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Sakthi School Kallakurichi: Discovering the Visionary Owner and Embracing Diversity

Sakthi School Kallakurichi Owner Name And Caste

The untimely demise of a 17-year-old female student under mysterious circumstances in Kallakurichi district, Tamil Nadu has once again brought attention to the pressing issue of academic stress on students. The subsequent protests and resulting acts of arson and looting at the school have raised doubts about the intentions behind these actions.

In a state known for its frequent instances of violence against schools, particularly involving the families of students who have died by suicide or in mysterious ways, the most recent incident was particularly notable.

The act of violence did not happen immediately following the demise, but rather took place a few days later, indicating that it was planned in advance.

It was characterised by systematic and targeted destruction of the school’s infrastructure and property. And it appeared to have been led by people with no connection to the girl.

As per the statement of E.V. Velu, the Minister of Public Works Department in Tamil Nadu, over 108 individuals were injured during the demonstrations and law enforcement authorities apprehended 278 individuals for their involvement in the violent incidents.

The student’s death

The deceased was a student in the twelfth grade at Sakthi Matriculation Higher Secondary School located in Kaniyamoor near Chinnasalem, approximately 250 kilometers south of Chennai. On July 13, during the early morning hours, it is said that the girl jumped from the third floor of a building on the school premises. This particular floor served as accommodation for students residing in the hostel. The watchman discovered her lifeless body on the ground and promptly notified the school management. They immediately transported her to Kallakurichi Government Hospital where she was pronounced dead upon arrival.

On July 17, a crowd of demonstrators assembled outside the educational institution.

Between July 14 and 16, the demands for an investigation had grown louder, but the district police did not go beyond registering a case under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which covers suicide and death under suspicious circumstances. The police subsequently added Section 305 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, read with Section 4 (B) (II) of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002. The district administration, on its part, allowed the school to continue functioning despite the continuing protests.

Many of the girl’s relatives and friends, from their native village of Periya Nesalur near Veppur in Cuddalore district, had also joined the protests from July 14.

Several young people from nearby regions who are part of the Agamudaiyar caste also participated in the protest. The family members of the girl demanded that the police promptly arrest three individuals associated with Sakthi School Kallakurichi – Ravikumar, who is the correspondent, Shanthi, his wife and school secretary, and Principal Shiva Sankaran. However, their pleas were met with indifference and disinterest by law enforcement officials.

The Kallakurichi police seem to have clearly missed gauging the enormity of the discontent and the extent of social media mobilisation that is possible today.

Official inaction

It is puzzling why the authorities have been hesitant to take immediate action against the school management, and it is equally surprising that Section 144 was declared by the District Collector only after the riots had already started. These actions indicate a significant lack of communication and coordination between the district police and administration.

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The DMK government took steps on July 17 to bring back normalcy, including the replacement of District Collector P.N. Sridhar with Sravan Kumar Jatavath and Superintendent of Police S. Selvakumar with P. Pakalavan. The police also issued a statement demanding the return of all stolen school property, which resulted in the recovery of benches and tables by July 22.

C.V. Ganesan, the Labour Minister of Tamil Nadu, along with Thol Thirumavalavan, the leader of VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi), visited the parents of the girl and assured them of their support.

On July 20, a team from the CB-CID, headed by Superintendent of Police Ziaul Haque, conducted an inspection of the school premises and assessed the extent of the damage.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, who was recovering from a COVID-19 infection at the time, reviewed the situation via a videoconference on July 19. He asked Director General of Police C. Sylendra Babu and Home Secretary K. Phanindra Reddy to immediately leave for Chinnasalem.

The Director General of Police (DGP) declared that Ravikumar, the owner of Sakthi School Kallakurichi, along with Shanthi Ravikumar, the school secretary, and Shiva Sankaran, the Principal, were apprehended. Additionally, two teachers who reportedly reprimanded a student for her poor performance in certain subjects were also taken into custody.

He decided to hand over the case to the CB-CID, which initiated an inquiry under Superintendent of Police Ziaul Haque. Simultaneously, a petition was filed in the Madras High Court, and as per its instructions, the Director General of Police formed a Special Investigation Team comprising five members led by Deputy Inspector General of Police (Salem range) Praveen Kumar Abhinapu. Their task was to thoroughly investigate the incidents of rioting and arson and uncover any underlying conspiracy.

The Origin of Violence

The seeds of the violence appear to have been sown on July 16, when Selvi posted a video on WhatsApp in which she tearfully sought justice for her daughter’s tragic death and requested the public to support her struggle. The video went viral. The topic began to trend on Twitter. WhatsApp groups sprouted under various names. Calls were sent out for mass mobilisation against the school on July 17. Soon, a mob had gathered and a violent protest was triggered that ended in arson and looting. Rumours and misinformation were shared and spread like wildfire, worsening an already tense atmosphere.

Through all this, the police maintained that the girl’s death was a suicide. The former Kallakurichi SP, Selvakumar, read out a suicide note purportedly written by the girl which claimed that she could no longer “take pressure” from her teachers. It said that she was insulted in the classroom when teachers, particularly those who taught chemistry and mathematics, pointed out her poor performance. She allegedly requested the school secretary to refund her fees to her parents.

It seems that the girl, who had been attending this school since sixth grade, had recently enrolled in another institution near Veppur in Cuddalore district. However, for unknown reasons, she came back to her previous school on July 1st, just two weeks before her unfortunate demise. Additionally, her younger brother was also a student at the same school.

After the rioting, the school management released a WhatsApp video in which Shanthi Ravikumar spoke of how the watchman found the body early on July 13 and alerted them, and how she and her husband rushed the girl to Kallakurichi Government Hospital in the school’s emergency van, which Ravikumar drove. She expressed regret for not informing the parents immediately, claiming she had been under extreme stress.

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The parents of the girl, on the other hand, claimed that the school administration concealed the facts. Selvi, her mother, expressed her frustration by stating that despite their persistent pleas, they were not provided with any substantial details about their child. They were eventually informed to go to the hospital after a delay of one and a half hours, where they tragically discovered that their daughter had taken her own life.

Speaking to Frontline , Selvi said that when she visited the site where her daughter was reportedly found, it was clean and had no bloodstains. “Not even a tiny stain of blood. How could that be when they say she jumped from the third floor,” she asked. The first post-mortem report, dated July 14, notes that the girl died due to “haemorrhage and shock”. The left side of her body bore multiple wounds, “all ante-mortem”. The girl’s family refused to accept the body and approached the Madras High Court seeking a second post-mortem. The court granted the request and a second post-mortem was performed on July 19, but the court refused the parents’ plea to have doctors of their choice present at the post-mortem. The parents approached the Supreme Court, which refused to intervene.

Unexpected violence

According to information from the police, none of the individuals involved in the violent rioting had previously been engaged in any form of violence elsewhere, even on a minor scale. The district police had received a warning from State intelligence authorities that there could be a large gathering and potential protests near the school on July 17. However, they believed that ongoing discussions with MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly), party leaders, and higher officials would resolve the deadlock by that date. A police officer who was injured during the riot mentioned this while stating that they were hit by a stone thrown during the incident.

Kallakurichi, a recently established rural district, has been facing challenges in terms of infrastructure and manpower since its formation in 2019. The district police force is reportedly understaffed with only around 600 personnel. This was evident when a mob of approximately 3,000 people attacked the school, overwhelming the already ill-equipped police force.

During the violent clashes, M. Pandian, the DIG of Villupuram range, sustained injuries and had to be transported to a hospital on a motorcycle due to mob attacks on police vans. Despite firing warning shots in the air and using batons against the rioters, the anger of the mob remained unabated.

There have been speculations that higher authorities instructed district officials to exercise utmost caution. An official mentioned concerns about a potential recurrence of the Thoothukudi incident, where police fired on a protest against Sterlite Industries in 2018, resulting in the loss of 13 lives. The official stated that they had no alternative as nearly 30% of their personnel were injured. Additional forces from nearby districts like Cuddalore, Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, and Salem were called upon to restore order.

In the early hours of July 17, demonstrators started gathering at the location on motorcycles, with three or four individuals per vehicle. Following the disturbance, law enforcement confiscated over 50 deserted and harmed two-wheelers from the vicinity of the educational institution.

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An eyewitness told Frontline that hundreds of youths broke through the police cordon around the school and began looting and destroying school property. “Several groups came through the back entrance. Many were seen scaling the compound walls. Many wore masks,” he said. The mob set fire to school buses, ransacked classrooms, broke windows, vandalised laboratories and, as Shanthi Ravikumar claimed in a WhatsApp video, destroyed “certificates of almost all 2,500 students, besides burning several important documents”. A local businessman said that air conditioners, chairs, benches, and even the cows maintained by the school were stolen. There is a rumour that an outside mob might have mingled with genuine protesters who had assembled to seek justice for the girl. “A genuine case was usurped by some elements. Many of us who came to show solidarity with the girl’s family stayed away after the protest turned violent,” said a former student.

The school

The school began in 1998 as a nursery and primary school with just seven students. It enjoyed a phenomenal surge in the last 10 years when the AIADMK was in power. It started a matriculation stream and an international school, all within two decades. Both the matriculation and international schools operate from the same building, which also houses the girls’ hostel on the third floor.

Demonstrators resorting to acts of aggression outside the educational institution…

Ravikumar, the owner of Sakthi School in Kallakurichi, is a member of the Kongu Vellalar community. According to a parent, Ravikumar has affiliations with the BJP and the school regularly hosts RSS shakhas. Some parents have alleged that the school management creates obstacles for students who wish to leave by either refusing or delaying transfer certificates.

There were claims that students faced immense pressure to achieve high grades. According to a parent, the school prioritized money above all else, as good results attracted more students and consequently more revenue. Additionally, a police officer mentioned that several participants in the protest on July 17 were former students who had traveled from distant places like Bengaluru.

In Tamil Nadu, there have been similar incidents targeting schools. One notable case occurred on November 18, 2006, when a furious mob vandalized the Fatima Girls Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Omalur, Salem district. During this incident, the remains of a hostel student were discovered decomposed inside a well located on the school premises.

Caste dominance in Kallakurichi

According to the latest data, in Kallakkurichi Taluka of Tamil Nadu, the Schedule Caste (SC) population makes up 33.5% of the total population, while the Schedule Tribe (ST) population is only 0.4%. This information provides insights into the distribution and representation of different caste groups in this region.

Caste-wise Population in Kallakkurichi Taluka:

Overall, understanding caste-wise demographics can help policymakers identify areas where targeted interventions may be needed to address social inequalities and ensure inclusive development for all communities within Kallakkurichi Taluka.

Religion in Kallakurichi district

According to the religious census of 2011, the population distribution in Kallakurichi is as follows:

– Hindus: 83.87%

– Muslims: 13.4%

– Christians: 1.72%

– Sikhs: 0.04%

– Buddhists: 0.02%

– Jains: 0.17%

– Others (following other religions): 0.71%

– No religion or preference indicated: 0.08%

Who was the ruler of Kallakurichi?

P.S: It is important to acknowledge that history plays a significant role in shaping our present-day society. Understanding our past helps us appreciate the diverse cultures and influences that have shaped our identity over time.