A 14-year-old Mumbai boy jumped to his death from the terrace of the building he lived in, sparking speculations that he may have fallen prey to the online suicide cult called 'Blue Whale' that has claimed over 150 lives in Russia alone. The incident took place in Andheri East in Mumbai's suburbs on 30 July.
According to a report on MidDay, Manpreet Singh told his friends on 29 July that he has been playing the 'Blue Whale game' and will not be able to make it to school on Monday. He has not left a suicide note and the police are yet to ascertain the actual reason behind him taking such an extreme step. However, Mumbai Police sources told India Today that Singh was addicted to the game.
On Saturday, India Today reports, a neighbour spotted Singh walking on the ledge of his building's terrace shooting what seemed to be a selfie. Within moments, he jumped off the terrace, he told police.
The Blue Whale game originated around 2015 in Russia and spread via social media. Once a person joined these groups, they were given a set of 50 'tasks' to complete, the penultimate task being taking one's own life. Like this article points out, the tasks began with innocuous challenges -- like waking up at ungodly hours, or watching a horror movie alone -- and slowly spiralled out of control, often goading vulnerable teens to commit suicide. With the completion of each task, the 'player' is supposed to make cuts on his or her forearm, which on completion would resemble a whale. After the completion of one task, the person is supposed to send the admin of the game 'evidence' so that he or she is allowed to proceed to the next level. The game draws its reference from beached whales who often beach themselves deliberately to die. An article on Inverse webzine, however, adds, "Others say the name comes from a song by the Russian band, Lumen, whose lyrics compare the image of a blue whale struggling to break through a net to a person suffering in isolation."
While there is no concrete proof yet if Singh was playing the game, some of his acquaintances are convinced he was. One neighbour, in a Facebook post, reiterated the fact it is highly regrettable that a young boy lost his life owing to this game.
Though the most number of lives lost playing this game was in Russia, it claimed youngsters in UK and US as well. In July this year, a teen from Austin hung himself in bedroom, live-streaming the suicide. Another 16-year-old in Georgia killed herself earlier this year and her mother blamed the cult for the same.
A 22-year-old called Philipp Budeikin is identified as the man behind this death cult, one he started via VKontakte, Russia's homegrown version of Facebook. After word spread that he had goaded several teens to suicide, Budeikin defended himself and said: "They died happy. I gave them what they did not have in real life: warmth, understanding, and communication." This was in 2016.
Budeikin, however, sang a different tune when he was finally sentenced to three years in prison by a Siberian court. The sentence was met with outrage because the 'game' he invented claimed hundreds of lives. He had himself, allegedly, confessed to abetting 17 Russians teens to suicide. During the court proceedings, Budeikin allegedly said that the people who died were 'biological waste' and he was 'cleansing' society of them.
In June this year, a postman was arrested in Moscow for goading teenagers to kill themselves by starting a game akin to the Blue Whale Challenge. It had claimed 32 lives up until the day of his arrest.
The India Today report states that Singh is survived by his parents and two sisters. Neighbours and acquaintances told reporters that he wanted to become a pilot and wanted to train in Russia for the same -- ironically where the Blue Whale Challenge seems to have originated.