Fearing controversy, Allahabad University students shut 'suicide letter writing competition'
Recently, reports emerged that some Allahabad University students had organized a suicide letter writing competition. The event, 'Aakhri Alfaz' was scheduled to take place at the literary and cultural fest, Udbodhan- The Awakening, by a group from the Shatabdi Boys' Hostel on February 22. However, their event was considered insensitive by many people and after facing backlash, it has now been canceled.
To participate in the event, one had to submit a registration fee of Rs. 50 and write a suicide letter in 250-400 words. The letter "may include a few poetic lines/versus. However, the letter must not be copied," according to the event's notice. The person with the best suicide letter would have gone home with a cash prize and a certificate. Ouch!
Mumbai-based NGO, Sisters Living Works, got the wind of the controversial event and raised concerns against it. "This contest reflects the insensitive views that the event's organizers have about the individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts," Rimpa Sarkar, clinical psychologist, told media. She added that the event's timing is also wrong since many suicides take place between February-April, which is the exam time.
Agreeing with Sarkar, Johnson Thomas, Director of Aasra, said, "The students should be a little more responsible. If the idea of the event was to give people a space to vent out their emotions, then it would have made sense. If not, then it's a bad idea." Aasra is an organization having a 24-hour hotline helping those who are suicidal and emotionally distressed.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the event have been receiving a lot of flak over their program. However, according to a student from the organizing team, the event has been going on since the festival was first started eight years ago. "Students from previous batches came up with the idea of conducting the event and we decided to continue with it," he said.
The student further said that they were given the freedom to conduct the event and neither the Shatabadi Boys' Hostel authority nor the university administration keeps a check. However, on Tuesday, the group announced that they have canceled the event as they do not want to invite any controversy. A statement regarding this was issued at Udbodhan's Facebook page.
Further, the students justified their motive saying that they had no intention of desensitizing delicate suicide issues but to "uncover the emotions that lead to them." "The event's agenda was to educate people about the indicators and common risk factors latent in a depressed brain. This gives us a platform to discuss and deduce strategies that can help reduce suicide rates," the statement read.
According to The Global Burden of Disease Study (1990-2016) published in the Lancet Health Journal, suicide is the leading cause of death in India among people in the age group of 15-39. Further, the study revealed that 71.2% of them were women.