“His deteriorating academic performance could have affected Darshan seriously… There is no specific evidence of direct caste-based discrimination faced by Darshan.”
This is what the interim report of the 12-member committee, set up by the Director of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay to internally investigate the death by suicide of IIT-Bombay student, Darshan Solanki, has alleged.
The report was submitted on 2 March -- 18 days after Darshan, who belonged to the Dalit community, died by suicide at the IIT-Bombay campus.
The 18-year-old was a first-year student of Chemical Engineering, and hailed from Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. Speaking to The Quint, the deceased’s uncle Indravadan Parmar had earlier alleged that Darshan underwent “caste-based discrimination” on campus, and claimed that that could have been the probable reason behind the step he took.
The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student collective at IIT Bombay, had also alleged that Darshan faced discrimination on campus and had referred to his death as "institutional murder" in one of their tweets.
As per the report, however, the internal committee has alleged that even though students of APPSC highlighted various instances of caste discrimination on campus, “none of them had ever met DS (Darshan Solanki), or they directly knew if DS was facing any kind of problem individually.”
APPSC is yet to respond to the allegations made in the report. In a tweet on 16 February, the student group had claimed that the investigation committee formed by the administration of IIT Bombay "is neither transparent nor independent."
"There is no external member in the committee which is supposed to identify if the institute was at fault. No information about the committee is sent to students," the student group had alleged then.
Internal Committee To Probe Darshan's Death
The Director of the elite institution formed a committee to investigate the matter a day after the 18-year-old’s death.
Members of the committee included Professor Nand Kishore from the Department of Chemistry, wardens of Hostel 16, and members of the SC/ST Cell at IIT Bombay.
A total of 79 persons, including students, Darshan's roommate and friends, were interviewed to seek any information that they might have related to him and the incident.
A copy of the interim report has also been shared with the Centre, The Indian Express has reported.
The internal committee has considered various possibilities while investigating this incident, including academic performance, caste-based discrimination, and personal relationships at IIT, among others.
'No Caste Discrimination On Campus But Darshan Solanki Was Sensitive About His Caste Identity': IIT-B Report
The interim report of the internal committee also said that none of those who were questioned regarding the case “mentioned about any kind of discrimination (including caste-based), either reported by DS himself or by any of his friends.”
The report stated that among those who were questioned, three students belonged to the SC/ST community and they informed the committee members that they (too) never faced any kind of caste-based discrimination on the campus.
The report, however, mentioned that one of the deceased’s friends, belonging to SC/ST category, informed the committee that “DS was sensitive about his caste identity.”
'Only Darshan's Sister Mentioned Caste Bias': IIT-B
The report said that the only person who mentioned caste-based discrimination faced by Darshan was his sister, and in that case too, there was no particular incident to mention, except “a few instances in which his queries related to computers and other subject matters were sometimes laughed at by some students.”
The report alleged that during the committee’s interaction with Darshan’s family, “his sister said that DS used to mention caste-related issues faced by some students at IIT-Bombay, and that he has also faced it himself. However, she also informed that DS used to say that he would adjust and manage.”
The report also claimed that when “specifically asked, his father and uncle said that DS did not mention to them about any type of discrimination faced by him.”
'Darshan Was Not Adequately Prepared For Exams, Absent in Quizzes and Skipped Classes': IIT-B Report
As per the report accessed by The Quint, “it appears from the marks obtained in various courses that his performance deteriorated specifically in the second-half of the autumn semester.”
The report mentioned that except for one subject, Darshan’s marks were very poor, and that he was awarded minimum passing grade in one subject, while in another he was given FF (Fail grade with re-exam option) in the results declared after 12 February, the day that he died.
“He was also absent in some of the quizzes and did not submit several assignments,” claimed the report.
About his interaction with friends, the committee was informed that Darshan used to “skip classes regularly, sleep a lot, and wanted to relax a bit for a few months.”
“DS also used to mention that he was not adequately prepared for the exams. Some of the friends and his roommate mentioned that they used to encourage DS to pursue studies seriously as well as prepare for exams. One of the friends also mentioned that DS had problems understanding lectures. DS often expressed that he might quit the B.Tech programme of IIT and join elsewhere in his hometown,” the report alleged.
A senior friend of Darshan’s also informed the committee that he had, in fact, re-appeared for the JEE entrance exam to improve his rank because he was keen to study in IIT Bombay. From this, members of the committee have alleged that Darshan showed “academic interest and enthusiasm in the first-half of the semester… This academic inclination deteriorated in the second-half of the semester, as evident from his attendance and performance.”
The report claimed that “the despair of deteriorating academic performance appears to be a very strong reason which might have affected DS very seriously.”
'Darshan May Have Felt Aloof Due To Rank Difference, Computer Familiarity, Language Barrier': IIT-B Report
On his personal relationships with his friends, the committee noted that Darshan might have “felt aloof probably due to various possible causes including JEE-rank differences, computer familiarity and language barrier.”
The report added that the “exact cause of his aloof nature is not known to the committee.” The interim report also stated that Darshan was planning to go out with his wing-mates for shopping and was dressed up on the afternoon of 12 February 2023, the day that he died by suicide.
“Some money was transferred to DS by his father. The committee has no information on what happened in the time span after the telephonic calls with the family and before the tragic incident,” the report alleged.
The report also mentioned that in “the absence of call details, forensic analysis of the phone/laptop, and post-mortem report of DS,” the committee at present “cannot arrive at a final conclusion on what actually triggered DS to take this extreme unfortunate step.”