Then Fathima Latheef and now Unnikrishnan Nair: Shocking deaths in IIT Madras!

The prestigious premises of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has been becoming enigmatic over shocking events, that have gone contrary to what has been a public reputation about the institute. In the latest dreadful incident, a research scholar, who worked as a project associate at the institute, was found dead on the campus on Thursday evening.

The scholar was found charred to death in the hockey field on the premises. The deceased was identified as 22-year-old Unnikrishnan Nair and the police had suspected he could have committed suicide and blazed himself. Unnikrishnan Nair is a native of Ernakulam district in Kerala and his father Raghu is working as a scientist in the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). 

According to reports, while the physical classes were closed in light of the pandemic, the students have been staying in hostels and pursuing virtual classes. One of the sports staff had seen a charred body on the hockey court post which he had informed the administration. The administration had then informed the Kotturpuram police department and the officials had arrived at the campus and began investigations. 

After the probe, they had identified the deceased as Unnikrishnan Nair. Nair is a B.Tech graduate and he has joined the IIT Madras months back as the Project Associate. Nair had rented a house in Velachery and he came to the institute on Thursday morning and he was found dead in the evening hours. As part of the probe, the police had delved into his home in Velachery and retrieved an 11-page note, purportedly written by him. 

In his note, he wrote about stress at the workplace and there was no mentioning of any individual. The police have said that Nair was staying with two others in Velachery and the officials are investigating the people close to him to ascertain if the death was due to suicide. In a statement, the police said, "On July 1 at 6.15 pm, Dr Raju, a sports officer, came to the hockey field with his teammates and saw the body of a 30-year-old unidentified man lying half-thrown on the field." 

The reports say that Nair's family has been informed about his death and his body has been kept at a government hospital in Chennai. An autopsy would be conducted after his family arrives in the city. The police have registered a case under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure - the investigation into a case of suicide. IIT Madras had expressed its condolences to the scholar's death and said that it was an unfortunate and tragic incident. 

In a statement issued on Friday said, IIT Madras said, "The project staff whose body was found had joined the institute in April 2021 and was living outside the campus. We are shocked and deeply grieved, and convey our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of the departed soul. The police are investigating the incident and the institute is fully cooperating with the authorities."

Besides being one of the prestigious institutes in India, IIT Madras has been on the radar of allegations connected to religious and caste harassment and disparity. According to reports, Vipin, who was working as the Assistant Professor in the institute had resigned from his post last month and he mailed to the administration that caste disparity is pervasive in the institute. However, there has been no official statement from the administration. 

It must be noted that on November 9th, 2019, Fathima Latheef, a native of Kerala, who was pursuing her first-year postgraduate course in Humanities and Social Services had allegedly committed suicide in the premises of the institute and while it was initially told that she could have hanged herself by citing low marks in the examinations, her suicide note that was in her mobile phone had revealed that she could have been harassed by her department and by the professors. CBI has been probing her death but justice is still not in sight.