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US: 'Blue Whale Challenge' behind Indian student's death in March | What is the 'suicide game'?

The student, who was found dead in an abandoned car on March 8, was a first-year student at the University of Massachusetts. His death was reported as a murder last month, but police said the case is being investigated as an "apparent suicide".

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Boston Published on: April 20, 2024 13:00 IST
Blue whale challenge, Indian student death
Image Source : PIXABAY The Blue Whale Challenge is an online "suicide game" which gives users 50 increasingly difficult tasks.

Boston: In a first amid several deaths of Indian students studying in US colleges and universities, a 20-year-old student is said to have taken his own life in March in Boston while playing the dangerous game known as the 'Blue Whale Challenge', also known as the 'suicide game', according to police. The student's identity has been kept confidential as per his family's wishes.

The student was a first-year student at the University of Massachusetts, who was found dead in an abandoned car on March 8. His death was widely reported as a murder last month when he was misidentified as a student of Boston University. Gregg Miliote, a spokesperson for the Bristol County District Attorney said the case is being investigated as "apparent suicide".

"We have no information on this. The case is being investigated as an apparent suicide. We are awaiting the medical examiner's final conclusions before the case is closed. This happened on March 22. There has been no response to requests for an update. He did not respond to a text and a voice call message on Friday," said Miliote.

According to official sources, the student was holding his breath for two minutes. Media reports of the student's 'murder' came as attacks on Indians in the US, particularly students, have soared tremendously in recent years.

What is the Blue Whale Challenge?

The 'Blue Whale Challenge' was reported to be an online 'suicide game' with 50 tasks over 50 days, which involves dangerous dares to perform, which becomes increasingly difficult after 50 years and the user is ultimately asked to kill themselves as part of the final challenge. The first tasks are simple like "Wake up in the middle of the night" or "Watch a film".

However, the tasks grow more sinister with each passing level, like "Stand on the ledge of a tower block" or "Cut a whale into your arm" and the final challenge is for the user to kill themselves. The challenge has reportedly originated in Russia, but soon spread to other countries like Ukraine, India and the United States, leading to hundreds of deaths, according to BBC.

There is also much speculation as to why this game is linked to blue whales. Some journalists claim it is because whales have been known to beach themselves, a phenomenon that usually results in their deaths. Others say that it is a reference to lyrics from a Russian rock band named Lumen.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) issued an advisory calling the game an "abetment to suicide". "The creators seek out their players/victims who are in depression and send them an invitation to join... Players of the challenge can’t stop playing once they’ve started; they are blackmailed and cyberbullied into completing the “game”," the advisory read.

The Supreme Court on Friday called the Blue Whale challenge a "national problem" and directed television channels to help create awareness about the deadly game. The Centre had set up an expert committee to look into the issue.

Indian deaths in US

It is worth mentioning the latest report of killing came in a series of deaths and attacks on Indian students in the United States. In 2024 alone, at least eleven students were killed and several others faced severe attacks. Although the Indian government, on multiple occasions, asserted they were raising concerns with their counterparts, the killing spree has not stopped yet.

Earlier in January, 19-year-old Neel Acharya, who had been reported missing, was found dead on the Purdue University West Lafayette campus. Acharya was a US citizen. Authorities have said that there was no trauma or significant injuries found during the autopsy on Acharya and "no foul play is suspected at this time". In January this year, 25-year-old Indian student Vivek Saini was hammered to death by a homeless drug addict in Georgia. Similarly, another Indian student, Syed Mazahir Ali, hailing from Hyderabad and pursuing a Master's in information technology, was chased and brutally attacked by three unidentified men in Chicago.

(with input from agencies)

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