After an 18-year-old Dalit student of the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay reportedly died by suicide at the campus, a student group on Monday said the death highlights institutional failure to create safe spaces for those from marginalised communities.
The student, Darshan Solanki, hailed from Ahmedabad, according to The Indian Express. He was enrolled as a first-year student in the Bachelors in Technology (Chemical) course at the institution.
An unidentified police officer told the newspaper that witnesses saw Solanki jump from the refuge area of a hostel building. “We are recording statements of his roommates and are trying to ascertain the reason,” the officer said.
A case of accidental death has been registered at the Powai police station in Mumbai.
Subhasis Chaudhuri, the director of IIT-Bombay, said, “We deeply mourn the death of the student and pray that the family gets the strength to bear this loss. May the soul rest in peace.”
Student suicides not isolated instances: Student group
Commenting on Solanki’s death, the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle at IIT-Bombay in a statement said that suicides of students on campuses should not be seen as isolated instances.
“We do not know what pushed him to this end: caste discrimination or unendurable stress,” it said. “What we know for sure is this is an institutional issue.”
The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle said that IITs lack mechanisms to help students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes deal with harassment and discrimination on campus.
“For those who come from non-urban, non-English-speaking backgrounds, oppressed castes and low income families, what does these institutes offer in terms of assurance, support and care?” the students’ collective asked. “The resources here seem to have different priorities altogether. How often does this institute concern itself with the social and mental well-being of its students?”
The statement added, “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. These institutional and casual ways of casteism cause mental and psychological stress on students, but IITs lack any mechanisms to help them.”
The study circle called for a review of the functioning of the Student Wellness Centre and said that it does not have any counsellor from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. “...The working of the SWC in the institute should be thoroughly reviewed again, the institute should immediately address the issue of inclusivity in the SWC and the center should be made better accessible to the students coming from all backgrounds,” the statement added.
The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle recalled the death of a Bachelors in Technology student from the Scheduled Caste community, Aniket Ambhore, in 2014. The collective said that it seemed to have been a case of suicide, but one that resulted from an “atmosphere of discrimination” on the campus.
The study circle demanded that the report of a committee set up to investigate Ambhore’s death be made public for deliberations. It also called for strengthening the SC/ST cell at IIT-Bombay.
If you have suicidal feelings, please consider seeking help through the helplines and resources listed here.