Mumbai: The 12-member committee arrange by the Indian Institute of Know-how-Bombay (IIT-B) to inquire into the loss of life of 18-year-old Darshan Solanki, a first-year B.Tech scholar, tried to individualise the reason for his loss of life by blaming his “poor scores”, his “aloofness” and implied that he didn’t face caste discrimination on the campus. However the a number of dozen testimonies of scholars belonging to Dalit and Adivasi communities gathered by the institute’s Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (SC-ST) Pupil Cell over the previous yr – however by no means made public – level to an insensitive, hostile, and extremely discriminative ambiance on campus.
The institute since 2021 December has carried out no less than three totally different surveys and one open home for college kids belonging to Dalit and Adivasi communities. The reviews and the uncooked survey information accessed by The Wire reveal a disturbing presence of each informal and direct casteism confronted by college students from Dalit and Adivasi communities on the Mumbai campus. After Solanki’s loss of life by suicide on February 12 this yr, the SC and ST college students’ alumni teams additionally performed two separate surveys on the net messaging platform WhatsApp. One of many two surveys, accessed by The Wire, too factors to discrimination on campus.
The SC-ST scholar cell in February final yr despatched out questionnaires to its 2,000-odd college students belonging to the SC and ST communities. Of them, 388 (i.e round 20%) responded. And amongst them, as many as 77 college students have shared their experiences of hostility, indifference and casteism each within the arms of college members and fellow college students on campus. Many college students shared their experiences of dealing with casteist abuses and discrimination throughout residential areas like hostels, widespread areas like gymkhanas, canteens and the institute’s social media areas.
The detailed questionnaire covers many minute points of discrimination. The questions cowl the character of casteism, the locations the place the scholars expertise discriminative behaviour, the final notion of Savarna college students in the direction of them and the way they understand their Savarna counterparts, using typical casteist phrases like “meritorious”/ “underserving”/ “quota college students”, sharing of casteist jokes/memes/songs by each college students and college members, and if school members favoured “basic class” (Savarna) college students, amongst others.
A grasp’s scholar from Jhansi, whereas sharing his expertise on campus says, when a scholar from the “basic class” fumbles, he/she is checked out as a clueless scholar. But when the identical query had been to be confronted by him and if he fumbles, he’s instantly termed as “unmeritorious”. One other scholar with All India Rank 2 says whereas he has by no means confronted any discrimination, he has been informed repeatedly that he has occupied a basic seat. “I’m informed I ought to have moderately used the reserved seat,” he testifies.
One scholar belonging to the Dalit neighborhood shares that his classmate as soon as had raised doubt about one pc utility on their class WhatsApp group. The coed’s lack of know-how was equated with him being from a “reserved quota” and being heckled by the group. It was later found that the heckled scholar was a Savarna.
In Solanki’s case, the inquiry committee additionally makes a sweeping point out of his battle with computer systems. The committee, nevertheless, fails to acknowledge how an absence of abilities quickly takes a casteist activate campus.
As many as 93 college students shared that Savarna college students brazenly shared casteist or anti-reservation jokes, memes, or songs on campus. At the very least 9 others share their experiences of encountering casteist memes and jokes from school members. Forty-three college students, a disturbingly excessive quantity, accused academics of favouring Savarna college students over them.
The survey additionally touched upon the sense of alienation and discomfort felt by college students to disclose their caste identification on campus. As many as 34 college students shared that they felt unnoticed on campus. Near 40 college students had been taunted or subjected to casteist slurs for his or her bodily look or behaviour. 4 college students shared that they confronted untouchability on campus. As many as 26 college students conclude that the IIT Bombay campus is casteist within the survey.
Through the years, on persuasion from college students and anti-caste teams, efforts have been made to cover entrance examination scores in most premier institutes. Nonetheless, college students within the survey say each Savarna college students and academics give you totally different modern methods to search out out the scores of scholars from Dalit and Adivasi communities. Equally, many college students shared how their surnames had been requested with the intention to search out out their caste identities.
Even when such a obvious report was prepared for over a yr, it was not considered by the 12-member committee whereas inquiring into Solanki’s loss of life by suicide case. You will need to level out that each the convenor of the SC-ST Pupil cell, Prof. Bharat Adsul, and its co-convenor, Prof. Madhu N. Belur, are additionally part of the committee that inquired into Solanki’s tragic loss of life. Additionally, scholar organisations just like the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Research Circle (APPSC) and several other particular person college students who had been aware about the survey reviews had individually highlighted the testimonies of scholars earlier than the 12-member committee.
“However the committee missed it. And actually, they make the identical mistake that we had been attempting to warn them by way of these testimonies,” stated a Ph.D. scholar, who had deposed earlier than the committee. The committee inquiring into Solanki’s loss of life begins together with his “poor scores”, and lack of curiosity in educational efficiency. “What the committee didn’t acknowledge was that an in any other case very brilliant scholar was struggling and wanted assist,” the Ph.D. scholar additional added.
On talking to Solanki’s mates and classmates, the inquiry committee claims that Solanki had been aloof on campus. This, they attribute to his JEE- rank variations, (lack of) pc familiarity and language barrier. The committee, nevertheless, fails to probe into potential causes behind Solanki’s aloofness. As a substitute, the committee blames Solanki for not paying sufficient consideration to his research. On this background, it’s essential to grasp how alienation and caste- discrimination have impacted different Bahujan college students on campus. The February 2022 report reveals that no less than 58 college students skilled psychological breakdowns due to the casteism they suffered on campus.
Psychological well being influence on the SC and ST college students in IIT-Bombay
One other survey was performed in Might final yr, dedicatedly to wanting into the psychological well being standing of scholars from SC and ST communities. This survey takes the February report forward by focusing solely on the psychological well being problems with the SC and ST college students. On this survey, of the two,200 college students from the 2 communities, solely 134 participated.
This survey factors to the urgent want for institutional assist for many individuals. The scholars had been requested a cluster of 15 questions – all focussing on the psychological well being state and necessities of the scholars in IIT- Bombay. The questions give attention to a variety of points together with melancholy, agitation, loneliness, and insecurity suffered by the scholars. This survey focussed on the psychological well being standing of the individuals over two weeks earlier than taking the survey. Whereas over 30% stated that they had gone by way of no less than just a few disturbing signs over that interval, round 7% (round 10 college students) signifies severe indicators of self-harm. One other 16% (over 20 college students) confirmed indicators of extreme psychological well being issues, the survey discovered.
IIT Bombay. Picture: College web site
The report concludes that one-fourth of the scholars within the institute face extreme psychological well being issues. The survey additionally discovered that lower than 50% of scholars attributed their psychological state to educational stress. The remainder had been bothered by the ambiance on campus.
“Whereas speaking to many college students, we realised that SC/ST college students choose to cover their identification to flee the stigma of reservation. It was very important that regardless of a hostile atmosphere in IITs, 9% of scholars (12 college students) attributed caste as a considerable purpose for his or her psychological well being issues. 4 college students (3%) additionally recognized professors’ casteist and discriminatory attitudes as the rationale for his or her psychological well being points,” the report finds.
The survey reveals round 21.5% really feel that the English language is the primary purpose for psychological agony, round 36% of scholars felt troubled as a result of their socio-economic background and 22% attributed their psychological well being points to the cultural distinction.
Testimonies earlier than the open home
Following the 2 surveys, the SC-ST scholar cell organized for an open home on June 29 final yr, moderated by professor Sharmila of the Humanities and Social Sciences division at IIT- Bombay campus. Many college students brazenly shared their experiences of day by day casteism on the open home.
One fourth-year engineering scholar, on the open home, shared: “Reserved individuals (college students from SC/ST/OBC communities) had been made to really feel like they don’t deserve (to be) right here. They only see that reserve individuals lack advantage. Though many individuals are progressive about pleasure and gender on the subject of caste what number of of them get the notion of caste?” The coed additional requested if there was any course on caste sensitisation, just like the one on gender.
One other scholar brazenly shared his expertise of blatant casteism by the hands of a professor. The coed, in his deposition, stated, “I gained’t test your paper as you’re a Meena (Meenas are categorised as a scheduled tribe in Rajasthan).”
One scholar appealed to the SC-ST scholar cell to achieve out to extra Bahujan college students who weren’t current on the open home. “There are numerous individuals (college students) in want, they usually may need not come in the present day right here within the open home due to worry… fearing that their identities would possibly get revealed, and so on.,” the scholar stated.
The Wire has despatched an in depth questionnaire to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of IIT-Bombay looking for responses as to why the institute ignored the SC-ST College students’ cell reviews and why the survey outcomes haven’t been made public regardless of demand from scholar organisations. The story can be up to date as and when the institute responds.
Unreported circumstances of discrimination
Following Solanki’s loss of life, the alumni group of IIT-Bombay performed a casual survey on the alumni WhatsApp group. One such survey was initiated by Dheeraj Singh, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, who’s mobilising IITs alumni and college for SC/ST welfare.
Darshan Solanki (centre) together with his mother and father. Solanki died by suicide on February 12, 2023. Picture: Particular association.
Singh, who was additionally an ex-research workers in IIT Bombay, shared these 59 alumni and college students participated within the survey initiated by him. Of them, 93% stated that they skilled discrimination on the IIT-B campus however didn’t report it as a result of numerous causes.
“Circumstances of discrimination are a typical phenomenon,” Singh says. “However they go unreported due to many causes – considered one of them being the dearth of redressal mechanisms,” he provides. Singh says that the institute takes benefit of this structural flaw and refuses to simply accept the discriminative ambiance on campus for college kids belonging to SC and ST castes.
Regardless of obvious proof gathered by the SC-ST Pupil cell, up to now 5 years, because the cell’s inception, solely two circumstances of caste discrimination had been filed with the institute, a Ph.D. scholar shares. “The SC ST cell got here into existence solely in 2017. And the second these complaints had been filed, the institute tried to persuade the complainants to withdraw their circumstances,” she provides.
Singh says that the IIT is absolutely seized with the actual scenario that there’s rampant discrimination on campus in delicate kinds and “is merely defending its public picture utilizing zero complaints filed narrative,” he says. “So long as the institute is ready to dodge formal complaints, they will declare there is no such thing as a caste discrimination on campus. They did this after Aniket Ambhore’s loss of life by suicide (in 2014) and now after Darshan Solanki’s loss of life,” Singh says.