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Not A Case of Ordinary Suicide, Fathima Latheef’s Death Is Motivated By Islamophobic Attitudes of IIT-M: SIO


The murder of Fathima Latheef in IIT Madras is the fifth case in the last one year. SIO President Mr. Labeed Shafi expressed his condolence to the family of Fathima Latheef. “We stand by the family of Fathima Latheef in their time of grief and join them in their efforts to secure justice. I urge everyone to remember Fathima Latheef in their prayers and also pray for the Almighty to give her family the patience and strength to bear this loss.

Labeed said that  this is not the case of any ordinary suicide, it is a matter of institutional murder motivated by the Islamophobic and caste-driven attitudes of faculties at IIT – Madras. It is high time that we wake up to the reality of institutional discrimination and racism in this country that has led to the institutional murder of bright young students like Rohit Vemula, Dr Payal Tadvi, Fathima Latheef and many others”, said Labeed Shafi.

A bright 19-year-old student, Fathima Latheef blamed Sudarshan Padmanabhan, a member of the faculty at IIT – Madras for her death in her suicide note. Her father has also come forward to say that Fathima had been complaining about torture and harassment due to her faith by her some of the teachers, saying that for many of them “her name itself is the problem” and that “they were disgusted to see a Muslim name topping every test”.

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Unfortunately, this isn’t the first such case and there have been at least five such suicides committed by students and academics in just the last one year. It is part of a larger systemic pattern of discrimination and harassment faced by students coming from minority and marginalised communities, particularly Dalits and Muslims.

This unfortunate death is a grave reminder of the casteist and Islamophobic attitudes prevalent in the educational institutions.

Syed Muzakkir, the national secretary of SIO and director of CERT, said, “It is not merely the question of crushing dreams. It is the systemic exploitation and marginalisation, that cannot even tolerate ‘the other’, that’s Islamophobic, that’s hegemonic, that is predicated on the notion of division of society.

SIO has expressed the opinion that there is an urgent need to have a frank and honest national conversation around the problem of institutional discrimination and work towards concrete legal protections and safeguards to root out the causes of institutional murder.

Mr. Muzakkir said that the society itself is the ultimate perpetrator for allowing and facilitating all this. No justice or rectification can be expected as long as the society remains the same. No justice is possible for Fathima and her friends,  for Najeeb, Rohit, Muthu, and other countless, nameless victims, unless the society at large is reformed.