Following the death of a teenage student allegedly by suicide, an inquiry committee set up by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has ruled out caste-based discrimination. The committee findings hinted at the deteriorating academic performance as a possible cause of the suicide of the Dalit student.
The 18-year-old Dalit boy, hailing from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, 18-year-old Darshan Solanki, a first-year B.Tech (Chemical) student, died on February 12 after allegedly jumping off the seventh floor of his hostel on the campus in Powai. According to a report by NDTV, Darshan Solanki's family told reporters that in January when he visited home, he informed them of the discrimination he was facing from his friends as he belonged to the scheduled caste. He alleged that the behavior of his friends changed after they found out about his caste and were 'jealous' as he was pursuing his education free of cost.
The death sparked discussions and outrage around the need for a more inclusive and safe space for marginalized students on campus. The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), IIT Bombay alleged that the incident is a case of "institutional murder", New Indian Express reported.
A 12-member inquiry committee was formed by the IITB Director on February 13, 2023, under Professor Nand Kishore, head of the chemistry department, in connection with the death and allegations surrounding the incident. Late in February, the police stated that the Maharashtra government had formed a special investigation team to conduct a probe into Solanki's death.
The IITB inquiry reveal that the student's academic performance was low and he struggled with lectures and studies and faced a language barrier. One of his friends also informed that Solanki was sensitive about his caste identity while others defined his behavior as introverted and refraining from initiating a conversation. Solanki's sister stated that he sometimes talked about caste discrimination on the campus, experienced by others and him.
The incident made national headlines, triggering students group across the country to protest, denouncing caste-based discrimination in educational institutions.