Rahul demands CBI probe into veterinary student's death, accuses Kerala authorities of cover-up

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi

Wayanad | Former Congress chief and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday demanded a CBI investigation into the death of veterinary student J S Sidharthan, alleging that Kerala law enforcement agencies and university authorities are attempting to protect those responsible for it.

In a letter to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Gandhi said the "tragic death" of Sidharthan after "days of gruesome torture" at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Wayanad has "shocked our collective conscience".

The perpetrators are active members of the Students Federation of India (SFI), he alleged.

"It has been brought to my notice that the university administration as well as the law enforcement agencies sought to shield the perpetrators instead of bringing them to book. I unequivocally condemn this deliberate ploy to cover up the case," Gandhi said, days after Sidharthan was found dead in a hostel in Gandhi's parliamentary constituency, an incident that sent shockwaves across the state.

The Congress leader said the manner in which the arrests were made only after widespread public outrage has shaken "our faith in the possibility of an impartial investigation".

He said that doubts have been cast on the content of the police remand report.

"At this juncture, the Kerala government has a moral duty to act impartially. We demand a CBI investigation into the death of J S Sidharthan. The future of our youth cannot be sacrificed at the altar of ruthless political ambitions," Gandhi wrote in the letter.

He remarked that the people are collectively paying a huge price for the shocking culture of campus violence in Kerala. "The blanket impunity enjoyed by certain elements have only served to embolden them. The systematic attempts to stifle voices has turned certain student bodies into violent mobs," he further stated in the letter.

"Sidharthan was a young student with a bright future and his parents deserve justice. No parent should have to live with the trauma and pain of watching a young life extinguished. The blood-curdling details emerging regarding his inhuman torture are a reminder that the failure of an institution tasked to protect our students can result in a grave tragedy," the Wayanad MP said.

Twenty-year-old Sidharthan was found hanging inside the bathroom of his college hostel on February 18.

The remand report of the suspects linked to his death says that he was assaulted viciously.

Police had arrested all 18 accused and they have been remanded in judicial custody. While urging the court not to give bail to the accused, the report submitted by the police on Sunday said that a belt and a cable wire were used to assault Sidharthan.

Police have charged the accused under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon), 306 (Abetment of suicide), of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Kerala Prohibition of Ragging Act.

The report said that Sidharthan's classmates and seniors held a public trial inside the hostel, alleging that he had misbehaved with a girl student of the college.

Police said that one of the accused called Sidharthan, who had left for home, back to the college to settle the issue related to his "misbehaviour" using the "unwritten law" of the hostel, instead of approaching the police.

"He was stripped down to his underwear and the accused assaulted him. Some of them used a belt and a cable wire," the report said.

It said that the assault began on February 16 at around 9 PM and lasted till 2 AM on February 17.

Police urged the court not to give the accused bail as the parents of the deceased have demanded a full inquiry, stating that that the victim would not have killed himself.

Sidharthan's parents have accused SFI leaders and activists of beating their son to death, based on what his collegemates told them.

The father said that according to the postmortem report, his son's body had injuries and an empty stomach, indicating that he was brutally beaten up and not given any food.

Once the parents brought attention to the alleged circumstances of Sidharthan's demise, it caused a political stir in the state, with the Congress and the BJP accusing the ruling CPI(M)’s student wing SFI of having beaten the student to death.

The SFI has denied the allegations.

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