The last photo that Manpreet Sahans posted on his Instagram account was his feet dangling from the edge of the parapet of his apartment building's roof, with a caption that read — "soon the only thing you would be left with is a picture of me" — minutes before he jumped to his death. Investigators now suspect his death is linked to a deadly global online game for teens that has claimed over 100 lives so far.
If indeed Sahans took part in the Blue Whale Challenge — a 50-day challenge which originated in Russia and requires participants to take part in tasks, including carving a blue whale on onto their body and eventually killing themselves — then he is the first victim of the viral game from India.
The police team probing the suicide has sent his mobile phone to the state forensic science laboratory (FSL), reported Hindustan Times, to find out if he had deleted anything prior to his death and get much-needed clues that would indicate why he took his own life.
A neighbour, seeing the boy on the roof, had tried to save his life by rushing to his building, but the 14-year-old boy from Andheri East had already jumped by then. Sahans had shown no change in his behaviour months prior to his suicide, his bewildered and inconsolable parents told reporters.
"The Blue Whale game is dangerous and has caused worries for everyone," Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in the state assembly yesterday.
"It is an online game and thus can be controlled. We will set up an enquiry in the tragic suicide incident of the student, allegedly due to the Blue Whale online game. The state government will coordinate with the Centre for necessary action," Fadnavis said.
However, ND Reddy, Deputy Commissioner of Police, had told Indian Express that so far, the police has found "nothing to indicate that the deceased had been playing the blue whale game, but we are not ruling out anything at the moment."
The 10th grade student had said his friends would not be able to see him at school on Monday, an official investigating the case told PTI.
Sahans's father told DNA that the entire family was "in a state of shock and are completing the rituals" required to be observed after death.
"Everyone should stop spreading rumours about the game so that no other child gets affected and influenced due to this incident," Jaspal Singh said.
A relative told the paper that the family will request the "police to come out with a statement to clarify that the death is not linked with Blue Whale Challenge."
The Meghwadi police is now combing through everyday objects from the teen's daily life — the compass in his geometry box — to look for any evidence of self harm.
Several schools in Mumbai are considering workshops and counselling for teenagers struggling to cope with societal expectations. Bombay Scottish School principal Sunita George told Mid-Day community service would be a great way to help students understand the plight of those less fortunate than them.
The report said the Chatrabhuj Narsee School is holding counselling and workshops for teachers and parents as well to help them identify warning signs of distress. Doctors and counsellors agree that while it is impossible to keep children and young adults away from the internet, it will be necessary for parents to teach them to navigate it safely.