The three-page letter calls for open and transparent discussion on 'structural issues'.
Three student groups from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, where an 18-year-old Dalit student died allegedly by suicide, have demanded the immediate resignation of the institute's 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".
They have written a public letter making several additional demands, including that a case be registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, and the anti-ragging law, "in the light of recent testimonials from the student Darshan Solanki's family and Uday Singh Meena (a senior who Darshan apparently confided in about facing discrimination)".
Darshan Solanki had spoken to his sister and aunt about being ostracised by his friends because of his caste, the family told NDTV. However, IIT Bombay has refuted charges that Darshan Solanki faced systemic discrimination, and said his death is being probed.
The student groups -- APPSC IIT Bombay, ASC IIT Bombay, and Dastak IIT Bombay -- in a joint letter demanded that an internal independent investigation be carried out by the institution regarding the caste-discrimination allegations, and there must be at least 50% presence of SC/ST representation in the committee formed to investigate the case.
The committee must be headed by an SC/ST person and at least one external member experienced in handling such matters should be added to the committee so that there is 'an unbiased and impartial investigation as this pertains to the problems within the institute itself', it said.
They further called for the minutes of the meetings of the committee and the discussions should to be recorded and published.
The three-page letter calls for open and transparent discussion on 'structural issues', a dedicated SC/ST students cell, proper implementation of reservations, and sensitisation of faculty members for caste, gender, and mental health.
"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'," the educational institute had said in a statement Tuesday.
Police registered a case of accidental death after Darshan died, apparently after he jumped off the seventh floor of the hostel building, on Sunday. They haven't found a suicide note yet, but a student groups alleging that he was driven to suicide due to discrimination against Dalit students on the campus.
"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 letter stated.
Gujarat Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani, a popular Dalit youth leader, tweeted a video of Darshan's father, Ramesh Solanki, who said his son couldn't have died by suicide and must have been harassed, calling for a country-wide candle march from 6 to 7 pm on Sunday.
"If my son died by suicide because of caste-discrimination, or was murdered, it should be lawfully investigated," Mr Solanki said, adding that it was not a political event, but a social one.