Chennai: A 24-year-old Navi Mumbai resident, Steven Sunny Alappat, died by suicide inside his hostel room at the Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) Madras. Steven grew up in Seawoods-Darave and was a former student of Vashi's Father Agnel College. Steven moved to Chennai in 2021 to pursue his MS in Power Electronics.
“He was a bright student who enjoyed the IIT life. He always has a 9+ CGPA and mixed well with the others, he fit right in,” said an MS Mechanical student.
Over the past few weeks, Steven’s peers began noticing his absence in the lab sessions. “Steven’s lab guide called him and he didn’t answer the phone. He also missed his TA duty the next day. His neighbours, who also happened to be his lab partners, knocked on the hostel door repeatedly and intimated the authorities when he did not respond,” said the MS Mechanical student.
As per the police, Steven had left behind a suicide note. While some reports claimed he had mentioned “don’t prosecute” in his note, a police officer said, “It appears to be a case of suicide but we are yet to decipher what he had written.”
Students protest against IIT's reaction
Late on Monday night, as news of Sunny’s death got around on the campus, agitated students staged a massive protest marching towards the Gajendra Circle, a prominent landmark in the institution around which the academic blocks and faculty rooms are situated. They questioned why IIT Madras had not officially made any announcement about the student’s death.
“We got to know of his death only by word of mouth late in the evening. Thereafter, we all gathered near the Gajendra Circle demanding justice and an explanation from the IIT Madras Director V Kamakoti. He did not meet us last night, while other staff tried to pacify us. However, we stayed put all night raising slogans,” said an undergraduate engineering student, who had participated in the protest, requesting anonymity.
Only on Tuesday morning Kamakoti met the agitated students and assured them of necessary action in the case. Subsequently, to quell any further protests, the IIT Madras in a rare action declared that Tuesday would be a non-instructional day and suspended all classes. The institution also told the students that it will host an open house meeting soon to hear their views.
IIT Madras issues statement
In its official statement, IIT Madras, said: “It is with deep shock and agony that IIT Madras conveys the tragic and untimely passing away of a second year MS Research Scholar of Electrical Engineering department on 13.02.2023.
The Institute expresses its sincere condolences and stands united in grief along with the friends and family of the deceased student.
The Institute endeavours and assures to improve and sustain the well-being of the students/scholars, faculty, and staff on campus while constantly evaluating the various support systems in place. The parents of the student have reached Chennai and we request everyone to please respect the privacy of the family at this unfortunate moment. May the departed soul rest in peace.”
On the same day in another unrelated incident, a student of the campus attempted suicide but was rescued in time, police said. The first-year engineering student had swallowed tablets and was rushed to Apollo Hospital as soon as he was found, said students.
This comes after a student suicide was reported at IIT Bombay on Sunday. The 18-year-old student in the Powai-based institute jumped off the hostel building a day after the IIT concluded its end-semester exams.
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