“Appears To Be Ragging”: Court On IIT Kharagpur Student’s Death

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On October 14 a student’s partly decomposed body was found in a hostel room at the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Kharagpur.

Faizan Ahmed, a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student from Assam, committed suicide, the police had said.

His family has alleged that he was pushed over the edge by ragging and that his complaints went unheard by IIT-Kharagpur’s management. “It was a clear case of murder,” they said.

The premier institute today faced scathing criticism from the Calcutta High Court, during the hearing, which observed the incident to be case of ragging.

“There is substantial evidence before this court and the police seem to have been taken for a ride,” the court said.

“Mr Additional SP if there is suppression from IIT, please take action. We expect stern action, or we will have to take action against the management,” the court observed orally, in strong remarks against the country’s first IIT.

The court asked for a report from the Director of IIT Kharagpur on steps taken on complaints of ragging and whether the Supreme Court guidelines on ragging were followed.

Faizan Ahmed’s family has pointed at a deleted Facebook post to establish ragging.

There were “fistfights between seniors and juniors”, said the family. “He (Faizan Ahmed) was isolated. He complained. Those who initially supported him later withdrew support,” said the family’s lawyer, Ranajit Chatterjee.

“Wardens were warning students about receiving complaints about severe ragging,” he told NDTV.

“Now there is documented evidence that there was ragging on the campus and adequate steps were not taken to control the ragging. Had steps been taken, maybe the death of Faizan Ahmed could have been avoided,” he added.

He said the “worst thing” was that the institute was trying to shield the guilty and cover up ragging on campus.

“They are in denial mode but we have faith in the court and I am sure the outcome of the investigation is headed in the correct direction,” Mr Chatterjee said.

Taking note of the evidence, the Calcutta High Court asked during the hearing if there has been suppression of information by IIT Kharagpur. “We expect something very concrete at the next hearing,” the court observed.

“We are dealing with a malaise, a disease that can break students. They say some turn out to be men, but some are broken. Whether this will amount to abetment to suicide will have to seen,” the court commented.

A document alleged that second year students were being mentally and physically harassed by a group of seniors, the court noted. “This is corroborated by a communication addressed by Professor Saswata Chakraborty. This court is interested to know what steps have been taken by the wardens and management of IIT Kharagpur after receipt of information of what appears to be this court of ragging,” the court observed.

The court made the comments after going through the report filed by the police on the probe and the additional evidence presented by Faizan Ahmed’s family’s lawyer through a supplementary affidavit.

“The warning issued to students in terms of ragging does not seem to be in consonance or in compliance with the direction of the Supreme Court. Director of IIT Kharagpur should file a report before this court in this regard,” the court said in its order. The court also asked the Director to name the students involved in ‘ragging’ in its report.

The Calcutta High Court will now take up the matter on November 22.

The IIT Kharagpur death is still under investigation but several other deaths have been reported in IITs across the country in the last couple of months. There are reports of at least seven more student deaths at IIT campuses.

IIT authorities say they plan to introduce an exit option with a two-year diploma for BTech students to help them cope better with academic pressure.

IIT Kharagpur did not respond to repeated emails and telephone calls from NDTV. A response is awaited to a set of questions sent by NDTV on email to the Registrar and Acting Director.

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