Mumbai Police’s investigation into the suicide of a 14-year-old boy in Andheri has so far revealed no evidence that it was a result of the online game ‘blue whale suicide challenge’ that has reportedly claimed lives of more than 130 teenagers in Russia. The deceased, Manpreet Singh, a Class IX student at Bombay Cambridge School in JB Nagar, Andheri East, allegedly leaped to death at 5.10 pm on Saturday evening from the terrace of a seven-floor building. The police said that he stayed with his parents and two older sisters on the seventh floor. The police said his father is an aeronautical engineer.
He was rushed to Shakuntala Hospital nearby where he was declared dead upon admission, the police said. His body was later sent to Siddharth Hospital in Goregaon for post mortem. The forensic examination of Manpreet’s body at Siddharth Hospital on Sunday morning showed that he sustained external and internal injuries as a result of the fall from the building.
An officer at Meghwadi police station, where a case of accidental death has been registered, said the motive for the suicide is yet to be established. The police have begun recording statements of Manpreet’s friends and classmates. “From their accounts, he comes across as a very normal boy ,” said the officer.
The police are also looking at Manpreet’s cellphone and computer for signs to conclude whether he had played the blue whale challenge game. “We are investigating the suicide from this angle also,” said a senior police official. The police have not yet recorded statements of Manpreet’s parents as they are in shock. His family is in Nashik to carry out the final rites.
News reports had claimed that Manpreet had participated in the blue whale suicide challenge on social media. The name of the game is reported to have originated from the way blue whales beach themselves on shore and die. The administrators of the online groups allegedly give members a set of 50 challenges to be carried out over 50 days. The challenges become increasingly intense and risky as the days go by with members also required to carve out a blue whale on their forearm. In the final task, the administrators allegedly convince the teenagers to commit suicide. However, the police said no blue whale mark was found on Manpreet’s arms.
The police in Russia have so far arrested two men working as group administrators, according to reports. Several youngsters who are allegedly attempting the blue whale challenge draw or make an impression of a whale on their body as part of the challenge. The post-mortem report showed there were scratches on the boy’s chest which were “slightly unusual”. “But he had no whale’s impression on his skin anywhere on body. We cannot ascertain whether the scratches were self inflicted or caused by a sharp object during his fall,” the doctor added.
The forensic expert claimed the boy had told his mother he was going out to get a printout. Instead, he climbed to the seventh floor to commit suicide.
On his Facebook profile, the boy has posted pictures of a superhero character, Superman, and expressed his wish to become a pilot. Psychiatrists claim that the tendency of teenagers committing suicide and inflicting harm on themselves is increasing due to uncontrolled exposure to internet. “It is alarming and rising,” said Dr Kedar Tilwe, psychiatrist with SL Raheja hospital. “Parents need to be extra vigilant and note any sudden deviation in their child’s routine,” Tilwe said, adding that off late, he had been getting more cases of patients inflicting harm on themselves.
According to Dr Sagar Mundada, a psychiatrist with KEM hospital, self-harm strategies are also becoming common amongst teens to manipulate their parents into submission. “Glorification of suicide is also responsible. There is a need for healthy coping with stress in school curriculum,” he said.
A neighbour requested that Manpreet’s family be given privacy. “Let us wait till the cause for committing suicide is concluded. After that, they will be more than willing to issue a statement,” she said. Others living in the locality described Manpreet as being popular with children of all ages. “His friends in the lane would not start playing until he came downstairs. But for the past two days, no child from his building has come down to play,” said a woman who works as a domestic help in the lane.