IIT-Bombay Dalit student death | Senior says Darshan Solanki felt alienated by roommate

The senior deposed before the committee orally on February 17 and sent a signed written statement to the committee on February 19

March 13, 2023 12:08 am | Updated 07:28 am IST - New Delhi

Relatives and neighbours of IIT student Darshan Solanki hold a candle light vigil in Ahmedabad on on February 19, 2023.

Relatives and neighbours of IIT student Darshan Solanki hold a candle light vigil in Ahmedabad on on February 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Eighteen-year-old Dalit student Darshan Solanki’s roommate, a General Category student, had “reduced” talking to him after they found out about each other’s ranks, following which Mr. Solanki had asked about the procedure to change his hostel room allocation, a senior of the Chemical Engineering student told the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay’s internal inquiry panel looking into the circumstances of the alleged suicide. 

According to the signed statement of the senior submitted to the 12-member panel, the senior said he was submitting the statement based on a conversation with Mr. Solanki. The senior student said that he met Mr. Solanki twice in November, and during the second meeting, he spoke about being alienated by his roommate. 

The statement said, “He told me that my roommate had reduced talking to me after knowing each others rank and he also said that my roommate belongs to the General Category and also does not discuss study.”

The senior had explained to Mr. Solanki that there was no procedure to change hostel rooms and asked him to look to make other friends. “I suppose that he felt both loneliness and pressure of studies then he took step suicide,” he said in the statement. 

The senior deposed before the committee orally on February 17 and sent a signed written statement to the committee on February 19. In between, a member of the Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribe (ST) Cell had also reached out to the senior student over a phone call on February 18, The Hindu has learnt. 

However, in the interim report of the panel, submitted to authorities on March 2, the committee said, “A senior SC/ST student, whose audio call recording was submitted to the committee by one of the student collectives, denied any specific instance of caste-based discrimination faced by DS during direct deposition to the committee.”

When asked about why this part of the senior’s statement was not included in the interim report, the SC/ST Students Cell said, “The committee did receive audio recording through a student collective and heard the audio recording, but the committee recorded into the interim report exactly what was told to the committee during direct depositions to the committee.”

The committee concluded in the interim report that there was “no specific evidence” of direct caste-based discrimination against Mr. Solanki, and said “a very strong reason” could be his deteriorating academic performance. 

The internal panel also recorded the statement of Mr. Solanki’s roommate, who claimed before the committee that he had tried encouraging Mr. Solanki to show more interest in his studies, contradicting what he had told his senior.

According to an internal survey conducted by the SC/ST Students Cell of IIT-Bombay, over 37% of SC/ST students had reported that they had been asked about their entrance examination ranks with the intention of knowing their identity. This survey, along with another conducted by the institute in collaboration with the Student Wellness Centre, showed the extent of caste-based discrimination that Dalit and Adivasi students face on campus, as reported by The Hindu on March 11/12.

The convener and co-convener of the SC/ST Students Cell, were part of the team that held the surveys highlighting discrimination, and they were also part of the internal inquiry committee that ruled out “direct caste-based discrimination” in the case of Mr. Solanki. 

Mr. Solanki allegedly died by suicide on February 12, with his family alleging that he had faced caste discrimination on campus. His sister had also deposed before the committee, noting that he had spoken about how he was laughed at for asking questions about computers and other subjects. 

Those who require assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts may contact Sanjivini, Society for Mental Health suicide prevention helpline 011-4076 9002 (10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., Monday-Saturday).

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