In the wake of the uproar over the suicide of a Dalit student on the campus, a "leaked" survey report has surfaced. Following the suicide of Darshan Solanki, a Dalit student, an internal committee was formed, which ruled out any caste-based discrimination and instead cited "academic stress" as the reason for the pressure. The report was deplored by academics, students, and others. Before the controversy over the committee's findings could die down, a few survey reports prior to Solanki's death have surfaced, demonstrating the existence of caste-based discrimination on the campus. These reports have provided weight to the theory of "caste discrimination in the campus."
Caste Discrimination attributed to adverse mental health conditions
The details of the internal survey conducted by the SC/ST cell of IIT-Bombay in February and June of 2022 have been accessed by The Mooknayak but have not yet been made public. The survey has identified "caste discrimination" as the primary reason for the mental health issues faced by SC/ST students.
The survey, in which 388 SC/ST students participated, also revealed other shocking findings:
One-third of the 388 SC/ST students did not feel comfortable openly discussing their caste identity on campus
Another 131 students (33.8%) said they could talk about their caste only among “ Very close “ friends
83 (21.6.%) students responded in affirmative when asked about the fear of backlash from faculty and students should they talk about caste discrimination.
134 respondents, almost half (48.1%) said that either the SC/ST student cell or the Students Wellness Centre (SWC) could approach them. However, 22.2% had scepticism with both, indicating a distrust with the institute’s bodies. In fact, some students who did not fill the comment box said that the survey mentioned the name of SWC (Students Wellness Centre) and they felt SWC was biased against them .
More than one-fourth i.e. 26 % of the people felt that people on campus asked them their surnames with the intention of knowing their castes.
37.1 percent of the surveyed students revealed that they were asked about their entrance exam scores after knowing their caste identities.
Internal Committee report whitewashing the caste discrimination
In an interview with The Mooknayak, a PhD scholar, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that "the IIT internal committee report is attempting to downplay caste discrimination under the guise of academic stress. Discrimination cases similar to that of Darshan Solanki exist. There have been three surveys and one open house meeting, and based on this data set, we can conclude that at least 100 students have reported facing discrimination. The administration is ignoring this evidence by citing academic stress."
In the meantime, the APPSC, a student body on the IIT Bombay campus, has used the survey findings to criticize the administration through a series of tweets. "They have been aware of the survey results for more than a year. Despite this knowledge, they had the nerve to claim that there is no caste discrimination on campus. No measures were taken to assist the students. No mandate was issued for the SC/ST cell."
The findings of the survey conducted by the SC/ST cell at IIT Mumbai cannot be easily dismissed, as the cell falls under the jurisdiction of the administration. Furthermore, the "caste discrimination" narrative of anti-caste activists and students has been reinforced. It is hoped that the administration will consider the SC/ST cell survey's results in order to address the caste stigma attached to one of the country's premier institutes.
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