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Students body seeks IIT Bombay director’s resignation over Dalit student’s suicide

Mumbai: A student collective at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay on Wednesday demanded the resignation of the premier institute’s director against the backdrop of alleged suicide by a first-year Dalit student and allegations that he was facing caste discrimination.

The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) also sought that a report of the SC/ST Cell of the IIT Bombay, which it claimed talks about lack of institutional support for Dalit and tribal students in the campus, be made public.

The student, Darshan Solanki (18), died allegedly after jumping off the seventh floor of a hostel building on the Powai campus of the premier institute on Sunday. Solanki, who hailed from Ahmedabad, was a first-year student of BTech (Chemical).

The IIT Bombay on Tuesday rejected charges of caste bias in the institute and said initial inputs from the deceased’s friends suggested there was no discrimination.

In a statement, the APPSC, a student body within the campus, said, ”We demand resignation of the institute director (Prof Subhasis Chaudhuri) in the light of these new facts and hope the administration will start the much needed learning process, at least now. Data prepared by the SC/ST Cell points towards the lack of institutional support for SC/ST students at the IIT B”

The student body alleged the IIT-B administration has not appointed any SC/ST counsellors even after its complaints and said this shows blatant disregards towards the pupils.

”Despite all the detailed testimonies and data which is available with the institute, the director kept reiterating that ‘there is no discrimination’ on the campus. We demand his resignation,” the statement said.

The APPSC said past reports of the SC/ST Cell as well as others be made public.

”We want the administration to stop hiding the reports of the surveys conducted by the SC/ST Cell as well as others, and release them for public discussion as soon as possible. The structural issues at the IIT B faced by the students have been pointed out time and again to the administration in the last several years. Even the surveys conducted by the SC/ST Cell, and an open house on caste conducted last year detailed the kind of everyday discrimination that our students face on campus,” the statement said.

However, the institute on Tuesday said it takes utmost precautions to make the campus as inclusive as possible and it has a zero tolerance for any discrimination by faculty.

Caste identity is never disclosed to anyone (whether students or faculty) once the admission is done and the institute sensitises students to not seek proxy information such as ranks in entrance exams, it said in a statement.

The institute gives strong warnings against discrimination right from the time students enter the IIT campus. While no steps can be 100 per cent effective, discrimination by students, if at all it occurs, is an exception, the statement said.

The IIT Bombay has an SC/ST Cell which students can approach in case they face any issues, including discrimination. There have been very few complaints to the cell, whether against faculty or other students, over the past many years, and only one case was found to have substance and strict action has been taken, it said in the statement.