“How is it fair that he studies for free, when we have to pay the fees,” Darshan Solanki’s aunt Divyaben quoted a pupil telling the 18-year-old Dalit student who died by suicide at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay on 12 February.
An interim report of the internal committee formed by IIT-Bombay a day after the incident to investigate Darshan's death had claimed that he did not face any caste discrimination on the campus as alleged by his family as well as IIT Bombay's student body Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC). Darshan, hailing from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, belonged to the Dalit community.
“I do not accept this report by the institute, this is wrong,” Darshan's father Ramesh Solanki had earlier told The Quint.
The interim report prepared by a 12-member committee, a copy of which was accessed by The Quint, has claimed that Darshan -- a first-year student of B.Tech pursuing Chemical Engineering -- could have been “seriously affected by his deteriorating academic performance,” and at the same time alleged that “there is no specific evidence of direct caste-based discrimination faced by Darshan.”
The Quint spoke to Darshan's family on their response to the internal committee report and allegations of caste discrimination on the campus.
'How Is It Fair That He Studies For Free': Student Told Darshan, His Aunt Claims
Divyaben told The Quint that she used to speak to her nephew two-three times a week on video call, and that Darshan used to always assure the family that he was coping with his studies well.
“When we had gone to Mumbai to meet Darshan during Makar Sankranti (on 13 January), he had told me that many students were jealous of him. One of the students even told him that how is it fair that he studies for free, when others had to pay the fee,” Divyaben, who works as a tailor in Ahmedabad, recalled.
She asserted that Darshan had always been a bright student, who had “topped even in school” and used to help other students in studies when he was younger.
Meanwhile, Darshan’s mother Tarlikaben claimed that several students at IIT Bombay did not talk to him properly, and often used to mock at him for his clothes.
“Once Darshan told me that when he wiped his feet on his roommate’s foot-mat, he got really upset with him,” Tarlikaben alleged.
'He Used To Look Tired On Video Call': Darshan's Father
“In the report, they (the internal committee of IIT Bombay) have said that Darshan used to skip lectures and not submit assignments. But, whenever I used to call him during the day, he used to either say he was busy, or that he was in the lab. We used to video call him at night, and used to look so tired. If he would have been in his room the entire day, as the report has suggested, he should have looked fresh,” Darshan’s father told The Quint.
As a part of their internal investigation, Madhu Belur, co-convenor of IIT-Bombay’s SC/ST Cell and also a member of the internal committee probing Darshan’s death, among others reached out to his family via video call, Ramesh claimed.
He said that he received a video call from Belur on 20 February and that their conversation lasted 30 minutes. The internal committee also spoke to Darshan’s sister Janvi on the same day.
The interim report has stated that the internal committee “interviewed” 79 persons, including Darshan’s friends, roommate and classmates, for this investigation
Cannot Dismiss Daughter’s Claim On Caste Bias: Darshan's Father
“I don’t know what the other students said about facing caste bias on campus. But when Janvi said that Darshan did indeed face discrimination on campus, how can the committee simply not take that into account? They cannot just dismiss a claim only because one person has said it, as against many others who claimed that they haven’t faced this issue on campus,” Darshan’s father told The Quint.
The interim report has alleged that "the only person who mentioned caste-based discrimination faced by Darshan was his sister" and that none of those who were questioned regarding the case “mentioned about any kind of discrimination (including caste-based), either reported by DS (Darshan Solanki) himself or by any of his friends.”
The report had also 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.
On being asked whether Darshan ever confided in him regarding caste-based discrimination that he faced at the campus, Ramesh said, “Darshan would have never told me anything about that. He feared that if he told me that he was being mistreated by his peers on campus, I would have called him back to Ahmedabad and got him admission in a college close to home. But he was too attached to IIT Bombay. So he would have possibly confided in his sister about such issues.”
The interim report had 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.”
IIT Report Complete Falsehood, Darshan Was Pointed Out For Being Dalit: Darshan's Sister
“IIT Bombay’s interim report shows complete falsehood. It is not acceptable at all,” Darshan’s elder sister Janvi told The Quint.
A final-year student of Masters in Computer Application at an Ahmedabad-based university, Janvi said that Darshan often confided in her about facing discrimination on campus.
“When he found himself stuck using a laptop, his friends used to mock him saying ‘you don’t even know this much’. Whenever he used to go for group study sessions or even dinner, his batch mates used to say, ‘Dekho Dalit aa gaya’,” Janvi alleged, adding that Darshan was determined to study and had decided to ignore these comments.
When asked if she told the IIT-Bombay’s internal committee about these instances, she told The Quint that she “does not remember clearly.”
Janvi also mentioned that there were times when Darshan could not understand lectures or faced difficulty in comprehending a subject. “At such times, he used to say that I will learn watching YouTube tutorials or I’ll read on Google. We were very friendly, he used to tell me everything,” she claimed.
The internal committee report stated that during the interaction with Darshan’s family, “his sister said that DS used to mention about caste related issues faced by some students at IIT Bombay, and that he has also faced it himself.”
“When asked for any specific incident mentioned by DS, she said that there was no particular incident to mention. She further mentioned about a few instances in which his queries related to computers and other subject matters were sometimes laughed at by some students,” the report has alleged further.
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