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‘Was tortured:’ Family of dead IIT Bombay boy alleges caste bias behind suicide

IIT Bombay has strongly refuted charges of discrimination and is conducting an internal probe into the death of first-year Gujarati student Darshan Solanki.

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New Delhi: Though IIT Bombay has strongly refuted charges of caste bias that could have been behind the alleged suicide of a Dalit first-year student, a report suggests that deceased Darshan Solanki told his family he was being ostracized because of his caste.

His sister Jhanvi Solanki told NDTV: “When he came last month, he told me, and mom-dad, that there’s caste discrimination happening there. His friends came to know that he belongs to a scheduled caste, so their behaviour towards him changed. They stopped talking to him, they stopped hanging out with him.”

The report quoted mother Tarlikaben Solanki as saying: “He was in distress, he was being tortured. That’s why he did this.”

The 18-year-old student jumped to his death Sunday from the seventh floor of a hostel in Bombay IIT’s Powai campus.

Solanki, who came from Ahmedabad, was studying a B.Tech course in Chemistry.

A day after the alleged suicide, the student group Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle called Solanki’s death an “institutional murder”.

This prompted a swift reply from the institute Tuesday, which said in a statement: “IIT Bombay strongly refutes claims in some news articles about the tragic death of a 1st year BTech student that imply that the cause was discrimination, and say it amounted to institutional murder… It is wrong to make such accusations when the police are still investigating the case. Based on initial inputs from friends, there is no indication that the student faced any such discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Darshan’s aunt Divyaben told NDTV, “One month ago when he came here, he was saying that many students don’t like that I am studying for free. People are jealous, they ask, ‘Why are you studying for free while we are spending a lot of money’. ‘Many students are jealous of me,’ he told me. He stopped speaking to some friends too.”

Father Rameshbhai had reportedly spoken to Darshan hours before he allegedly died by suicide.

He told the channel: “Two hours before his suicide, we got a call from IIT. He was speaking normally, asking, ‘How are you’. He called to wish my elder brother’s daughter a happy birthday. He said he will go out today. I sent some money to his account. He said, ‘I have money, I don’t need money’. He wasn’t spending much, but I still sent some money. I had no idea that something like this could happen.”

The IIT Bombay has said it was running a time-bound internal investigation to look into Darshan’s death.

The police have registered a case of accidental death and are “probing the case from all angles”.

“A group of students has tweeted mentioning he (Solanki) was driven to take the extreme step due to discrimination against scheduled caste students on the campus. We will investigate the case from all possible angles,” officers said Tuesday.

Also read: Union minister Athawale seeks thorough probe into death of IIT Bombay student and caste bias charge


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