Wayanad suicide : Brutality and politics that silenced many

Siddharth, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram and a second-year veterinary student, was found hanging in his hostel’s bathroom on February 18.

| Updated: 01 March, 2024 1:43 pm IST

Wayanad: The suicide of a 22-year-old veterinary student, JS Siddharth, following an unfathomable ordeal of physical and mental torment, including being paraded naked and beaten for two hours in front of a crowd of over 130 students at a government college in Wayanad, raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of Anti-ragging squads and the political patronage enjoyed by certain students who act with impunity. 

Siddharth, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram and a second-year veterinary student, was found hanging in his hostel’s bathroom on February 18.The college suspended 12 students on February 24, after its anti-ragging committee determined that he was brutally assaulted by fellow students shortly before his death.

The silence of college authorities for five days before suspending the students, allegedly under political pressure, raises questions about the accountability of the dean and principal, who appeared to be passive bystanders.

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“It is indeed shocking that such an incident occurred in Kerala, where sections of intellectuals are vocal about violence in northern states,” said social activist and political commentator Fakrudheen Ali. “These incidents instil fear among young students. It’s high time people speak out against such forces and expose them publicly.”

Eleven days after the incident, the College Union president and SFI unit secretary surrendered to the investigating agency. The police are yet to apprehend nine others, including SFI unit members. The Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) campus in Wayanad has long been dominated by the SFI, where dissenting voices are suppressed. The faculty and staff members who dare to object often find themselves under surveillance, fostering an environment of fear and silence.

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In Siddharth’s case, it was students from North India who witnessed the assault and later informed his parents. “Until then, I thought Siddharth’s death was a suicide,” said his father, T Jayaprakash. “But one of his colleagues told me they were threatened with dire consequences if they spoke the truth.” The academic dean suspended the suspects based on the recommendation of the Anti-Ragging Squad of the University Grant Commission (UGC).

Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan condemned Siddharth’s death and accused the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) of attempting to cover up the issue. The KSU, ABVP, Youth League, and MSF organized protest marches on the university campus, which is closed for the next 10 days following the tragic incident. Siddharth is said to have been subjected to unprecedented brutality, with eyewitnesses recounting how he was stripped naked and beaten in front of other students. Similar attacks are said to have occurred in the past, underscoring the urgent need for action.

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