Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay has established a committee led by Professor Nand Kishore, along with members of the SC/ST Students Cell, faculty, students, student mentor coordinators, and the in-charge chief medical officer of the IIT Bombay hospital, to carry out a "parallel" investigation into the alleged caste bias surrounding the recent death of a first-year BTech student, Darshan Solanki.
The 18-year-old Dalit student allegedly died by suicide after he told his family members that he was facing discrimination in college for his caste. The police has registered a case of accidental death after he apparently jumped off the seventh floor.
Yesterday, in the mail to students, the director of @iitbombay claims that they cannot comment on the death till the report is ready but in the public statement released 4 days ago, they openly declared that there was no discrimination. #JusticeForDarshanSolanki pic.twitter.com/kkHZTqrRxY— APPSC IIT Bombay (@AppscIITb) February 18, 2023
Highlighting that Prof Nand Kishore was the chief vigilance officer of IIT Bombay till recently and is experienced “in these matters”, institute Director Subhasis Chaudhari said in a statement that the committee is actively meeting everyone who might have relevant information pertaining to the incident. “If you have any information that you believe may be relevant, please reach out to the committee by either meeting any of the committee members, or by emailing Prof Nand Kishore or to the Powai Police,” Chaudhari appealed through the statement.
IIT Bombay and police are actively investigating the “environment, incidents, and reasons behind Darshan's tragic death”, the statement said. The police have interviewed a large number of people, and also taken Solanki’s phone and laptop for forensic analysis, Chaudhari said. The institute is also working towards making changes in the undergraduate curriculum, starting with the batch of 2022, "to make it more relevant and motivating to students, and to reduce some of the stress”.
Calling some media reports about the student’s death “premature”, Chaudhari said that “as the matter is sub-judice so we cannot comment on the causes until either police report or our inquiry committee report is ready”. According to Chaudhari, IIT Bombay has an SC/ST students cell, where students can reach in case of issues including discrimination. “We are working actively to create an inclusive campus where all students feel at home,” Chaudhari said.
He said they give strong warnings against any discrimination during new students’ formal orientation and also sensitise all students to not seek proxy information such as ranks in entrance exams. “We have a very strict policy on discrimination by faculty,” Chaudhari said. Solanki’s family on Wednesday had claimed that he faced discrimination at the IIT B for belonging to an SC community and maintained that there was a strong possibility that he was “murdered”.
According to a police official, his parents had visited Mumbai to collect their son's body. In their initial statements, they had not raised any objection to the probe or expressed doubt over the cause of their son’s death, said the official had said earlier. Gujarat Congress MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has demanded a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into Solanki’s death.
Meanwhile, the student organisation in the institute, Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) has supported the call for a nation wide candle march on February 19 to ensure that "justice is made in this case".
Let Us Be United to Ensure Justice for Darshan— APPSC IIT Bombay (@AppscIITb) February 18, 2023
We fully support the call for a nation wide candle march on 19th February given by Darshan’s family to ensure justice is made in this case. We appeal to the student community everywhere in the country to participate in this call pic.twitter.com/xcEY20Xt7B
(With PTI inputs)