Vikas Parashram Meshram
Referring to the recent incident of the alleged suicide of Darshan Solanki, a Dalit student in their first year of B.Tech at IIT Bombay, the 50th Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, said suicide incidents among marginalized students are on the rise, and research has proven it.
In February, there was the sad news of a Dalit student committing suicide at IIT Bombay. The family of this student has alleged that the student, named Darshan Solanki, was facing caste discrimination in the institution. Tired of this discrimination, Darshan gave up his life. IIT Bombay set up a committee on the issue, and while giving a clean chit to the institute’s management, the committee said that Darshan Solanki committed suicide out of embarrassment as he was constantly scoring low marks in the exams.
However, according to media reports, many scholars have questioned both the report and the composition of the committee. Apart from this, people associated with IITs or other prestigious institutions in the country are also speaking on this issue. Be it ex-directors of IIT Delhi or people associated with the management of these institutions. Everyone’s concern is related more to the reputation of these institutions, but in this case, Chief Justice Chandrachud touched on some important points. He said that he was deeply troubled that students from underprivileged sections were committing suicide in reputed institutes of the country. He said that the figures associated with these institutions cannot be understood as mere numbers but sometimes tell the story of centuries of struggle.
We may have given reservations to Dalits and Tribals in government jobs, educational institutions, parliament, and state assemblies, but we have to accept the fact that there is widespread discrimination against them in society. This discrimination is happening on a large scale in many fields, including educational institutions. This discrimination is so severe that many Dalit students studying in higher education institutions commit suicide.
In December 2021, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in Parliament that 122 students had committed suicide in various higher educational institutions in the country in the last 7 years. Students from Dalit, tribal, backward, and Muslim communities are among the suicide victims. Most of them were Dalits.
The students who committed suicide were from IITs, IIMs, and medical colleges. Out of these 122 students, 3 were Tribal, 24 were Dalits, and 3 were minorities. 34 of the students who committed suicide were studying at IITs or IIMs. Thirty students were studying at different national technical institutes.
On January 17, 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. fellow at the Central University of Hyderabad, committed suicide. He had made many complaints against the administration. Payal Tadvi, a student at Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai, committed suicide in 2019. Tadvi had complained of constant discrimination and harassment by upper caste students at the college.
Vemula was a Dalit and Tadvi was Tribal. Given the storm that arose after the two suicides, it was expected that there would be some difference in the behavior towards Dalit students in higher education institutions. But from the statistics that have come out since then, the situation is the same as it was; in fact, it seems to have worsened. According to the report of the parliamentary committee, SC and ST students at AIIMS Delhi are consistently failing in their examinations. The reason for this is discrimination against them.
BJP MP Premjibhai Solanki, President of the SC-ST Committee, has also accepted this. He said in his report that they were discriminated against while applying for various posts. The Ministry of Education told the Lok Sabha that out of 45 central universities in the country, only one has an SC vice-chancellor. A total of 8668 candidates had applied for the post of an Assistant Professor out of which 5247 candidates were from the General category, 1045 from Scheduled Castes, 490 from Scheduled Tribes, and 1567 from the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. This situation of discrimination is not only limited to higher educational institutions but is present in almost all educational institutions.
While giving a speech in Canada in 1942, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, while discussing the problem of Dalits in India, mentioned two main points. The first thing he said was that the caste system was more dangerous than imperialism and peace and order would be established in India only after the caste system was abolished. Another thing was that if any class in India wants freedom, it is the Dalits.
This is the situation even today. The plight of Dalits came to the fore once again when 18-year-old Dalit student Darshan Solanki committed suicide on February 12. He was a student at IIT Bombay. He committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor of the hostel. This incident has raised a question mark on the status of Dalits across the country.
Darshan was a first-year BTech (chemical engineering) student at IIT Bombay. He had been admitted to this institute three months ago. He had gone home a few days before committing suicide. A month before committing suicide, he told his family that he was facing a hostile environment in college, especially after his classmates find out that he belonged to a Scheduled Caste. He was teased, saying he was getting free education. His mother said that he was facing many problems and was being harassed in various ways. If we want to solve this problem first, it is very important to understand it: only then can the suicides of marginalized students be stopped.
Vikas Parashram Meshram is a Social Worker in Zarpada village, Arjuni tehsil, Gondia district in Maharashtra. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
Image courtesy: artwork by Kuffir