Over 37% Dalit and Adivasi students were asked their entrance examination ranks by fellow students with the intention of finding out their caste, an internal survey at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay had found last year, The Hindu reported on Saturday.
The cut-off marks in IIT entrance examinations are lower for students to get admission in seats reserved the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes communities. Detractors of caste-based reservation often use this provision to suggest that Dalits and Adivasis get admission despite securing ranks lower than upper caste students.
The information was gathered by Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Student Cell as part of a survey for students belonging to Dalit and Adivasi communities at the college. However, the findings of the survey have surfaced after Dalit student Darshan Solanki died by suicide on February 12.
Solanki, an 18-year-old from Ahmedabad was a first-year student of the Bachelors in Technology (Chemical) course at IIT-Bombay. After his death, Solanki’s family alleged caste discrimination at the college, following which a committee had been set up to inquire the matter.
On March 2, the inquiry committee had dismissed caste discrimination as the possible reason behind Solanki’s suicide and hinted at “deteriorating academic performance” as the cause for the extreme step.
However, the findings of the survey conducted in February 2022 have revealed that several students from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category have experienced caste discrimination at the campus.
The SC-ST student cell had sent its survey questionnaire to nearly 2,000 students belonging to the Dalit or Adivasi communities out of which 388 had responded, reported The Wire. Among the 388 students, 77 said that they were discriminated against by faculty members and fellow students on campus.
Ninety-three students had told that upper caste students openly shared casteist or anti-reservation jokes, memes, or songs on campus, The Wire reported. At least nine students had encountered casteist memes and jokes from faculty members.
One student also pointed out that an upper caste classmate was seen as belonging to “reserved quota” when they expressed a doubt regarding computer applications. The student was heckled in a WhatsApp group by fellow classmates who saw the lack of knowledge in the subject as a trait associated with those from the Dalit or Adivasi community, reported The Wire.
Nearly 26% of the respondents had said that they had been asked their surname with the intention of knowing their caste, reported the newspaper.
Besides conducting the survey, the SC-ST student cell of the institution held an Open House where students from the Dalit and Adivasi communities shared their experiences of caste discrimination. A student from the Scheduled Tribe category had said at the Open House in June 2022 that a faculty member had refused to check their paper since they belonged to Meena caste, reported The Hindu.
Meanwhile, another student revealed that their student mentor had asked his rank and category on the first meeting making his experience hostile in the first week of college, reported the newspaper.