India

Two students charged in India Dalit 'ragging' incident

Awasthi in hospital Image copyright Media One
Image caption The victim will need surgery to repair her damaged food pipe

Two college students in India have been charged with attempted murder following an alleged "ragging" incident involving a woman from the Dalit community.

The students allegedly forced first-year nursing student, Aswathi, to drink disinfectant. She will need surgery to repair her damaged food pipe.

Ragging is a form of abuse often meted out to college newcomers.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, form the lowest rung of India's caste hierarchy.

The college denied that the incident was the result of ragging and said Aswathi drank the liquid due to "family problems".

Doctors have told her family that she will need surgery to repair the extensive damage to her food pipe.

In a letter to her advocate, Aswathi, who only uses one name, said two students - whom she has named - forced her to drink the toilet cleaning liquid after commenting about her "dark skin" and the fact that her father had left the family.

A few others had reportedly held her down while the liquid was forced down her throat.

"They tortured me. They used to make fun of me, calling me names like 'black girl' and 'charcoal' and saying my appearance scared them. They came to my room that day, told me I was arrogant, and forced me to drink toilet cleaner," the letter said.

"Initially, when she used to complain to us about ragging, we did not take it seriously. We thought her seniors were indulging in some pranks. It was only when the incident happened on 9 May that we realised the seriousness of the situation," her uncle, KP Chandran Kalirikal, told BBC Hindi.

However, the principal of the Al Qamar Institute of Nursing, Esther Rani, denied that Aswathi had been ragged, telling BBC Hindi that the student had "consumed acid for some family reasons. There was no ragging," she said.

Mrs Rani said Aswathi was admitted to hospital for three days.

"When she got back to the hostel, she was on a liquid diet. She was not interested in going home. But we sent her home with another student because there was no one to take care of her in the hostel," she said.

Doctors say they will wait for six weeks before operating on her damaged food pipe.

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