Graveyards for Marginalised Students

Pranav Jeevan P

Anil Kumar is the latest name to be added to the list of Institutional Murders of students from marginalised communities this year by the premier IITs along with Darshan Solanki, Ayush Ashna and Mamita Naik. Both Anil and Ayush belong to the same batch and same department in IIT Delhi (Department of Mathematics), and both were staying in hostel due to degree extension. After the loss of Ayush barely 2 months ago, the institute neither reached out the students who were going through similar problems nor did they create any support systems to help them. This criminal neglect of marginalised students by the administration points to the structural discrimination that is embedded within these institutes.

RTI data collected by the APPSC (Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle) IIT Bombay clearly shows that there was no faculty in the mathematics department of IIT Delhi who belonged to SC/ST community. The same is true for department of chemical engineering of IIT Bombay which Darshan Solanki belonged to. RTI Data collected by APPSC also shows that reservation is violated in faculty composition of all IITs. In IIT Delhi, only 2% of faculty are SC, 1% ST, and 7% OBC. The remaining 90% positions are filled by savarnas. Same is the case for IIT Bombay where 94% are savarnas, with just 2% OBC, 3% SC, and 1% ST. With these institutions blatantly violating constitutional provisions and the government nor the courts are holding them accountable, how can one ensure safe, diverse, and inclusive spaces for students coming from these communities?

On July 10, 2023, the honourable President of India, Droupadi Murmu stated that students’ suicides are a matter of concern and educational institutions should make it their priority to protect and support students against stress, humiliation, or neglect in their campuses. On February 25, the honourable Chief Justice of India, D Y Chandrachud also lamented the lack of recognition of discrimination and harassment present in these institutions by the administration and pointed to their lack of empathy.

Most IITs demand post-doctoral (Post-Doc) research experience as a necessary qualification for faculty recruitment. But none of the IITs implement reservation in Post-Doc appointments. In an RTI response to APPSC, IIT Bombay admitted that they do not implement reservation in Post-Doc admissions, and also accepted that there was no rule that exempted Post-Doc appointments from reservation. Post-Doc admissions happen mostly through academic networks dominated by faculty from among the savarna caste, where they recommend that their students to other faculty in different institutes. Students coming from Dalit Bahujan Adivasi (DBA) communities without any cultural and social capital find themselves outside these networks and lose the chance to avail of these positions entirely.

When an anti-reservation Facebook post by the head counsellor of IIT Bombay was reported to the administration in June 2022, they ignored it and took no action. Further enquiry by APPSC showed that there were no SC ST Counsellors. The counsellors were not caste aware and discarded the casteist harassment faced by SC ST students as “just inside their head” further worsening students’ mental health and denied the presence of caste discrimination in campus.

[Source: Sabrang India]

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Vol 56, No. 13, Sep 24 - 30, 2023