Joint Statement from APPSC & ASC against refusal of Mumbai Police and SIT to file FIR in the case of death of Darshan Solanki
Parents of Darshan Solanki accompanied by other relatives, activists of Vanchit Bahujan Agaadi, social activists and students of IIT Bombay approached the Powai Police Station at Ram Baug to file a First Information Report (FIR) on the death of Darshan Solanki, an 18-year-old student of BTech in IIT Bombay who allegedly committed suicide on February 12th. Subsequent statements of his family members and others point out to alienation faced by the young student in the campus and incidents of caste discrimination which allegedly led him to take his life. Despite this, till now the Powai Police station has not filed an FIR.
The parents wanted to lodge the FIR today and came all the way from Ahmedabad to do so. Despite the request of the parents and accompanying lawyers, the Powai Police station refused to file an FIR. Later the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) came to meet the parents. To our disappointment, the DCP too refused to file the FIR stating that since the case is under investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the state government, it is the SIT which must direct the local police station to file the FIR. Despite arguments by the lawyers saying that there is a Supreme Court ruling stating that police stations can file FIR regardless of SIT, the DCP refused the same and disagreed even to give acknowledgement receipt of the complaint. All this time, political and social activists accompanied by IIT Bombay students stood outside the police station from 12 PM to 4 PM offering support to Darshan’s family to seek justice.
In the evening, Darshan’s family and lawyer accompanied by students approached the SIT at their Marol office. The SIT members allowed only parents to enter the office and initially denied entry to the lawyer. The SIT also refused to accept the complaint to file the FIR. Even after a lot of persistence from the lawyer, they did not acknowledge the complaint.
Till now, the SIT has based their investigation on the ADR filed by the police. The refusal of the SIT to base their investigation on FIR is a failure to recognize the rights of the family to register a complaint in respect of cognizable offence/crime as provided under law. We fear this angle of investigation will reiterate IIT Bombay’s Interim Report where they put blame on Darshan, ignoring possibility of atrocities that he might have endured. In addition, the SIT team is yet to provide the family a copy of the document defining Terms of Reference of the SIT constituted in the case, together with the clone copies of the devices seized, copies of the Postmortem Report, ADR, Inquest Panchanama/Spot Panchanama and all other documents in the case. We, the students of IIT Bombay, demand that the police immediately file the FIR being demanded by Darshan Solanki’s parents; as well as provide them with the rightful documents for their information.
The Most Unscientific Document from a ‘Scientific Institution’
Statement in Response to the Interim Report from Internal Committee
On the 4th of March, while addressing a protest gathering demanding justice for Darshan Solanki, Aniket Ambhore’s father talked about the whitewashing committee report presented in the case of institutional murder of Aniket Ambhore (A K Suresh Committee). He foretold what would be there in the ‘internal report’ on Darshan. He said, “Aap log committee ke bharose mat raho.
Committe ka report mein abhi batata hun kya aane wala hai,.. ye ladka weak tha,.. padhai me weak hai, usko pressure handle nahi hua, usne suicide kiya, IIT ke andar bilkul caste discrimination nahi hai, ye unka statement mai abhi batata hun (You shouldn’t trust the committee. I will tell what will come as report from the committee…This guy (i.e. Darshan) was weak, was weak in studies, he was not able to handle pressure, he committed suicide. There is no caste discrimination in IIT, they will give this statement, I am telling you now)”. The institute had released a report investigating the suicide of Aniket Ambhore nine years back. Finally, as the interim report by the internal committee was released, Aniket’s father’s statement came out to be true. The Interim report on Darshan’s death is a haunting reminder of denial of justice.
The “Interim report of investigation of the tragic incident of Darshan Solanki by committee” that was emailed to us on 6th March, can very well be renamed as “Signed confession of Institutional murder of Darshan Solanki by the Committee”. The internal committee is neither impartial (how can it be, there is no external member: all members are affiliated to IIT-B as staff or student); nor has it shown any marked competence in investigating this matter by appointing a member who is expert in caste. The nonchalance with which the committee has substituted Darshan’s name with “DS” speaks volumes of the shallow, superficial and flippant attitude in which they have prepared a hasty report. This report is a frivolous attempt to cover up the Institute’s shortcomings.
The amateur work of the committee is evident from the way the report blatantly links Darshan’s academic performance to his JEE score. How has this committee been impartial and caste-sensitive, when they take the same line of attack which Darshan’s discriminators used? Is the committee not aware that JEE scores form the basis for discrimination in IITs where the practice of asking for ranks is used to single out, humiliate and guilt the marginalized students into thinking that they are not deserving and competent? Has no one ever performed poorly in the history of IIT-Bombay? Has no one gotten an FR or FF grade in the history of IIT-Bombay? The committee presents his poor performance as his own doing, instead of probing into why he did not understand lectures. As Darshan’s family left Mumbai after their brief visit this week, his mother, teary eyed, said but one sentence “Darshan aatelo khush hato Mumbai aavi ne (Darshan was so happy when he came to Mumbai)”. The interim report cements their narrative of Darshan’s disinterestedness in studies and his poor performance by claiming that Darshan wished to leave IIT-Bombay and join a college in his hometown. Isn’t it the committee’s job to investigate why a person would feel alienated on campus? The committee remains hostile to Darshan, not unsimilar to how this campus might have appeared to Darshan.
The report is quite contradictory in critical places which automatically shows a direct bias during investigation trying hard to avoid caste-based discrimination to come up in the conclusion. In Section 3, first the report says there were multiple interviews/depositions taken but NONE mentioned caste-based discrimination. Only in the next paragraph it mentions Darshan’s sister was the only one who mentioned the discrimination. Why were this narrative chosen? In Darshan’s sister’s testimony as well, wild contradictions show up as the committee first reports NO instances were given, yet, immediately in the next line it says Darshan’s sister had given instances of him being laughed at. On what basis did the committee decide those instances reported are invalid? Contradictions in section 1 in statements like “Darshan did not show much interest in studies”, yet the later paragraphs show testimonies from MA109 and HS109 TA informing he was interested in the course. On what basis does the committee still make such an outright statement that he was not interested in studies?
The audacity to say that an 18-year-old boy “sensitive about his caste identity” is concerning. The committee does not inquire about it. What caused Darshan to be concerned, worried, and embarrassed of his caste identity? We want to ask, what does the committee understand by caste discrimination? The committee, mostly because of its non-expertise on caste, seems oblivious to the fact that everyone has a caste identity to live. Experiencing caste-based discrimination also stems from the stigma of one’s caste identity when loosely thrown around. This committee does not attempt to investigate how that might have affected Darshan, and simply blames him for being caste sensitive! Despite knowing the instances of caste remarks and discussions on his caste from the testimonials to the committee, the Interim report sidelined the matter and, like everything else, put the blame on the Darshan. The Interim report disregards Darshan’s sister’s testimony, citing that she cannot recall any “specific instances” of discrimination faced by Darshan. Is not mocking Darshan’s knowledge of computers a specific instance?
The Interim report goes one step further to put the entire burden on Darshan claiming that he did not approach SC/ST Students Cell, Students Wellness Centre in the context of caste-based discrimination. It is common knowledge that these support systems exist for namesake on this campus, that the ST/SC cell do not have a legitimized mandate yet; and that the SWC head counselor was infamous for being casteist. This is telling of the lack of mental health support for marginalized students on the campus; and of the apathy and lethargy with which the administration functions whenever any issue of mental health and support system for marginalized students is raised.
The interim report sent to us on 6th March 2023 is strongly rejected by APPSC. We reject the report based on the following reasons:
- The report contains no clear terms of reference (at least not in the public domain). They have never mentioned what the terms of reference are and what methodology they used to gather and analyze the testimonies. Nor have they specified the questionnaire and the analytical tools they used to gauge the validity and reliability of the statements given. They did not record the depositions by the students. The methodology is hence questionable.
- The internal committee did not have any external members. Nemo judex in causa sua, a dictum that translates to “no one should be a judge in his/her own cause”, is widely considered a prerequisite to a reliable, trustworthy judicial system. Only institute representatives cannot be a jury in such cases, as it may be biased. We have persistently questioned the legitimacy of this committee as it goes against the first principle of natural justice.
- The percentage of SC/ST representatives in the committee are a minority which gives another chance of biasness.
- No scope for dissenting judgment. The students who were part of the committee were not made aware of their legal right to dissent. The administration has been using those student members to get undue legitimacy.
- No expert on the subject matter. No committee members are from social science background, and no information on consultation with a psychologist with experience handling suicides or sociologist with expertise on caste discrimination is mentioned in the report.
- The statement by Darshan’s family clearly states that he was facing harassment from the wing mates and batchmates due to his caste location. The committee went on to disregard their testimonies, even the sister’s statement, which should have been more than enough to prove caste harassment and discrimination.
- The committee failed to consider that testimonies of potential culprits or accomplices should not be used as evidence for lack of caste discrimination. It goes on to prove that the burden of proof always lies with the victim, in this case Darshan and his family. They also ignored the possibility of implicit discrimination and effects of structures.
Statement on the Director’s Apathy and Disdain Against the Collective Demands of the Student Community of IIT Bombay for Ensuring Justice for Darshan
On 17-02-23, around 3 PM, concerned students from campus, including members representing different student groups, peacefully gathered in front of the main building to submit their grievances and demands to the Director. However, the students were welcomed with hostility with an unusual deployment of security in every nook and corner of the building.
People claiming to be security personnel started video graphing students without their permission. When a fellow student later took a video of the gathered students on the premises, the Chief Security Officer took it as an opportunity to create a ruckus and started shouting at the gathered students, claiming it was the students who were creating ‘disturbance.’ To disperse the students, he went on making incongruous statements, saying the space does not belong to students as it is a protected area by virtue of the space belonging to a central government institute.
When the students insisted that they were there to submit their demands to the Director, the CSO, along with deployed personnel for security, stopped the students saying the Director was in a meeting. When the students said they could wait until the meeting was over, the CSO started intimidating the students with his verbal and physical conduct. When the students said they are determined to meet the Director to submit their demands in person, even if the Director’s meeting went on for a while, the CSO threatened that he knows how to ‘behave’ to a crowd with the power vested with him. The CSO failed to act with restraint and respect and showed he can use his authority to torment the students.
Submitting our concerns to the Director in a peaceful manner is an extremely basic democratic right of ours. The institute is afraid of even having that much. We condemn this apathetic approach by the administration, even in a dire situation like this, where a student took his life on the institute’s premises. Instead of listening to the students’ concerns, the institute is hiding its head in the sand.
Later in the day the director sent mail giving some ‘updates’ on the ‘untimely death of Mr. Darshan Solanki’. There was no update in the email about the open house that was promised at the condolence meeting earlier. The mail finally informed officially about the investigation committee constituted by the institute, which has started working already. The mail also has provided an email id to provide information to the committee. The mail is however silent on our demand that an external expert member should also be included in the Committee to ensure a fair investigation. It also did not communicate whether the committee had proper representation of SC ST members.
We reiterate our demand for the open house being conducted as early as possible, as was promised at the condolence meeting. The academic activities need to be suspended on the day of the open house so that maximum participation is ensured, and the students feel encouraged to express their concerns without any fear. The campus needs an open dialogue about the concerns faced by the students and the administration needs to acknowledge this. If the death of one of our fellow students is not enough to make the administration realize that there is something seriously wrong in its approach, then we don’t know what else would be.
We also reiterate our demand that the investigation committee should include an external member to ensure fairness, and it needs to be more transparent.
We fully support the call for a nationwide candle march on 19th February given by Darshan’s family to ensure justice is made in this case. We appeal to the student community everywhere in the country to participate in this call by conducting candle marches on their respective campuses.
Let us all have an open dialogue about discrimination on campuses. Let us all make our campuses more inclusive and democratic. Let us be united to ensure justice for Darshan.
Collective Demands on Behalf of the Student Community of IIT Bombay for Ensuring Justice for Darshan Solanki
The IIT Bombay administration must file the FIR to Powai Police Station to investigate the case under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and Anti-Ragging Law in the light of recent testimonials from Darshan’s family and Uday Singh Meena.
An internal independent investigation to be carried out by the Institution regarding the same and there must be at least 50% presence of SC/ST representation be ensured in the Committee formed to investigate. The Committee must be headed by an SC/ST person and at least one external member experienced in handling such matters be added to the Committee so that there is an unbiased and impartial investigation as this pertains to the problems within the Institute itself. The minutes of the meetings of the committee and the discussions should be recorded and published. Make a Public Announcement informing the Student Community about the Internal Committee which has been formed by the institute to enquire into Darshan’s case. Transparency being the highest priority, the names and the terms of references of the committee need to be made public and there should be a public call for whoever wants to testify before the committee.
The Open House meeting to talk about the structural issues promised at the Condolence meeting should be conducted within the next few days. The intimation for the meeting should be sent to all students through Student Notices. The course instruction must be suspended for all departments during the time of Open House to ensure maximum students’ participation.
Approve the SC/ST Students Cell Mandate immediately and set it up in line with all the provisions of UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations 2012. It effectively also means taking serious actions towards implementing reservation policy and filling the reserved seats both for students and faculties. Establish SC/ST mentorship program mandatory on par with ISMP so that all SC/ST freshers get proper mentorship support from their respective seniors.
The discriminatory practices with respect to caste must be listed out. Every hostel and academic space must have a bulletin list of inappropriate casteist practices (like casual casteist remarks, anti-reservation comments etc.) and every violation of that must be punished.
The results of surveys conducted by Insight, SC/ST Students Cell and SWC on caste discrimination and its impact on students over past few semesters must be made public and all the discrimination instances that are reported in these surveys must be taken suo moto cognizance by SC/ST Students Cell as a caste discrimination complaint/atrocity and the justice must be ensured to those students who have gone through them.
Strengthen the Student Wellness Centre with more SC/ST Counselors with proper training and sensitization on mental health issues arising out of social structures like caste, gender, etc. The current Head-Counselor must be replaced.
The academic program planning must be taken into consideration to reform and reduce burden and to provide extra relaxations for students who are suffering from mental health issues.
The medical insurance policy document that was in draft since August 2022, must include mental health facilities. Therapy and counseling sessions that the students need from therapists outside the campus must also be compensated from the Insurance.
Ensure proper implementation of reservation in admissions and faculty recruitment. Fill all vacant reserved seats in mission mode. Create transparency in the admission process. Admission and Recruitment data should be visible on the department websites.
All departments should ensure safe space for marginalized community students. All the faculty in the campus should be sensitized for caste, gender, and mental health through courses like Faculty 101.
Make A K Suresh Committee Report on Aniket Ambhore, a public document available on the Institute website and implement the recommendations suggested immediately.
We reiterate that the IIT Bombay has failed to act on most of the demands that we as a student group have been asking for past years in this regard, especially our demand for SC/ST counselors and the approval of SC/ST Students Cell Mandate. The presence of an inadequate cell without the provisions of UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations 2012 was brought to the notice of the director repeatedly in recent semesters.
The lethargic attitude shown by the administration is evident and finally resulted in a grave incident ONCE AGAIN from which none of us can come back.
In this light, we DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE RESIGNATION OF THE DIRECTOR for failing to provide a safe space for the students of the IIT Bombay, and for this degree of inactiveness, apathy, and lethargy for students’ well-being on campus.
APPSC IIT Bombay
ASC IIT Bombay
Dastak IIT Bombay
Institute Whitewash Committee?
Statement about Institute Committee to investigate the institutional murder of Darshan Solanki
We came to know yesterday that a committee has allegedly been constituted by the IIT Bombay administration but no official communication about it has yet been received by the campus community. We had demanded an independent committee which had external experts who understand caste discrimination. But we came to understand that there is no external member.
We demand that the names and the terms of reference of the committee should be made public. It should at least be communicated with the campus community that such a committee has been constituted and has started its work. There should also be an open call for whoever wants to testify before the committee. It is relevant because the family has raised questions about the hostile environment of the Institute for SC/ST students. How else can somebody who has some information which could be useful for the enquiry submit it to the committee? Lack of will to add external members and lack of openness in its functioning points to the fact that the IIT administration is trying to hide the truth about caste discrimination from being public. We suspect that the committee is formed to give a clean chit to the institute as they did earlier in the Aniket Ambhore case. The committee may put blame on students instead of self-introspection and solving caste hostility on campus.
We reiterate our demand for the resignation of the director as there is no hope for a fair investigation under this administration. The silence of SC ST Cell Convenor over the statement by the Director destroys any trust that SC/ST students had when they were hoping for a safe and approachable space within the campus. Now the students who are facing discrimination on a day-to-day basis lack all institutional support to reach out and tell their grievances. The Cell should stop acting as a puppet of the administration and remember its commitments to students.
We also demand that the caste discrimination survey conducted in February 2022 and the mental health survey conducted on June 2022 by SC ST Cell should be released and action should be taken on the testimonies of harassment that were received.
Dear Administration, Start Learning, At Least Now…
Statement on parents’ interview and blatant denial of caste by administration
A recent report published by the NDTV, after interviewing Darshan’s family, indicates that Darshan had spoken with his family about the caste discrimination he had to face on the campus. Earlier, a senior student, with whom Darshan had been interacting, had also spoken about such discrimination with Darshan.
What’s most distressing in this whole episode, is the consistent attempts by the administration, including the Director, to outrightly deny that there is any caste discrimination on campus.
The students and organizations who are attempting to give a way for surfacing a much-needed discussion about discrimination on campus, are being accused of harming the “prestige” of this “premier” institute. This is nothing better than killing the messenger, who is trying show you the cracks lying under your own structure.
The systematic denial of even the right to express what they are going through, for the discriminated, by using various institutional mechanisms and tactics, in the name of the “prestige” of the institute, is the most cruel form of ignorance and exclusion. This systematic denial of the problem, by this institute and many others in the country, is what keeps these problems going.
It is not just apathy, but a monumental failure on the part of such administrations of higher education institutions, to have a clear understanding of their own functioning. It’s their “lack of competence” and “lack of merit”, to put it in their own language, to run institutes with such diverse populations. These administrations clearly have much to learn. But before that, they need to come out of their blissful ignorance and acknowledge the inadequacies in their knowledge system.
The structural issues faced by students have been pointed to the administration by us repeatedly for the last several years. Even the surveys conducted by the SC/ST cell in IIT Bombay, and an open house on caste conducted last year detailed the kind of everyday discrimination that our students face on campus.
Despite all the data pointing to lack of institutional support for SC/ST students, the institute did not care to act on them to create any suitable support mechanisms. The unwillingness to appoint SC/ST counsellors even after our complaints shows the blatant disregards towards students. Discarding all these detailed testimonies and data which are available with the institute, the Director kept reiterating either blindly or shamelessly, that “there is no discrimination” in the campus. We want the administration to stop hiding the 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.
We demand the resignation of the Director of the institute in the light of these new facts and hope that the administration will start the much-needed learning process, at least now.
What We Need is an “Institute of Empathy”
Statement on Condolence Meeting organized on 13th February 2023.
A BTech first year student, named Darshan Solanki, one of us from IIT Bombay, committed suicide on Sunday night, 12th Feb 2023. Ever since then the administration and the director have been insensitive, disengaged, distant and dismissive about the case. This news broke among students at 6:39 PM through an email sent by the director of IIT Bombay. The email subject was “tragic loss of a life in our campus today”. The IIT Bombay director did not care to mention the name of our fellow student Darshan who lost his life. On the same night, the student community organized a candle march from hostel 12 cone area to hostel 16 at 10 PM to give homage to the lost soul. Then, another email was received by students with the subject line “condolence meeting for Darshan Solanki”. We want to ask the admin, why did they hide the name of the student in the first mail? A person’s identity is everything when a student belongs to a Dalit community. In addition, it has often been observed that higher education institutions like IITs always try to hide a person’s identity so they can hide the truth in cases like this. This is ironic, because Darshan had been reminded repeatedly of his caste during his three months on campus— he tried to struggle against it but couldn’t bear it.
As the condolence meeting organized by admin turned out to be merely a symbolic gesture implicating nothing but a hollow show-off, death is again normalized by the ‘premier’ institute. The director spoke his two words and resorted to petty gestures of taking the mic away to prevent students from speaking. He walked out of the condolence meeting as students were coming up to speak for Darshan. The institutional silence through murder was accentuated when the director shut students up in a meeting called for the students to grieve. According to him, there is a place and time for students to grieve and raise their issues, and then the director would send a mail to the students to intimate them when that would be.
What was more outrageous was that classes were not suspended while the condolence meeting was going on. When students asked the director to apologize for the insensitivity of letting classes continue, he just walked out on them.
In the statement by Darshan’s senior Udaysingh Meena, then a final year student of chemical engineering, it has come to our knowledge that Darshan was facing caste discrimination and exam depression. Darshan confided to Uday that his roommate, mentors, and wing-mates were from general category and reduced talking to him after coming to know about his rank which is a marker for his category. The combined issue of academic pressure and caste discrimination, along with a lack of mental health and academic support might have pushed him to take such an extreme step.
“My Birth is my fatal accident”.Rohith Vemula
Rohith Vemula wrote the line mentioned above, a victim of institutional murder ended his life fighting against caste discriminatory practices. Similarly, Darshan Solanki was also fighting against social evil like caste discrimination within the boundaries of IIT Bombay, rampant in higher educational institutions in India and elsewhere. It is indeed that we don’t need this Institute of Eminence (IoE) like IITs; what we need is an “Institute of Empathy” (which indeed calls for transformations at many levels).
How Many More Darshans and Anikets Need to Die?
Statement on the Institutional Murder of Darshan Solanki
Statement on the Institutional Murder of Darshan Solanki
We mourn yet another student suicide on this campus. Darshan Solanki, an 18-year-old Dalit student jumped off from his hostel building on Sunday, February 12. A life of dreams and ambitions came to an abrupt end.
The family and community of the young man would forever wonder what went wrong with their bright child and a premier institute. There will be explanations of how he could not survive the competition, that the academic pressure is ruthless, and the IIT-dream is only for the strong-willed. We do not know what pushed him to this end: caste discrimination or unendurable stress. What we know for sure is this is an institutional issue. Let us stop looking at student suicides across campuses as isolated incidents.
For those who come from non-urban, non-English-speaking backgrounds, oppressed castes, and low-income families, what does these institutes offer in terms of assurance, support, and care? The resources here seem to have different priorities altogether. How often does this institute concern itself with the social and mental well-being of its students?
It is no hidden fact that students from the SC/ST community face immense harassment and discrimination on the campus from students, faculties, and employees. These institutional and casual ways of casteism cause mental and psychological stress on students, but IITs lack any mechanisms to help them.
We have been raising the issue of the lack of mental health support for our students, especially for those coming from marginalized social backgrounds, with the IIT administration as well as other forums like the National Commission for SC/STs. In our earlier complaints regarding this issue, we had pointed out that the counselors in IIT Bombay are not sensitized to understand the social realities of caste that affect students from SC/ST/OBC communities, rendering them inadequate to offer support or, at times, aggravating students’ troubles. Also, there is no SC/ST counselor in the Student Wellness Centre (SWC). Despite these efforts from our side, the institute has only been choosing to either ignore the issue or downplay it. In the light of this tragic incident, we demand that the working of the SWC in the institute should be thoroughly reviewed again, the institute should immediately address the issue of inclusivity in the SWC, and the center should be made better accessible to the students coming from all backgrounds.
In September 2014, Aniket Ambhore, a 22-year-old fourth year B.Tech student of IIT Bombay, died after falling from a hostel building on the campus at IIT Bombay. Aniket had taken admission in IIT Bombay from the SC category quota and had faced derogatory comments in the institute about his academic ability. It looked like a case of suicide, but one which had resulted out of an ‘atmosphere of discrimination’ on the IIT Bombay campus which severely affects the mental state and motivation of the reserved category students. Despite being neck deep in grief, his parents prepared testimony of the problems they faced when seeking guidance and support from IIT Bombay for Aniket. In it they wrote about the insensitive attitude of faculty members relating to Aniket’s identity as a ‘category student’ and the general atmosphere in IIT Bombay campus where reservations are equated with lack of merit.
The committee (A K Suresh Committee) constituted to investigate the case of Aniket, accepted that Aniket was made to feel guilty about being admitted to the institute through reservations. It also made a series of recommendations relating to setting up of a Diversity cell, campus sensitization about caste-based discrimination, setting up support systems, counseling, and more representation in the mentorship program for SC/ST students, encouraging more students from the SC/ST communities to pursue academics to improve the representation of these communities in the pool of the faculty members, etc. Even after so many years, the report of this officially constituted committee was never made public and many of its recommendations have never been considered. While we have our reservations about the report of this committee, we demand that it should be put in the public domain and should be made open for more deliberations.
After sustained efforts by the student groups on the campus including us, the SC/ST cell was finally established in the institute in 2017, but it started doing student outreach events only last year. It still took months of effort to get basic facilities like an office space for the cell, mentorship training, sensitization talks etc. A detailed mandate, describing powers and responsibilities of the SC/ST cell, has been prepared with the efforts of many students and the functionaries of the cell. However, the institute has been extremely hesitant on implementing the mandate. Without a clear mandate, the cell still struggles to find its appropriate place in the functioning of the institute. We see no other reason but an intention of keeping the cell as a hollow show-piece structure, behind the delay in passing the mandate. We demand immediate action in this regard from the institute and the passing of the mandate.
We have also been raising the issue of severe lack of representation of SC/ST faculty members in IIT Bombay. Without having a more inclusive faculty pool, the students from the marginalized communities will continue to feel alienated in institutions like these. We submit that the blatant violation of reservation norms in faculty recruitment, delay in implementation and functioning of SC/ST cell, the lack of proper mental health and academic support are some of the major structural factors that cause such incidents to happen.
We must understand that suicide of a student, a Dalit student in this case, is not a personal/individualized end, but something that is intimately related to the institutional structures that make some of us feel alienated, that fail to accommodate some, hence we call it an institutional murder.
We owe a collective responsibility towards the family of the deceased. We’re answerable to the many who aspire to be in this great institute with a dream to uplift themselves and their people. As a society, as an institution, what do we enable and celebrate, and therefore, what do we sideline and marginalize? How many more Darshans and Anikets need to die?
On the night of 12th February, only after pressure from the student community, did the director call for a condolence meeting for Darshan Solanki. The email from the director, informing us about the incident, did not even name Darshan, the apathy of the institute even in the light of this grave incident is lost. We demand that the institute thoroughly investigate Darshan’s death and produce a public report.
We stand in solidarity with the family of Darshan.
Students are Not Prisoners!
APPSC Statement against Surveillance and Privacy violations by IIT Bombay Administration
APPSC Statement against Surveillance and Privacy violations by IIT Bombay Administration
APPSC IIT Bombay raises concerns regarding the violation of students’ privacy and growing surveillance with the institute’s introduction of the following two surveillance mechanisms.
Introduction of CCTV in the hostel corridors. Linking institute Identity-card (I-card) to mess facility (Mess-I system)
The introduction of these two mechanisms without the consent of students is very problematic as they violate the fundamental privacy rights of the students and are intended for surveillance. Such surveillance measures on students in an utterly undemocratic fashion need to be resisted at all costs.
The institute needs to understand the meaning of Privacy and surveillance. Humans are social yet private beings. Privacy is a condition of being protected from ‘unwanted intrusion’ by the state, institution, or any other individual. This also means that private information should not be obtained without their consent. Individuals have the right to withhold specific information, so they have control over their private information. Thus, Privacy is a concept that encompasses freedom of thought, control over one’s body, control over personal data and they have the right to be free from surveillance.
Surveillance is a condition where an individual is under continuous observation. Surveillance affects/restricts an individual’s choices as someone continuously watches them. Under the state of being watched/ observed, an individual becomes aware of themself and tries to control their expression and ‘discipline’ themself. The Right to Privacy Verdict (Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) & Anr. vs Union of India & Ors. (2017)) where a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that “the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Indian Constitution”.
With the current system in place, violation of data privacy happens at multiple instances in the institute. When a new student enters the institute for admission, the institution demands biometric data for the I-card. This biometric information is linked with the I-card. Attendance is also linked with I-cards and biometric devices at various departments. The biometric information of individuals is now linked to various government schemes like Aadhar, bank accounts, etc. and such information has immense potential to be misused. There is no justification given to students for collecting their biometric data and it is demanded compulsorily violating all rules of consent.
During the Covid period, the institute started a new practice of scanning I-cards during entry and exit at the gate. Both data are saved on the central server. This practice was stopped for faculties after Covid, but this data is still being collected for students against their will.
Now the institute has also linked the I-card with the mess facility. So the data of when a student is eating is now saved electronically and is stored at the central server. This effectively means the institute is now tracking every movement of the student. Institute knows when a student ate breakfast, attended class, or whether they went outside.
Even though students must pay the entire mess bill irrespective of how many times they ate every day, the data is being collected mandatorily from all the students, irrespective of if they want to have food from the mess or not.
Eating habits are very personal and private information. There are students who do not wish to share this information with anyone. We are not against showing Identity as required but we are against linking and storing individual data by the institute. We want the institute to understand that taking and storing private information without the consent of students is a violation of our right to privacy.
CCTV cameras are installed already at the entrances of each hostel, and we have security personnel posted in each hostel 24/7. Despite having a robust security system, hostels have started to install CCTVs in the hostel corridors. This is again a huge move towards surveillance and intrusion into students’ privacy. Putting CCTV in the hostel corridors is like putting CCTV in the house’s drawing room. The collection, storage, and usage of this data without the consent of individuals and lack of transparency suggest its potential for misuse and for targeted surveillance of individuals. Despite CCTVs being offered up these days as magical solutions to problems of public safety, evidence from studies suggests that direct correlations between installation of cameras in public places and fall in crime rates have been difficult to establish. In fact, a meta-analysis of studies conducted in the UK and some parts of the US (published in the Justice Quarterly in 2009) concludes that “while surveillance cameras can be effective in specific contexts such as parking lots and public-transit systems” in many other public settings the effect on crime rates “weren’t statistically significant”. In any case, we may want to think hard about whether a gaze that considers every student as a potential criminal should be welcome in a university campus.
The overall cost-effectiveness of CCTV cameras must be questioned. We have evidenced during Students Against Fee Hike movement when administration has persistently used ‘lack of fund’ argument for legitimizing fee hike. It is not wrong to say that funds incurred in installation of CCTVs is at student’s welfare cost. It is an open question for us that we will prioritize in a fund-constrained institution. Students regularly complain and make requests to start/ renew journal subscription to provide adequate funds for their research. How justified is it to spend a large share of funds on running and maintaining a surveillance system with data storage, officers, and other infrastructure when research itself is being crippled because of the lack of funds?
Eminent social scientists like Bentham and Foucault have introduced and explained the concept of panopticons. It is a system of control that is used in prison. From the prison tower, all prisoners are ‘observed/watched’ without the inmates knowing whether a security guard is present or not. With just fear of being observed, inmates are expected to ‘behave properly.’ We are students and the institute should stop treating students as prisoners by installing CCTV in the corridors and linking the institute I-card with various tracking and surveillance systems.
The fascination of the institute for acquiring more data about the lives of the students electronically, without any regard for the concerns of privacy and individual liberty that arise out of such measures is paranoid if not fascist. The institute aims to exploit all the technological possibilities to monitor and regulate the behavior of the campus residents without ever being accountable for it. We condemn this totalitarian attitude of the institute.
We are concerned about constant surveillance and the violation of our Privacy rights by the institute, and we demand that the IIT Bombay administration withdraw these surveillance measures at the earliest and respect our fundamental rights. We appeal to the student community at large to remain vigilant and thoughtful about what is at stake for us by these measures.