The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has formed a panel to conduct a “parallel” probe into the death of a first-year B.Tech student amid allegations of caste bias and has urged its students to come forward if they have “relevant” information.
The panel is headed by Professor Nand Kishore and also has SC/ST Students Cell members, including faculty and students, a few student mentor coordinators and the in-charge chief medical officer of IIT Bombay hospital, said a statement by institute Director Subhasis Chaudhuri on Saturday.
Darshan Solanki (18), who belonged to a Scheduled Caste community, allegedly committed suicide by jumping off the seventh floor of a hostel building on the Powai campus of the IIT on February 12, but his family suspects foul play in his death and said he faced discrimination.
The Powai police are investigating the matter and have also visited Solanki’s home in Ahmedabad.
Highlighting that Prof. Nand Kishore was the chief vigilance officer of IIT Bombay till recently and is experienced “in these matters”, Chaudhari said that the committee is actively meeting everyone who might have relevant information.
“If you have any information that you believe may be relevant, please reach out to the committee by either meeting any of the committee members, or by emailing Prof. Nand Kishore or to the Powai Police,” Chaudhari appealed through the statement.
IIT Bombay and police are actively investigating the “environment, incidents, and reasons behind Darshan's tragic death”, it said. The police have interviewed a large number of people, and also taken Solanki’s phone and laptop for forensic analysis, Chaudhari said.
In the statement, Chaudhari said IIT B is working towards changes in their UG curriculum, starting with the batch of 2022, to make it “more relevant and motivating to students, and to reduce some of the stress”.
Calling some media reports about the student’s death “premature”, Chaudhari said that “as the matter is sub-judice so we cannot comment on the causes until either police report or our inquiry committee report is ready”.
According to Chaudhari, IIT Bombay has an SC/ST students cell, where students can reach in case of issues including discrimination.
“We are working actively to create an inclusive campus where all students feel at home,” Chaudhari said.
He said they give strong warnings against any discrimination during new students’ formal orientation and also sensitise all students to not seek proxy information such as ranks in entrance exams. “We have a very strict policy on discrimination by faculty,” Chaudhari said.
Solanki’s family on Wednesday had claimed that he faced discrimination at the IIT B for belonging to an SC community and maintained that there was a strong possibility that he was “murdered”.
According to a police official, his parents had visited Mumbai to collect their son's body. In their initial statements, they had not raised any objection to the probe or expressed doubt over the cause of their son’s death, said the official had said earlier.
Gujarat Congress MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has demanded a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into Solanki’s death.
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