Darshan Solanki’s roommate, a General Category student, had reduced talking to him after they found out about each other’s caste ranks, following which Darshan Solanki had asked about the procedure to change his hostel room allocation, a senior of the Chemical Engineering student told the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay’s internal inquiry panel looking into the circumstances of the alleged suicide.
According to the signed statement of the senior submitted to the 12-member panel, the senior said he was submitting the statement based on a conversation with Darshan Solanki. The senior student said that he met Solanki twice in November, and during the second meeting, he spoke about being alienated by his roommate.
The statement said, “He told me that my roommate had reduced talking to me after knowing each other’s rank and he also said that my roommate belongs to the General Category and also does not discuss study.”
The senior had explained to him that there was no procedure to change hostel rooms and asked him to look to make other friends. He said in the statement that “I suppose that he felt both loneliness and pressure of studies then he took step suicide.”
On February 17 the senior gave an oral statement before the committee and sent a signed written statement to the committee on February 19. In the interim, a member of the Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribe (ST) Cell had also reached out to the senior student over a phone call on February 18, according to a media report.
However, the committee stated in its interim report, which was submitted to authorities on March 2, that “A senior SC/ST student, whose audio call recording was submitted to the committee by one of the student collectives, denied any specific instance of caste-based discrimination faced by DS during direct deposition to the committee.”
When asked about why this part of the senior’s statement was not included in the interim report, the SC/ST Students Cell said, “The committee did receive audio recording through a student collective and heard the audio recording, but the committee recorded into the interim report exactly what was told to the committee during direct depositions to the committee.”
In its interim report, the committee concluded that there was “no specific evidence” of direct caste-based discrimination against Solanki, and said “a very strong reason” could be his deteriorating academic performance.
The internal panel also recorded the statement of Solanki’s roommate, who claimed before the committee that he had tried encouraging Solanki to show more interest in his studies, contradicting what he had told his senior.
According to an internal survey conducted by the SC/ST Students Cell of IIT-Bombay, over 37% of SC/ST students had reported that they had been asked about their entrance examination ranks with the intention of knowing their identity. This survey, along with another conducted by the institute in collaboration with the Student Wellness Centre, showed the extent of caste-based discrimination that Dalit and Adivasi students face on campus, as per media reports.
In the case of Solanki, the SC/ST Students Cell were part of the team that held the surveys highlighting discrimination, and they were also part of the internal inquiry committee that ruled out “direct caste-based discrimination”.
Earlier, An inquiry committee, which was set up by the IIT Bombay administration, to investigate the Darshan Solanki suicide case has ruled out caste discrimination as the reason for the suicide.
The findings of the internal panel believe that “deteriorating academic performance” is a possible cause behind his extreme step. Solanki, a first-year Chemical engineering student from Ahmedabad, allegedly died by suicide on February 12. Earlier, Solanki’s family had alleged that caste-based discrimination on campus drove him to take this step.
The committee in its reports has also stated that Solanki’s sister had claimed that there was caste discrimination going on and her brother also faced such discrimination.
So, apart from Solanki’s sister, there was evidence to suggest that Darshan took the extreme decision because of caste discrimination in the college. Earlier, the committee cites that caste discrimination was the cause of suicide while the members of the panel believed that Solanki’s academic performance could have been the reason.