A family friend tells The Lede that some “corrections” were carried out but insists the note itself is not fake
“That image is fake,” Fathima’s father, Abdul Lateef, had insisted when asked about the veracity of the note which had been circulating online naming Professors Milind Brahme and Hemachandran Karah of IIT Madras as those responsible for Fathima’s death.
The Lede was the first to report the story.
But a confidant of Lateef, Shameer S, contacted The Lede after the article was published, telling us that the note which Fathima’s father had claimed as “fake” was in fact not fake.
During subsequent phone calls, Shameer stated that he had made “corrections” to the contentious note.
We tracked Shameer to Kollam where he insisted the image was not “totally fake”.
A man who seems to be in his twenties, Shameer is a neighbour of the Lateefs and close to the family. Associated with student politics himself, Shameer is a local leader of the DYFI (Democratic Youth Federation of India), a student union body affiliated to the CPM.
Closely involved in the family’s attempts to get justice for Fathima, Shameer had accompanied them to Chennai as well.
The Lede repeatedly asked Shameer what he meant by having made “corrections” in the suicide note naming the two professors. While Shameer did not deny his statements made over phone, he did not explain fully either.
“A small correction had been done in the printout,” admitted Shameer. “But it was decided not to hand this note to the press as it would be misleading.”
To his shock, the note made its way to the media and Shameer says he does not know how it went out. “But somehow what seems like a video grab of the note started doing rounds,” he said. “I still don’t know the source of the image,” he said.
“It might have come from a printout we had taken for the press meet to be given as handouts. But the image doesn’t give the complete context,” Shameer told The Lede.
“Since the case is under investigation and all the documents that we had has been handed over to the police, it would not be possible to give a complete explanation now. We will have to wait for the police to complete the investigation. And if the investigation is unsatisfactory, we ourselves will release all notes and things will become clearer. There is really nothing to be confused about it,” he insisted.
“But the contents of the note do point to the existence of a systemic harassment that Fathima faced in the campus,” he added.
While all the other notes that have come into the public domain clearly mention the date on which the note seems to have been drafted, the note naming Professors Milind Brahme and Hemachandran Karah is undated. This could hold the key in understanding the context of the case itself.
Another of Fathima’s father Lateef’s close aide and confidant Shine though reiterated his earlier stand when asked.
“That note is fake. We only have mobile phone images. That note has printed content which has been typed by someone. We do not have any printouts. It is fake,” he said firmly.
Asked about Shameer’s claims, Shine said, “It must be a misunderstanding.”
Fathima’s father, Abdul Lateef spoke to The Lede about Shameer’s revelation of a “small correction” in the note. “They have involvement in the scheme of things. But they are not the cause of death,” he said referring to the role of Professors Brahme and Hemachandran.
Lateef repeatedly reiterated that no one else – no other professor or student - was responsible for his daughter’s death except Professor Sudarshan Padmanabhan.
“I am aware of the campus politics which makes that note interesting,” he said. “They are one of the elements in the scheme of things and are also responsible for creating the general environment which led to Fathima’s death. But they are not the cause of Fathima’s death,” Lateef said.
“There are many other names too. But they are not the cause of Fathima’s death. The cause of Fathima’s death is Sudarshan Padmanabhan. On that particular evening, something happened which caused her to commit suicide. We do not know it still. Once that is known, we will have a complete picture,” he said.
The FIR filed by Sarayu hostel warden and Professor Lalitha Devi on November 09 states that after Fathima was found hanging in her room, the warden had questioned the other students.
According to the FIR, one student had last seen Fathima go to the bathroom at around midnight of November 08.
Another student informed the warden that Fathima had been crying that night. When asked what had happened, she told her friends that she was distressed about some issue within her family.
This is noted in the FIR.
The list of questions are long. It is still unclear whether there exists only one suicide note which names Professor Sudarshan Padmanabhan.
If Shameer, as he claims, had indeed made “a small correction” to the note which names the other two professors, did he change or add any further details?
If the suicide note naming Professors Brahme and Hemachandran was indeed written by Fathima, the date on which it was written could hold significance in understanding the context of the case. It could reveal whether Fathima had suicidal thoughts for longer than understood.
There is a mismatch between the marks scored by Fathima as claimed by her family and as claimed by her classmates. A topper, she seems to be, but not in all subjects, according to her classmates.
Was Fathima in fact more homesick and feeling the pressure of marks than her family claims?
It is expected that the investigation will throw clarity to these questions.
The three professors have already been summoned for questioning by the special team of the City Crime Branch investigating the case. One classmate of Fathima’s too is set to be questioned in connection with her suicide.