Indian police are investigating the death of a 15-year-old female athlete and attempted suicide by three others girls who ate poisonous fruit at a state-run sports institute, a minister said on Thursday. The teen athletes were reported to have eaten othalanga, a toxic local fruit, in a suicide pact at the centre in Alappuzha in the southern state of Kerala, which is run by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
They were found unconscious at their hostel late on Wednesday and rushed to hospital where one girl was pronounced dead and the other three remain in a critical condition.
All four were believed to have signed a suicide note, said officials, but no details have been given about the contents of the letter. Officials said it was too early to speculate on the reason for the suicide pact by the teenagers who were training as rowers but the victims’ relatives say the girls were mentally harassed by senior athletes and coaches at the institute.
Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Sarbananda Sonowal said local police were investigating and the SAI director-general was heading to the institute as well.
“Law will take its own course, but I assure you that if anybody from Sports Authority of India is found to be guilty in this connection, we will be taking strictest possible action against her or him,” Sonowal said in a statement. SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas told journalists that it was a “very shocking incident”.
“Four girls tried to commit suicide. Our entire focus is now on providing them with best possible medical facilities,” he said.