taken place, should be brought to justice as well.”