IIT Delhi Suicide: Inquiry, ‘public report’, reservation in faculty recruitment, demand students

IIT Delhi administration had organised an Open House on Sunday following the death of another BTech student on campus.

IIT Delhi Suicide: Inquiry, ‘public report’, reservation in faculty recruitment, demand students Around 200 students attended the Open House conducted by IIT Delhi on Sunday after student Anil Verma's suicide. (Image Source: Special Arranagement)
Sheena Sachdeva | Sep 4, 2023 - 1:52 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: A section of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi students are demanding an “institute-level inquiry” and a “public report” on the recent student suicides on campus. Two students, both in their final year of BTech Mathematics at IIT Delhi, took their own lives within weeks of each other. Both were from the historically-marginalised Scheduled Castes and were on extension, given more time to complete their programme.

Stunned by two deaths in such quick succession, a section of students led by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) had demanded an Open House discussion and suspension of classes on Monday. Classes were not suspended but the administration did organise an Open House on Sunday evening which was attended by about 200 students, according to APPSC. It has also cancelled all Teachers’ Day celebrations. The groups also compiled a charter of demands which includes one seeking the resignation of the head of the department of mathematics at IIT Delhi.

A member of APPSC who attended the Open House alleged that the discussion mainly revealed that the counselling services on campus “are a joke”. He also alleged that “there were many marginalised students during the meeting who were afraid to identify themselves during the meeting and speak up”.

IIT Delhi student death, open house

Anil Verma, a final-year BTech student, was found dead in his hostel room on Friday.

He belonged to Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. A few weeks before him, another Dalit student from the same year and department, Ayush Ashna, had killed himself.

Members of APPSC wrote mass emails to the director and deans of IIT Delhi on Saturday, demanding the Open House and suspension of classes on Monday, said a member of APPSC, keeping his name anonymous. After 9 pm on Saturday, TR Sreekrishnan, deputy director, operations, wrote to the IITD community announcing Sunday’s Open House.

“The meeting was called specifically to discuss why Dalit students are dying on campus, especially in reference to the mathematics department, but it became a general student discussion. Many issues were raised on the IIT Delhi’s counselling services and students raised their concerns,” said a member of APPSC IIT Delhi. She said that students complained about being turned away by counsellors or being told to wait for their appointment. The APPSC, at least, was left dissatisfied. She said the administration’s responses sounded like “the institute has done enough”.

“When BTech students raised their concerns regarding problems they are facing academically and during counselling sessions for mental health, the administration was in no position to say anything and were getting booed,” said another student who attended the meeting and asked not to be named.

“The counselling services on campus are a joke. It is a toxic environment and there is no pain or shame on students dying, especially with regard to the issues of marginalised students,” he said.

Charter of demands

Students in the charter have strongly condemned the administration’s practice of describing students who died as “introverted”, “reserved” or “withdrawn”. They have demanded information about the structural changes made in the Maths department since Ayush Ashna’s death. The charter also demands the resignation of the head of department (HOD) of mathematics.

It demanded an “institute level enquiry” by a group that will “investigate the academic/work culture of the Mathematics department which has resulted in two consecutive deaths of SC students belonging to the same batch within two months”.

Further, a “public report” must be prepared about the “trends of grades, placements, drop outs and extensions” of the marginalised students in the last five years. It is also demanded that more such students who are on extension from the mathematics department must be identified and provided “personalised academic support for completing their course requirements”.

Other demands included implementation of reservation policies in admissions and recruitment, constant monitoring and sensitisation of all faculty members, relaxation of academic requirements for all Covid-affected batches and strengthening of mentorship programme.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help, AASRA has a list of resources here: http://www.aasra.info/helpline.html

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