(Trigger Warning: Mentions 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 Thursday, 27 April, as the Hindu College annual festival 'Mecca' went on, a small group of students and professors gathered at the Delhi University (DU) college for a condolence meeting for Samarveer Singh, an ad-hoc Assistant Professor.
On 26 April, Singh died, allegedly by suicide, in his apartment in outer Delhi's Rani Bagh. His colleagues, students and relatives have alleged that Singh took the extreme step after his tenure at the DU college was not extended.
Those who knew Singh called his death an "institutional murder," and claimed that he was "distressed because of the uncertainty of the job."
The Hindu College principal did not meet journalists on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Delhi University PRO Anoop Lather, said, “The University of Delhi pays its heartfelt condolences on the sad and untimely demise of Dr. Samarvir and sends out healing prayers and comfort to his family in this tough time. No words can ease the pain that is being felt by all, including us in the university fraternity. Our thoughts are with the departed soul and his family, and we pray for strength and peace to them during this time of mourning.”
As per the Delhi police, a PCR call was received late on Wednesday. "The top floor of his house has two rooms. One of the rooms was locked. First, the mesh of the iron door was cut and then the wooden door was broken. He was unmarried. We took him to MV Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer) Harendra K Singh.
A FIR has not been filed in the case, said the police on Thursday.
The Quint also reached out to the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor who did not comment on the allegations.
Meanwhile, Samarveer's cousin, Rahul Singh, who used to stay with him in Delhi’s Rani Bagh, claimed, “For the last few months, he was very stressed out because his position was not permanent, and his contract was not being extended."
Originally from Rajasthan’s Baran district, 33-year-old Samarveer had been teaching at the college for the last seven years as an ad-hoc Assistant Professor. He was pursuing his PhD.
‘His Contract Ended a Few Days Ago’
Another displaced faculty member, who spoke to The Quint on condition of anonymity, said, “In the last three months, we had become very close. We would talk often because we were in the same situation...”
He added, “He did not say that he was depressed but he was certainly distressed and was not feeling easy. His mother was ailing and she was supposed to stay away from stress.”
Outside Hindu College on Tuesday, Nandita Narain, former president of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), said, “This is an ongoing human tragedy and an ongoing academic tragedy.”
Meanwhile, the displaced teacher said, “We would discuss future plans. We were going to meet this week. We thought that we would apply to other colleges soon. I thought that he had recovered from what he was going through...”
Two of his students recall his classes and some of their memories of Singh. Rusham Sharma, a second-year student of Hindu College who was in his ‘Critical Thinking and Decision Making’ class, said, “He would generally keep his distance. He would just teach and go. We thought it was sweet but also a little funny. Later, we found that he was struggling, and he was sad.”
She added, “I remember his last class in the previous semester. He just took a test and left. He knew that he was being displaced. I saw him around 20 days ago. Some negotiation was going on and we thought that he was coming back.”
His former colleague said,
He was displaced in February. After this, he was told that he would be retained in continuation of the same ad-hoc position. He was teaching a value addition course. However, this would last for only four months. He went to the administration around a week ago, when his extension was denied. This must have distressed him deeply.A former colleague of Samarveer Singh
Another second-year student, said, “I generally have low attendance but his classes were so good I attended all of them. As someone who wants to go into academia, I always looked up to Professor Samarveer.”
‘We Will Continue Fighting': Students and Profs
Rusham said, “A few days ago, I was going through the courses in some private universities and I saw that all their professors are from abroad. This is happening when our very own teachers are struggling. I was so sad when I found out about what happened to him but my first thought was that we will not let this go.”
A statement issued by the Democratic Teachers' Front (DTF) read, “Samarveer was a brilliant young teacher, the only ad-hoc teacher working since July 2017 against vacant positions that were advertised recently but was summarily displaced despite his stellar record. In fact, four positions were advertised and Samarveer could have been retained had the administration been more sensitive to the plight of young, talented teachers who have given their best years to serve the institution. Hence, Samarveer's suicide is nothing but an institutional murder and those responsible must be booked.”
The statement added, “Many of these ad-hoc teachers are in their late 30s, early 40s even, who have families dependent on them. Suddenly their livelihood is snatched away from them by an 'expert panel' which in a few minutes ostensibly judges their suitability."
Their long years of dedicated work doesn’t seem to count for anything. So what is the teacher left with? No work, no prospect of any work, no livelihood. And what is particularly galling, the humiliation of being thrown out of an institution they belonged to, forcible separation from their colleagues, students, classrooms and discussions.”A statement by the Democratic Teachers' Front
Dr Maya John, a member of DU’s Academic Council, said in a statement, “It is a fact that a sizable number of long-serving ad-hoc teachers, who otherwise fill all the eligibility criteria for teaching posts advertised by DU colleges, and have worked very hard for their institutions, are being displaced in the recent interviews. With permanent appointments being made through a so-called ‘open’ recruitment process that often amounts to just a five minutes interaction with the candidate and has facilitated massive displacement, there expectedly looms in many ad-hoc teachers. There is deep a sense of betrayal and helplessness as they have been rendered without a livelihood after having taught in colleges/departments and contributing to the University for years.”