IITB probe panel’s interim report

Mumbai: The tragic death of Darshan Solanki, a Dalit student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), was a case of suicide, with no ‘specific’ evidence of any ‘direct caste-based discrimination’, an investigative committee appointed by the institute has concluded in its interim report.

While the committee failed to find the actual trigger for Darshan to allegedly end his life, it opined that the Chemical Engineering student’s deteriorating academic performance in the second half of the Autumn semester could have affected him seriously.

The 12-member panel led by Prof. Nand Kishor from Chemical Engineering Department also ruled out the possibility of the incident being caused by substance abuse, accident or homicide.

According to police, the 18-year-old jfrom Ahmedabad jumped to his death from the seventh floor of his hostel building on campus on February 12. Following the incident, family members, student groups and activists have alleged that Darshan had faced casteism on campus, which may have contributed to him taking the extreme step.

Last week, the Maharashtra government constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by the city’s Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) to investigate the matter.

The committee, which submitted its interim report on March 2 spoke to 79 people, including Darshan’s friends, hostel inmates, family members, institute staff and teachers.

They enquired about Darshan’s academic performance and his relationships at IITB, while also probing whether there was any caste or drug angle to his death, and if there’s any possibility of the incident being an accident or a homicide. The committee is awaiting call details, forensic analysis of the phone/laptop, and post-mortem report from the police to prepare its final report.

The committee claims that except for Darshan’s sister, none of the people who deposed before them reported Darshan facing any kind of discrimination, including caste-based discrimination. The sister, however, told the committee members, that Darshan used to mention about caste-related issues faced by him and other students on the campus. While she reportedly couldn’t cite any particular instance of casteism, she said that some students would laugh at his queries related to computers and other subject matters.

One of Darshan’s friends belonging to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe community, submitted that Darshan was sensitive about his caste identity.

The committee found that Darshan had problems understanding the lectures and lacked interest in academics. One of the Teaching Assistants (TA) told the probe panel that he had asked for Hindi-help sessions in a Mathematics course. He would also skip classes and often expressed the desire to quit IITB and join elsewhere in his hometown, the interim report claims.

The panel found that, on campus, Darshan largely kept to himself, though he was comfortable with other students at hostel. “It appears to the committee that Darshan initially might have felt aloof probably due to various possible causes including JEE-rank differences, computer familiarity and language barrier. The exact cause of his aloof nature is not known to the committee,” read the interim report.

When FPJ sought a sought from Darshan’s maternal uncle Indravadan Parmar about the interim report, he refused to respond just then.

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