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Indian student’s death possibly linked to Blue Whale suicide game

Washington, April 20 (IANS) In a grim first for Indians studying in US colleges and universities, a first-year student took his own life in March while playing, it is understood, a macabre online game of dares called the “Blue Whale Challenge”, which has also been called the “suicide game”.

The 20-year-old, who will remain unnamed here in deference to his family’s wishes, was a first-year student of the University of Massachusetts. He was found dead on March 8.

Gregg Miliote, a spokesperson for the Bristol County District Attorney said the case is being investigated as “apparent suicide”.

This death was widely reported as a murder in which the student was misidentified as enrolled in Boston University and was said to have been robbed and that the body was found in a car in a jungle.

The Boston Globe newspaper subsequently identified the student by name.

But while this agency will not name him in respect of his family’s wishes, the cause of death by suicide while playing this dangerous game which is known to prey on teens and young adults around the world, needs to be reported as a cautionary incident for Indian students and teens in India and abroad and parents.

The “Blue Whale Challenge” is an online game in which participants are given a dare to perform and these dares become increasingly more difficult over 50 steps.

This student from India’s fatal challenge was holding his breath for two minutes, according to official sources.

This may be the first instance of a Blue Whale challenge fatality for India.

The Indian government had wanted to ban this game years ago but settled for a more detailed advisory instead.

“Blue whale game (The suicide game) is abetment to suicide,” said the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in the advisory issued in 2017, a year after the emergence of the game.

“It is understood through various internet reports that it is shared among secretive groups on social media networks. The creators seek out their players/victims who are in depression and send them an invitation to join. The basis of the challenge is that an anonymous ‘group administrator’, otherwise known as ‘the curator’, hands out 50 tasks to selected ‘players’ that must be completed, documented and posted during a 50-day period. Players of the challenge can’t stop playing once they’ve started; they are blackmailed and cyber bullied into completing the ‘game’ instead.”

Asked specifically about the student’s death in this game, Miliote said, “Have no info about this. Case is being investigated as an apparent suicide. Awaiting medical examiner’s final conclusions before case is closed out. This was 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.”

Many Blue Whale Challenge deaths were reported in Russia in 2015-2017.

According to reports the game is played on social media platforms. It involves an administrator and a participant. The administrator assigns one task a day for a 50-day period. The tasks are innocuous enough in the beginning, but they are progressively harder with self-harm coming in the final stages.

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