Dalit student’s death | IIT-B knew depth of issue and yet said discrimination not an issue, says APPSC

First-year Chemical Engineering student, Darshan Solanki, allegedly killed himself on campus; administration accused of negligence towards Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students

Published - February 18, 2023 06:13 am IST - NEW DELHI

Image for representational purposes only.

Image for representational purposes only.

A day after the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay admitted to having conducted two surveys in 2022 promising to end caste discrimination and “culture of exclusion”, the APPSC, a student body of the campus, said on Friday, “The institute already knew the depth of the issue and yet they keep saying there were only few complaints of caste discrimination. Every testimony given in the survey and open house should be considered as a case of caste discrimination suo moto.”

This comes days after first-year Chemical Engineering student, Darshan Solanki, allegedly killed himself on the campus, with students accusing the administration of not doing enough in time to address discrimination faced by Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students.

A day later, the institute condoled the 18-year-old’s death and said, “Discrimination by students, if at all it occurs, is an exception,” even as Solanki’s family members started alleging discrimination.

However, after The Hindu reported that the institute had conducted two surveys in 2022, months before Solanki started at IIT-B, which documented experiences of caste discrimination faced by nearly 400 SC/ST students on campus, the institute admitted to the surveys and said it was done to “prioritise tasks ahead”.

In response to this, the APPSC said, “Even after all this data was available, the mandate for SC/ST cell was not passed, SC/ST counsellors were not appointed, the SC/ST mentorship programme wasn’t given proper funding and structure like other institute mentorship programmes. Even getting a room for the cell was hard.”

The student body added that Insight, a student newspaper, had also surveyed caste discrimination in December, 2021 but the results were also not allowed to be made public.

Want Director’s resignation

“The institute is scared to admit that the campus atmosphere is unsafe and discriminatory,” it said in a series of tweets on the social media platform.

Further, the APPSC, along with two other student bodies, the Ambedkar Study Circle and Dastak, submitted a memorandum of demands to the Director’s office on Friday, which included the demand for the Director’s resignation.

In addition, the students pressed for the caste discrimination survey results to be made public; sought that the Committee to investigate the death have at least 50% SC/ST representation and one external expert; demanded that the SC/ST student mentorship programme be strengthened among other things.

Candlelight rallies

Meanwhile, the deceased’s father, Ramesh Solanki on Friday issued a video appeal to everyone across the country, asking people to gather for candlelight rallies in their respective cities and States all over India, on February 19.

The video appeal was posted on Twitter by Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, who had earlier in the week called for an SIT investigation into the 18-year-old’s death.

Mr. Solanki’s father, in the appeal, alleged that his son was subject to caste discrimination while at IIT-B, and asked everyone to take part in the rallies seeking justice for his son.

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