A student from IIT Bombay who took their own life had raised concerns about caste discrimination on campus, according to the Students' body.

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On Tuesday, a student group claimed that Darshan Solanki, an IIT Bombay student who took his own life, informed a senior that he was facing caste discrimination at the school. However, the prestigious engineering institute denied the allegation that the victim was driven to suicide due to prejudice on campus.

The APPSC reported that Udaysingh Meena, a student who was finishing his degree in chemical engineering, informed them that Solanki was suffering from caste bias and exam-related depression. They requested that the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be put into action and that IIT should do an impartial inquiry with a panel that has a minimum of 50% SC/ST participation.

Darshan told Uday that his roommates, advisors, and team members were all from the general category, and stopped conversing with him once they learned of his ranking which is a signifier of his social class. The APPSC statement speculated that the combination of academic stress and caste prejudice, along with an absence of mental health and academic aid, might have been driving forces behind his extreme decision.

Solanki (18), a first-year student from Ahmedabad studying a BTech (Chemical) course at IIT’s Powai campus, reportedly passed away after plunging from the seventh floor of the hostel building on Sunday. The APPSC asserted that students were restrained from giving any remarks at the mourning session organised by the university’s administration on Monday.

IIT-Bombay denied accusations of caste prejudice in the institution, citing early feedback from peers that indicated no prejudice and encouraged students to wait until the police and internal investigations are completed. They strongly dismissed the assertions in some media reports about the recent passing of a first year BTech student, implying that the cause was discrimination and deeming it as “institutional murder”.

According to the reports provided by Solanki’s friends, there was no evidence of any prejudice against the student. The APPSC declared his death an institutional murder on Monday. The university stated that they take the necessary steps to make the school environment as inclusive as possible, and that they have no tolerance for any biased behavior by staff.

IIT Bombay has an SC/ST student cell that is available for students to contact in case of any issues, including discrimination, though there have been very few complaints over the years. The institute does not disclose caste identity to anyone after admission, and works to sensitise students against asking for proxy information such as ranks in entrance exams. Though no measures can be 100% effective, any discrimination by students is rare.

A police official said they will be looking into the case from all angles, as a group of students had tweeted about Solanki taking an extreme step because of prejudice against Scheduled Caste students on campus. He also stated that although they will be talking to the students, an accidental death report has been filed for the time being.

Mayank Tewari

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