Friday, March 31, 2023

Two students die in two days: who are they? why and for what?

Darshan Solanki,18-year student pursuing B. Tech, in Chemical engineering @ IIT, Powai, joined three months ago, committed suicide by jumping from the 7th floor of a hostel building located within the campus of IIT, Powai. on the 12th February, 2023. Aday later, on the 13th February, 2023, Akhla, 22-year final year engineering student, daughter of a laborer working in Kuwait @ IIT, RK Valley in Andhra Pradesh, was found dead in her hostel room.
Both of them belonged to Dalit community – a phrase which is affirmative and assertive, but the majoritarian use a phrase “Scheduled caste”, which is demeaning and derogatory. In all the correspondences and notifications, the governments at the Centre and states use Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) to denote those belonging to avarnas (outside the varna system) and those who live in the forests (vanachals). Two young millennials in a world of survival, cut-throat competition and intense casteist overtones wanted to pursue their dreams and aspirations enrolling in one of the top-notch institutes of the country – Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Darshan Solanki, 18 years old, joined IIT, Powai, in the stream of chemical engineering barely three months ago and Akhla, 22-year-old final year engineering student, daughter of a laborer went to the extreme of taking away their lives by committing suicide.
Darshan’s parents allege that when he visited his home a month ago, he did tell them that the moment they came to know about his identity he was isolated and thus started harassing and taunting him for studying without paying any fee, whereas the casteist mind-set had to pay fee. Caste is India’s scourge, an aberration and is regressive. What probably would have been the reasons to take extreme steps, since no note was left? Whether suicide note is left or not, SCs/STs are pushed to take extreme steps because there has been no support system.
In recent times young Dalits pursuing higher education resorting to such extreme steps are becoming more common. Everyone knows the reasons behind their deaths. Some in their suicide note write like Rohith Vemula – a PhD student in Central University, Hyderabad, while others don’t disclose reasons. Young millennials those belonging to Dalits and indigenous communities with great difficulty join these institutes to pursue their dreams. Prior to realizing their dreams they’re gone.
A few reach the top educational ladder such as IIT for professional degrees. Before their completion the dynamics of caste push them to take away their lives.
The casteist India knows how to stop the Dalits and the Tribals not to reach high echelons of professional education.
For the casteists and dominant castes Dalits and Tribals climbing up the ladder of education that too in professional streams cannot be digested or even tolerated. Even in the 21st Century, in 2023 we come across levels of violence and kinds of atrocities committed against them.
Education is one of the keys for the Dalits and Tribals to break the shackles of caste and in the process come out of it. Education for them means self-assertion.
Casteist mind-set operates right across – be it the United States or United Kingdom or wherever one may have born and brought-up. Caste tends to influence their mind-set and behavioral patterns towards the Dalits and the indigenous people. Police in the case of Darshan Solanki alleged that it was an ‘accident’.
The statement itself rips open the casteist mind of the police force. Without any investigation the police seem to have come to conclusion. Students hailing from Dalit and Tribal categories are harassed and humiliated in such ways forcing them to take drastic action thereby leading to inflict pain – ending their own lives.
The dominant caste categories and casteist mind-sets are averse of ‘reservation’ because of the fact that it enables ‘SCs’ and ST’ to get into specialized professional institutions such as IIT via quota system.
The casteist mind-set thinks that those SCs and STs entering into IITs and other prestigious institutions do not ‘deserve’ because there are ‘non-meritorious. Casteist mind-set shall never accept them as equals and deserve equal dignity. And so, there’s a caste angle that would have prompted them to take extreme step. Unable to take the harassment any longer they might have decided to end their lives. This is one way of liquidating Dalits and Tribals from the face of the earth.
Two students committing suicides consecutively in two days opens the social fabric of the Indian society in which caste is the foundational and regulating principle. Caste is systematic and structural which is embedded in India’s social, economic, religio-cultural and political systems.
In a country and a society where the opportunities are negated for Dalits and Tribals, the available avenue within the Constitution is reservation. If not for the constitutional provision ‘reservation’, the Dalits and Tribals would be living in harrowing situation. To substantiate how the caste pervades in to corporate companies a book recently published The Company We Keep: Insights Into Indian Corporate Culture, by Divya Khana, locates the problems that the business corporations face. She says that though the challenges stick out like the visible tip of an iceberg, culture poses the biggest challenge which is like a slow-moving giant lurks deep under the surface.
To her one cannot deal sufficiently with problems at surface levels if we do not understand the depths that drive them. Corporate culture is driven and regulated by hierarchy that runs from top-down.
Respect for authority and fear for it automatically runs though like any Indian family structure. It is like snake and ladder wherein we see a strong cultural bias that seeps through and through.
Further, the deep inequalities that reflects in the Indian culture inevitably crept into our corporate culture that obviously flows from top-down; Similarly stress also always flows downwards if one from the top-middle is stressed out or feels insecure or scared it automatically flows down.
The book talks about the ways with which corporate culture also perpetuates caste system. Even in IIT if we take the percentage of those castes representing the faculty, middle-level staff and students, it is undoubtedly the dominant castes as against the minuscule which is negligible percent represent of Dalits and Tribals categories. For students hailing from Dalit and Tribal backgrounds there is no adequate support system that caters to psychological and academic pressures that emanates from the casteist forces.
Unless and until there are sound back-up for these historically oppressed and systematically alienated communities, the number of students committing suicides will be on rise. This is what the dominant casteist mind-set wants. More importantly, as long as the binaries such as “We” and “Them”, prevails more such incidences will happen. The so-called ‘prestigious’ institutions such as IITs exists with caste aberrations that are unleashed by dominated by ‘upper castes’.
Dr. John Mohan Razu.

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