A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team arrives at Michaelpatti village in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu to investigate the suicide of a minor girl student. In a video, the victim was seen mentioning about her school staff’s attempts to forcibly convert to Christianity and, in a fit of rage, put the workload on her. The investigation of the case, which was initially being carried out by the Tamil Nadu Police, was handed over to the CBI as per the directions of the Madras High Court. The parents had approached the court expressing apprehension over the credibility of the police investigation.
The case pertains to a 17-year-old girl from a poor background, who studies in a Christian missionary school in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. According to the police, the victim had consumed the poisonous substance on January 9 and died ten days later. In a video, the victim is seen saying, ‘Even in front of me, they asked my parents to convert me to Christianity so that they could teach me. She used to scold me and wouldn’t let me stay there.” When asked who she was referring to, the victim is heard saying “Sister Rachel Marie.” When asked if she was harassed because After she refused to convert to Christianity, the victim is heard saying that “it may be possible”.
According to a complaint by the Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF) to India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the victim’s school was illegally converting children to Christianity and was imposing corporal punishment on those who protested. It said that it was causing mental agony to the students and taking them to extreme steps. “The victim was forced to convert to Christianity and when she refused, she was denied permission to return home from the hostel. He was asked to clean the toilet and wash the dishes” the complaint reads. It also states that the child tried to end his life (after which, he eventually succumbed) because of the atrocities committed on him.
The bereaved family had initially approached the court seeking a CB-CID probe into the matter. Subsequently, Thanjavur SP, Ravali Priya, IPS, had denied any ‘forced conversion angle’ in the case, even before the investigation began. Later, influential ministers of Tamil Nadu also denied the angle of conversion. It was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Tamil Nadu government after the court’s order for a CBI probe. However, the top court directed the CBI to continue its investigation in the case.