Follow up: Police Recover Suicide Note In IIT Mumbai Student's Death, Challenging Internal Committee's Findings

Darshan Solanki
Darshan SolankiPic- Twitter

The suicide case of IIT Mumbai student Darshan Solanki took a twist as the police reportedly recovered a suicide note, purportedly written by the deceased student before jumping off the 7th floor of the building on February 12. Solanki was enrolled in the first-year Bachelor of Technology course with Chemical Engineering as his major.

The death triggered massive outrage and debates about the need to make campuses more inclusive.

Darshan Solanki with his family
Darshan Solanki with his familyPic- Twitter

The internal committee set up pinned the blame on poor academic performance. His family had alleged that he was subjected to caste-based discrimination on the campus. The IIT had set up a 12-member inquiry commission under Professor Nand Kishore, which ruled out caste-based discrimination for his suicide and said that the academic performance of the deceased student was poor, and that he faced a language barrier which caused depression.

Report drew backlash

The report drew great backlash from students, activists, and even academicians from the IIT Mumbai campus. Darshan's father, Ramesh Bhai Solanki, told The Mooknayak that they were not allowed to meet his friends separately, and they were not allowed to ask them any questions. He pointed out the flaws in the committee's formation and the lack of representation from external members. He compared the report's findings to those of another Dalit student's suicide in 2014 and alleged that the report followed the same old playbook.

Darshan Solanki
Internal Survey by SC/ST Cell Contradicts Internal Committee Report Findings at IIT Mumbai

Student collectives like Ambedkar Phule Periyar Study Circle IIT Mumbai had termed the committee formed to investigate the case a "Whitewash Committee" and alleged that the committee lacked external members.

Professor Sharmila from the Humanities and Social Science department of IIT-Bombay sent an email to all faculty members on March 6th, where she stated the committee's report was "deeply disappointing." She also drew parallels with the report of Aniket Ambhore, who died by suicide in 2014.

Internal Survey: A different perspective

A few days after the inquiry commission report, an internal survey conducted by the SC/ST cell of the IIT was leaked, which contradicted the inquiry commission report as it indicated widespread caste discrimination on the campus. One-third of the 388 SC/ST students did not feel comfortable openly discussing their caste identity on the campus.

The survey, in which about 388 students participated, made the following observations:

  • 131 students (33.8%) said they could talk about their caste only among “very close” friends.

  • 83 (21.6%) students responded affirmatively 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. 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 the Dalit students.

Special Investigation Team formed

The state government conceded to the demand for a Special Investigation Team in the matter and appointed Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Lakhmi Gautam as the head of the team, which also had Krishnakant Upadhyay and Assistant Commissioner of Police Jai Prakash Bhosale as part of the team.

Darshan Solanki
IIT-Bombay Suicide: Campus in Uproar over Committee Report

FIR demanded

Ramesh Solanki, the father of Darshan Solanki, met with top officials of Mumbai Police to lodge an FIR. However, the FIR could not be registered as the case is already under the purview of the SIT. Student organization Ambedkar Periyar also wrote a letter to the Deputy Chief Minister demanding an FIR in the case.

The recovery of the suicide note as reported in the media is likely to deflate the findings of the IIT Bombay committee, which ruled out caste discrimination as a factor in his suicide.

Darshan Solanki
MBBS Student's Suicide in Amritsar Adds to the Alarming Trend of Caste-Based Discrimination in Higher Education

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