Surabhi Panchpal, a second-year law student from the Scheduled Tribe community, was discovered dead in the National Law University Odisha (NLUO) Girls’ Hostel in a suspected suicide case. The Haryana student was discovered hanging from a ceiling fan on Monday night (April 4), after which she was brought to Cuttack’s S.C.B. Medical College and Hospital. On arrival, however, the medics declared her dead.

The reason for her purported suicide has yet to be determined. According to reports, police have launched an inquiry into the incident and have sent the body for a post-mortem study. Classes have been suspended for today, according to the university administration, which informed students via email. The official mail stated, “Due to the abrupt and terrible death of one of our cherished pupils, lessons will be suspended today, 05 April 2022.”Read the mail.

The death has rocked the entire student body at one of India’s top legal schools. The students claim that the university administration has failed to provide any assistance or cooperation and that they have been utterly unaware of the status of the police inquiry.

A student who chose anonymity expressed his displeasure with the University’s unfriendly environment, saying,

Her death was made possible by the university administration’s complicity. Unreasonable disciplinary actions, corruption in the administration, and a lack of concern for the welfare of marginalized students on campus have resulted in a campus-wide mental health crisis. Surabhi was away from class for a few days. Many pupils have become depressed as a result of the administration’s activities. This university, including the professors and management, demonstrates a lack of compassion and humanity. Students are treated in a dictatorial manner. The Vice Chancellor must resign since he has moral responsibility for the disaster.”

Another student, who did not want to be identified, called for Vice Chancellor Professor VedKumari’s resignation.

“The pupils have been in emotional and physical pain for the past few weeks. The tenure of our vice-chancellor, VedKumari, has been marked by abuse, arbitrary decision-making, and demonization of students. Last night, we were sad and grieving. This is beyond my comprehension. Our university has transformed from a safe haven to a torture chamber. There is no justice even in a legal school like ours.”

This isn’t the first time NLUO students have voiced their dissatisfaction with the administration. The student body went on an indefinite strike in July 2019 to protest several infrastructural issues and the administration’s inappropriate methods.

Following this, the NLU Odisha Student Council issued a statement claiming that while the issue was being raised and discussed with the Vice-Chancellor, she called the police on the students who had gathered peacefully. According to the press release, the unconscious student was transported to the nearest hospital in an ambulance about 8:30 p.m. yesterday.

It was also noted that the student body was solely responsible for all subsequent measures to calm the scared batch mates and panic-stricken students, including providing food and relocating traumatized batch mates and students.

“At this time, NLUO students are expressing their sorrow. We’ve been through a lot so far, and we still have a lot of problems to deal with. We implore you to give us time to grieve and process such an untimely loss of a fellow student. Please wait for the Student Council to announce any additional developments while remaining sensitive to our circumstances at the university, as this is our earnest plea “..

Attempts to obtain an official comment from the Vice Chancellor and University administration were unsuccessful, and the report will be updated as new information becomes available.

According to a recent NCRB research, student suicide in India has been on the rise, reaching a new high of 12,526 in 2020.

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