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Family points to message, accuses professor of Islamophobia over IIT-Madras student suicide

CHENNAI/ KOLLAM: Four days after the suicide of IIT-M student Fathima Latheef, 19, a native of Kollam in Kerala, her family on Wednesday accused a professor of insulting her in the name of her religion. In Chennai, meanwhile, the Kotturpuram police inquired with professor Padmanabhan, hostel warden Lalitha Devi, some other staff and 15 students. Police have also asked the girl's father Abdul Latheef to appear before them. Fathima's mother Sabitha said on Wednesday that her daughter was insulted so much that "she thought of changing her name." She said Fathima prepared a note detailing these incidents on her mobile phone 28 days before her death. A first-year student of MA, humanities and development studies (integrated), Fathima was found hanging in her hostel room on the IIT-M campus on Saturday morning. Her father met Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday and complained that a professor was responsible for Fathima's suicide. The family said they found a message in her phone implicating the professor. The Chennai police said the phone will be sent for forensic analysis. Screenshots of what is said to be Fathima's entry in her mobile phone were circulated in the social media. On Wednesday night, #JusticeForFathimaLatheef was trending at the third place in 'India trends,' with 13,000 tweets. Some of them said Fathima was a victim of Islamophobia. A police team visited the IIT-M campus and spoke to students of Sarayu hostel, where Fathima stayed, besides the hostel warden, Lalitha Devi, and some other staff. "As of now, police have filed a case of unnatural death," said a police officer. "We may alter the sections if we get evidence of abetment." In Kerala, Kollam mayor V Rajendra Babu, who is also a friend of the Latheef family, said Fathima's mobile phone had notes indicating harassment by some faculty and classmates. Asked how they accessed the phone which has been with the Chennai police, he said police had given the phone to Fathima's twin sister Aisha who saw the messages and soon copied them. When Aisha visited the police station in Chennai, the phone had run out of battery and police had not checked it for 14 hours. "She charged the phone and on opening, saw a note that named a professor," he said. Neither IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthi nor Professor Padmanabhan was not available for comment when TOI repeatedly tried to reach them. The institute has postponed exams for first year humanities students.