IIT-Bombay Student Dies by Suicide; Student Body Claims Caste Discrimination

As per Mumbai police, the 18-year-old had joined the elite institute three-and-a-half months ago.

3 min read

(Trigger warning: Description of suicide. If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs)

On Sunday, 12 February, a first-year student at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, died on campus, allegedly by suicide. 

Identified as Darshan Solanki, the 18-year-old hailed from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and was pursuing B.Tech in Chemical Engineering. As per Mumbai police, he had joined the elite institute three-and-a-half months ago. 

A senior Mumbai police officer told The Quint, “The investigation is underway, and the reason is still uncertain. The post-mortem is being conducted and an accidental death report has been filed. There’s an eyewitness of the incident, which took place in the afternoon in the hostel building. We are speaking to other students in the hostel wing to ascertain the facts.”

The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, (APPSC), which is a student collective at IIT Bombay, alleged that the incident is “not a personal/individualised issue but an institutional murder," and that the premier institute "did not care to make the space inclusive and safe for Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi students."

While the APPSC has alleged that Solanki belonged to the Dalit community, the police said that they could not confirm the same. The Quint reached out to the SC/ST Cell at IIT-Bombay but they refused to comment.


'He Was A Chilled-Out Person': Friend Says

The institute’s Public Relations Officer Falguni Banerjee said, ”The institute mourns the loss of a bright student,” and added that the parents of the deceased student have arrived from Ahmedabad and are in “a complete state of shock”.

A student of the institute and friend of Solanki, requesting anonymity, told The Quint that their first semester exams had finished only a day before the death. “I don’t know what drove him to take this step,“ said the student.  

“He (Solanki) was a very chilled-out person. We never even saw him get angry. He used to complete his assignments on time. There are 12 people in our wing. He was introverted but when we used to hang out together, he used to have fun,” the student said. 

'Atmosphere of Discrimination': Alleges Student Body

A member of the APPSC collective, requesting anonymity, told The Quint, “The transition is really tough for first-year students, especially if they belong to minority communities.”

“Due to taunts like they are undeserving or non-meritorious and got a seat at IIT only because of reservations, students belonging to the SC/ST/OBC categories often face additional pressure to perform,” the APPSC member said. 

An elaborate statement issued by the student collective also mentions the case of Aniket Ambhore, a student who had fallen to his death from the sixth floor of an IIT-B hostel on 4 September 2014.

In the statement, the students’ body has alleged that Ambhore’s death had resulted out of an “atmosphere of discrimination.”

Several students also held a candle-light march, followed by a prayer meeting on Sunday evening at the common area between hostels 12, 13 and 14 to condole Solanki's death. A poster circulated by the students before the candle-light march read:

As per Mumbai police, the 18-year-old had joined the elite institute three-and-a-half months ago.

Poster circulated by a student collective called Dastak.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Meanwhile, the premier institute was recently in news and was pulled up by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes for failing to provide mental health support to the institute's Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students.

The commission had received a complaint from students' group in the IIT-B, APPSC, in this regard in June last year.

The notice, dated 31 January 2023, states, "The Commission has decided to investigate/inquire into the matter in pursuance of the powers conferred upon it under Article 338A of the Constitution of India."

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