IIT Bombay Student Suicide: Darshan Solanki told his mother about caste discrimination
Press Trust of India|May 31, 2023
NEW DELHI: More than a month after 18-year-old student Darshan Solanki took his own life at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, a special investigation team (SIT) of Mumbai Police’s crime branch said they found a “suicide note” naming his hostelmate and alleging caste discrimination.
According to reports, the student named had qualified the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Advanced in 2022 and was from the unreserved category.
The findings of the SIT are so violently at odds with those of IIT Bombay’s internal inquiry that students now demand an investigation into that inquiry and committee as well. The institute’s internal inquiry report from March 6 held that “deteriorating academic performance” and not caste discrimination, was behind his death by suicide in February
That said, supporters of Solanki among IIT Bombay students want to know why only one student has had the case pinned on him and no-one else named and also why the details in the note have emerged only now.
“The SIT was formed on February 24 and the details of suicide note were revealed on March 27. after more than a month. What took so long?” asked a student asking not to be named. Joint commissioner of police and the SIT head, Lakshmi Gautam did not respond to calls or messages.
As per sources on campus, the suicide note was found on March 3 and Solanki’s parents were called on March 16 along with his handwriting samples to verify it.
On March 24, Darshan Solanki’s father, Ramesh Bhai Solanki, had written to the IIT Bombay director rejecting the internal inquiry report and, clearly, offended by it.
“The report holds my son responsible for his own death,” Ramesh Solanki wrote, “what kind of institution, which promises to provide a safe and nurturing environment to its students especially from ST/SC background, blames them for the hardships they face? It is sheer disrespect to ignore the hardwork and dedication of a dalit student who self-coached himself to gain admission in IIT using the space of his home and his mobile phone. The institute seems to blame my son for not knowing how to use computers and for not being conversant in English. With great sleight of hand the institute labels my son lazy and not hardworking.”
He also alleged that the family wasn’t allowed to see Darshan Solanki for hours after his death and that the post-mortem was started without their consent. The family had arrived at IIT Bombay late evening on February 12 but it wasn’t before the next evening – on February 13 – that they were allowed to finally see Solanki.
“Imagine the condition of Solanki’s family who stayed at the campus for the whole night without seeing their dead son with security forces around them,” said a student who had spoken to the parents.
Now that a ‘suicide note’ has been found and it points at caste-based discrimination on campus, students demand that the internal committee and the inquiry it conducted be put under the scanner to see “where the administration has tried to cover up its actions”, said a student from IIT Bombay.
Ramesh Solanki’s letter alleges that IIT Bombay’s internal committee had not spoken to several members of the family in whom his son confided, including his mother and aunt.
Ramesh Solanki’s letter mentions a “senior student at IIT Bombay” who had told the committee about caste discrimination Solanki allegedly faced and asks why his statement was “dismissed”.
There is much discussion on what this senior told the committee which included what Solanki had allegedly told him about his strained relations with his roomate. According to sources, the senior student is from civil engineering and that the committee included the faculty advisor for his batch and branch is also being regarded with suspicion.
“This shows some conflict of interest… The person who decides his degree is sitting in front of him while giving his testimony,” said a student. “It's not by accident that someone from civil engineering is part of the committee.”
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