A case of caste-based discrimination is being alleged in the suicide of an 18-year-old Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay student. Located in the Powai area, the teen allegedly died by suicide after jumping off the seventh floor of a hostel building on the college premise on Sunday, police said.
The deceased, who hailed from Ahmedabad, was a first-year student of the B.Tech (Chemical) course. The incident came to light after security guards on the campus spotted the youth lying in a pool of blood, a police official said.
He said the deceased had not left any suicide note and prima facie he jumped from the refuge areas of the hostel building. “Based on the primary information, we have registered a case of accidental death. Further investigation is underway," said senior police inspector Budhan Sawant. The police are probing the matter to find out if the student was forced to take such an extreme step due to study pressure.
While investigations continue in the case, a student group has alleged that the deceased was driven to suicide due to discrimination against Scheduled Caste students on the campus.
IIT Bombay Director Subhasis Chaudhuri in a note expressed regret over the loss. "We regret to inform the loss of a first-year student in a tragic incident this afternoon. Powai police are investigating the case. The parents of the student have been informed and they are on their way. We deeply mourn the death of the student and pray that the family gets the strength to bear this loss. May his soul rest in peace," Chaudhuri's note said.
Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) IIT Bombay, tweeted, "We mourn the loss of an 18-year-old Dalit student, Darshan Solanki, who joined @iitbombay 3 months back for his BTech. We must understand that this is not a personal/individualized issue, but an institutional murder".
"Despite our complaints, the institute did not care to make the space inclusive and safe for dalit bahujan adivasi students. First-year students face the most harassment in terms of anti-reservation sentiments and taunts of non-deserving and non-meritorious. There is a lack of representation of faculty and counselors from the marginalized," another tweet read.
In an Instagram post, the Study Circle alleged that it is "no hidden fact that students from the SC/ST community face immense harassment and discrimination on the campus from students, faculties and employees". The IG post also mentions the death of 22-year-old Aniket Ambhore who died after falling from a hostel building on the IIT Bombay Campus. Ambhore had taken admission to the college from SC Category and had faced derogatory comments in the institute about his academic ability.
The APPSC post points out how it looked like a suicide case but was the result of an 'atmosphere of discrimination' which severes the mental state and motivation of reserved category students. It further adds, "the general atmosphere in IIT Bombay campus, where reservations are equated with lack of merit". Moreover, this is not the first instance where students have spoken against discriminatory behavior on IIT Campuses.