Skip to main content

'Institutional murder': IIT-Bombay Dalit student victim of anti-reservationist bias

Counterview Desk 
Gujarat chapter of India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), drawing a parallel between the recent suicide of Darshan Solanki, a Dalit student of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and of Rohith Vermula in 2016, has called it as another “institutional murder” resulting from “crass caste discrimination” prevailing in India’s elite educational institutes.
Stating that Solanki, belonging to Ahmedabad, had come from a very humble background, NAPM said in a statement, he reached the ‘premier’ institute “overcoming caste and economic barriers at every level”. It regretted, what awaited him and other Dalit-Adivasi students there “is a highly hostile, casteist environment, expressed mainly through anti-reservationism that reeks of hatred and contempt for students coming in through reservation.”
It added, “The ‘mainstream’ of these institutes would be dominated by the ‘privileged’ students, leaving the Dalit-Adivasi students feeling excluded, humiliated, and scarred.”


We, the members of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, Gujarat, are distressed by yet another alleged suicide of a brilliant young Dalit Student of Mumbai IIT, Darshan Solanki from Ahmedabad. Darshan was a first-generation student, the son of Rameshbhai, a plumber and Tarlikaben, a domestic worker.
This ‘suicide’ cannot be seen in isolation from the significant number of such ‘suicides’ that have been happening in a number of premier academic institutions in the country. Rohit Vemula’s institutional murder was perhaps the only instance among many which exposed the casteist underbelly of the elite IITs, IIMs, NITs, Central Universities, and premier medical colleges. We cannot also ignore the circumstances in which Aniket Ambhore, another Dalit student in IIT Mumbai committed suicide in 2014, following which an inquiry committee (A.K. Suresh Committee) appointed to look into the suicide reached the conclusion that his death was due to the discriminative atmosphere prevailing on the campus. Despite this damning report, the institute still did not institute the mandatory SC-ST Students’ Cell on campus till 2022.
Dalit-Bahujan students like Darshan reach these ‘premier’ institutions overcoming caste and economic barriers at every level. Their parents come from humble backgrounds, many of whom migrate to cities to escape the crass caste discrimination, violence, and economic exploitation in the rural areas, only to find that caste hounds them in the cities too – in terms of the residential locations, access to education, health and livelihood opportunities. Their very spatial location in the city determines the kind of work they can aspire for; the kind of schools that their children can go to; the kind of basic amenities and civic services they can expect. Despite all this they struggle day in and day out to give their children an education inspired by the dream that our Constitution holds out to all citizens regardless of caste, creed, or gender. It is this dream of equality and faith in the Constitution that enables them to crack the JEE and similar entrance mechanisms and finally secure admission, despite not having that initial advantage of being educated in elite schools or having been trained in expensive coaching centres.
But what awaits them in these institutes is a highly hostile, casteist environment; expressed mainly through anti-reservationism that reeks of hatred and contempt for students coming in through reservation. It is important to realize that it is not just a cultural or language barrier; they face ridicule, insults, hatred, and exclusion all the time from ‘privileged’ students, and more seriously, from the faculty too. It is important to note that the privileged students form the majority (almost 50%) of the student strength in these institutes, while Dalit and Adivasi students and faculty would form only a maximum of 24-25%, and hence in a minority (even assuming that all the reserved seats are filled). The ‘mainstream’ of these institutes would be dominated by the ‘privileged’ students, leaving Dalit-Adivasi students feeling excluded, humiliated, and scarred. Although there are mechanisms like the SC-ST Students Cells formed in these institutes, they are powerless and mostly ill-equipped to detect and eradicate this uncivilized and criminal casteist mindset that is prevalent. Hence when these state of affairs lead to suicides it can be described as nothing short of institutional murder.
Although there are mechanisms like the SC-ST Students Cells formed in these institutes, they are powerless
It is quite likely that Darshan Solanki’s alleged ‘suicide’ is an institutional murder. The extenuating circumstances clearly points towards that possibility:
  • Darshan had once told his family members that he did face discriminatory behaviour on campus on account of being Dalit, but he did not want to dwell on it but wanted to focus on his studies. United Student Movement in its update mentions that “Darshan was facing caste discrimination on campus after his rank (an indicator of the category he was admitted under) became known to his classmates and ward residents. Not only did his peers stop speaking to him, a teacher also allegedly told him that he was 'unfit' for IIT Bombay.”
  • Despite not being from a privileged background, Darshan managed to secure admission to the IIT, and hence his academic capability and ability to work hard despite adversity is not in question. Work pressure in the IIT could not have broken him and forced him into suicide.
  • A senior student from the same IIT stated in an interview in a news channel that Darshan could well have committed suicide due to caste-based discrimination on campus.
  • According to a professor who met Darshan’s maternal uncle there was another student who was an eyewitness to Darshan jumping to his death. However, the parents and relatives were not allowed to meet and talk to this student.
  • The administration of Mumbai IIT was fast to deny any form of caste discrimination and institutional murder. Such premature, firm denial even before an investigation is a definite indication of the prevalence of such an environment on campus.
  • It was just 8 years ago that Dalit Student Aniket Ambhore committed suicide in Mumbai IIT. The inquiry committee that was appointed to look into it did find that caste discrimination was a significant factor that led to Aniket’s suicide. The lackadaisical attitude of the administration of Mumbai in instituting the SC-ST Students’ Cell even after that finding reveals the insensitivity of the administration.
  • A report in “The Wire” reveals the serious lapse (read active casteist mindset) of the administration with regard to paying attention to the mental health of students: “…Several student organisations functional on campus have been negotiating with the cell to focus on Bahujan students’ concerns – mental health being one of the most urgent ones. A senior professor, on the condition of anonymity, says the cell had in fact conducted a survey a few months ago. 'Over 20% of the SC-ST students had participated in this survey. The cell, we are told, has identified at least 15-20 students who are in dire need of help. The administration is aware of this. Yet, there has been no intervention on their part,' the professor said.”
  • The same report of “The Wire” also reveals the shocking anti-reservationist mindset of the Head Counselor of the Student Wellness Centre of IIT Mumbai, as found in a tweet of hers. It is anybody’s guess what the Student Wellness Centre headed by such a counsellor can do to counter the psychological harm done to Dalit-Bahujan students by the dominant casteist and anti-reservationist culture on campus.
  • It is pertinent to note here that the United Student Movement of the Mumbai IIT has long demanded for caste-sensitized counsellors, an empowered the SC-ST Students’ Cell withmthe power to take disciplinary action and recruitment to the long vacant faculty positions from the SC-ST-OBC categories.
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Gujarat, demands that the following steps be taken urgently and without fail:
  1. We urge the Bombay High Court to take suo motu cognizance of the unnatural death of Darshan Solanki and monitor the police investigation.
  2. The impact of anti-reservationist and casteist mindset of students and the faculty on Dalit-Bahujan students’ needs to be factored into this investigation. The criminal inaction following the AK Suresh inquiry committee report stating clearly that Aniket Ambhore’s suicide was due to the discriminatory atmosphere on campus, the ineffective SC-ST Students Cell, lack of any urgent mitigative action taken with respect to mental health issues of SC-ST students – all these are factors that could have led to mental trauma and other suicides of in 8-9 years. Only the High Court can expand the scope of this investigation to include these significant factors that deny the right to life with dignity of Dalit-Bahujan students.
  3. Darshan’s family should be given a substantial amount as interim relief to enable them to engage competent lawyers to pursue the case legally.
  4. The Director, Dean and any other top-ranking officials of IIT Mumbai should be suspended with immediate effect so that they are not in a position to influence the course of investigation.
  5. The police is in custody of Darshan’s mobile and laptop. The contents of these devices should be transparently recorded in the presence of the representatives/lawyers of Darshan’s family so that there is no destruction or tampering of crucial evidence.



Junk food push causing severe public health crisis of obesity, diabetes in India: Report

By Rajiv Shah  A new report , “The Junk Push: Rising Consumption of Ultra-processed foods in India- Policy, Politics and Reality”, public health experts, consumers groups, lawyers, youth and patient groups, has called upon the Government of India to check the soaring consumption of High Fat Sugar or Salt (HFSS) foods or ultra-processed foods (UPF), popularly called junk food.

Avoidable Narmada floods: Modi birthday fete caused long wait for release of dam waters

Counterview Desk  Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), has accused the Sardar Sarovar dam operators for once again acting in an "unaccountable" manner, bringing "avoidable floods in downstream Gujarat."  In a detailed analysis, SANDRP has said that the water level at the Golden Bridge in Bharuch approached the highest flood level on September 17, 2023, but these "could have been significantly lower and much less disastrous" both for the upstream and downstream areas of the dam, if the authorities had taken action earlier based on available actionable information.

From 'Naatu-Naatu' to 'Nipah-Nipah': Dancing to the tune of western pipers?

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  Some critics have commented that the ecstatic response of most Indians to the Oscar for the racy Indian song, “Naatu-Naatu” from the film, “RRR” reeks of sheer racism, insulting visuals and a colonial hangover. It was perhaps these ingredients that impressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one critic says.

Astonishing? Violating its own policy, Barclays 'refinanced' Adani Group's $8 billion bonds

By Rajiv Shah  A new report released by two global NGOs, BankTrack and the Toxic Bonds Network, has claimed to have come up with “a disquieting truth”: that Barclays, a financial heavyweight with a “controversial” track record, is deeply entrenched in a “disturbing” alliance with “the Indian conglomerate and coal miner Adani Group.”

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Asset managers hold '2.8 times more equity' in fossil fuel cos than in green investments

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi*  The world’s largest asset managers are far off track to meet the  2050 net zero commitments , a new study  released by InfluenceMap , a London-based think tank working on climate change and sustainability, says. Released on August 1, the Asset Managers and Climate Change 2023 report by FinanceMap, a work stream of InfluenceMap, finds that the world’s largest asset managers have not improved on their climate performance in the past two years.

Insider plot to kill Deendayal Upadhyay? What RSS pracharak Balraj Madhok said

By Shamsul Islam*  Balraj Madhok's died on May 2, 2016 ending an era of old guards of Hindutva politics. A senior RSS pracharak till his death was paid handsome tributes by the RSS leaders including PM Modi, himself a senior pracharak, for being a "stalwart leader of Jan Sangh. Balraj Madhok ji's ideological commitment was strong and clarity of thought immense. He was selflessly devoted to the nation and society. I had the good fortune of interacting with Balraj Madhok ji on many occasions". The RSS also issued a formal condolence message signed by the Supremo Mohan Bhagwat on behalf of all swayamsevaks, referring to his contribution of commitment to nation and society. He was a leading RSS pracharak on whom his organization relied for initiating prominent Hindutva projects. But today nobody in the RSS-BJP top hierarchy remembers/talks about Madhok as he was an insider chronicler of the immense degeneration which was spreading as an epidemic in the high echelons of th

Victim of 'hazardous' jobs, Delhi sanitary workers get two thirds of minimum wages

By Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) organized a Training of Trainers (ToT) Workshop for sewer workers and waste pickers from all across Delhi NCR. The workshop focused on bringing sanitation workers from different parts of Delhi to train them for organization building and to discuss their issues of minimum wage, contractual labour, regular jobs and social security.