The suicide of teenaged dalit girl, who spearheaded the fight against NEET-based medical examinations in the Supreme Court, has sparked protests across the state, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the entrance exam. Earlier in the day, several political parties and pro-Tamil outfits organised state-wide protests over the suicide of the 17-year-old medical aspirant S. Anitha, who was reportedly upset after it became known that Tamil Nadu will not be exempted from the ambit of National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test.
The CPM and its student and youth affiliates, SFI and DYFI, had staged a road roko (blockade) in Chennai over the tragic incident, while party’s state unit secretary G Ramakrishnan and many others were detained, said police. VCK party workers were also held after they staged a road blockade at Kilpauk. Amid slogans against the Centre and NEET, hundreds paid last respects to S. Anitha at her Ariyalur village.
On Friday, Anitha took the extreme step by committing suicide at her home in Ariyalur district near Trichy. Her death came nine days after the top court directed Tamil Nadu to follow NEET for admissions to medical courses and finish the counselling process by September 4. Despite initially backing a move from the Tamil Nadu government, seeking exemption from NEET for a year, the Centre eventually decided that it was “bad in law”.
Daughter of a daily-wage labourer, Anitha had secured a staggering 1,176 marks out of 1,200 in Class XII, and had scored 199.75 out of 200 for engineering and 196.75 for medicine, according to the state education department’s evaluation. These marks would have easily ensured her a seat in either stream without NEET. According to her family, Anitha, however, could only manage to secure 86 per cent in the NEET and it was at that juncture that she decided to move the apex court against the implementation of NEET for admissions to medical courses. Her family also said she had even rejected an offer to join the aeronautical engineering course at the Madras Institute of Technology so as to continue pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. Read more: Dalit girl who went to SC to block NEET in Tamil Nadu kills herself
Protests and political reactions
A “wailing protest” was organised by women members of pro-Tamil ‘Naam Tamizhar Katchi’ at Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district. Demanding justice for the girl, students’ and youth outfits organised protests at Coimbatore, Salem and Rameswaram. Opposing the NEET, political parties and other outfits said it will affect rural students. In the wake of Anitha’s suicide, the state government had announced a relief of Rs 7 lakh to her family and also offered a government job on compassionate grounds.
Various political leaders, including DMK working president MK Stalin and VCK founder Thol Thirumavalan, and actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth were among those who condoled her death. Reflecting on the incident, sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dinakaran said the Centre must either cancel NEET examinations in the interest of Tamil Nadu students or should have the same as per Class 12 syllabus. Read more: Years of political, legal tussles over NEET before suicide of Dalit girl in TN
Some students also tried to stage a protest on Greenways Road near Chief Minister K Palaniswami’s house in Chennai but were detained by police. Slogans were also raised against lawyer Nalini, the wife of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who had represented pro-NEET students in the court.
Condoling her death, Union Minister of State, Pon Radhkarishnan, stated that Anitha’s death has caused “unbearable pain” and exhorted students to face their future with mental grit. He also called upon politicians, activists and others to make encouraging remarks for children.
On the other hand, senior AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai said his party was not in favour of NEET and expressed regret over Anitha committing suicide. “She could have avoided taking the step,” he said.
Expressing concern over the death of the girl, Stalin called the government “inept”. “Students are the future of the nation and they should never attempt to do such things,” the DMK leader said while asking the state government to own up responsibility for the death.
Meanwhile, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury accused the Centre of “imposing a uniform exam” without taking state governments into consideration. “A Dalit girl, a bold petitioner against the imposition of NEET instead of the existing School results for admission to MBBS – has to unfortunately kill herself as she did not score well in NEET,” Yechury said in a Facebook post. “Without taking state govts on board how does the Centre think it can impose a ‘uniform’ exam? Lives of our Dalit and other marginalised youth are too high a cost to pay for such insensitive and inconsiderate policies.”
Earlier this year, Tamil Nadu Assembly had unanimously adopted two resolutions to ensure the continuation of medical admissions in the state based on Class XII marks and not through an entrance exam, as envisaged by NEET.
With inputs from PTI, ANI