'Institutional Murder': IIT-B Student Body Rejects Report On Darshan's Death

The report was by an internal committee, formed a day after the Dalit student died by suicide on 12 February.

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Hindi Female
“The Interim report of investigation of the tragic incident of Darshan Solanki by committee that was emailed to us on 6 March, can very well be renamed as “signed confession of institutional murder of Darshan Solanki by the committee.”
Student Body Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) in a statement

The interim report in question was by an internal committee, formed by IIT-Bombay a day after the 18-year-old Dalit student, died by suicide at the campus hostel premises on 12 February. 

The report has claimed that Darshan -- a first-year student of B.Tech pursuing Chemical Engineering -- did not face any caste discrimination on the campus as alleged by his sister.

Instead, it has concluded that he 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 APPSC, which has been at the helm of demands for creating safe spaces for Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students in the institute, pointed out in its statement that the report was a “haunting reminder of denial of justice”, just as it was in the case of Aniket Ambhore’s death, another Dalit student who died by suicide at IIT-Bombay in 2014. 

While his family and the student body had linked Darshan’s to alleged caste discrimination on campus, IIT-B has been consistently refuting these claims. 


‘JEE Scores Form the Basis For Discrimination’

The student’s  body alleged that the report was proof of the  committee’s “shallow, superficial, and flippant attitude”, and that a “hasty report” was prepared to “cover up the Institute’s shortcomings.”

A day ago, The Quint, had also reached out to Solanki’s kin who too had pointed out fallacies in the report.

“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.

The students demanded to know how  the panel had established a link between interest in academics based on JEE Ranks.

 “Is the committee not aware that JEE scores form the basis for discrimination in IITs where the practice of asking for ranks is used to single out, humiliate, and guilt the marginalized students into thinking that they are not deserving and competent?.” they asked.


The Problems With The Committee

Terming the interim report “the most unscientific document from a ‘scientific institution’’ the student body explained the discrepancies with the way in which the committee functioned.

They said:

  • The committee never had any public terms of reference 

  • It wasn’t revealed as to how it called for testimonies and how they were assessed and the tools to gauge their validity and reliability

  • The panel had no external member

  • The representation of SC/ST members was less than 50%

  • Students on the panel were not told that they had a right to dissent

  • No subject matter expert was consulted and his sister’s statement was disregarded

  • It did not consider  the possibility of implicit discrimination and effects of structures 

Besides this, the students highlighted several contradictions in the committee’s report.

According to them, the report first says there was no discrimination, then goes on to submit Solanki’s sister’s statement highlighting discrimination. 

Similarly, the students pointed out that while the committee said he was uninterested in studies; it also went on to record that he had shown interest in some subjects.

 “Isn’t it the committee’s job to investigate why a person would feel alienated on campus?” they asked.


‘Support Systems Exist Only For Namesake’

The students also criticised the panel  for “blaming” Solanki for not seeking assistance from the SC/ST Cell or the Student Wellness Centre.

 “It is common knowledge that these support systems exist for namesake… the ST/SC Cell do not have a legitimized mandate yet, and the SWC head counsellor was infamous for being casteist,” they said.

The APPSC statement added that the panel had recorded evidence showing what Solanki wai was facing discrimination in terms of being made fun of for not knowing computers well enough. 

It added that the panel also recorded that he was “sensitive about his caste identity” but the committee did not enquire why he felt that way. These testimonies were “brushed aside” by the panel citing lack of “specific instances”, the students said.

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Topics:  IIT Bombay 

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