MUMBAI: Two Dalit video graphers in their 20s tried to end their lives at the IIT-Bombay campus on Monday after they were allegedly subjected to casteist abuses and sacked. The IIT officials are instituting an inquiry into the matter.
Both youngsters—Narendra Divekar (22) and Nitin Kamble (26)—worked as cameramen at the Centre for Distance Engineering Education Program (CDEEP), which regularly transmits IIT-Bombay's courses to other institutions through the Edusat satellite. The two said the centre's web coordinator, Rahul Deshmukh, had been verbally abusing them over the past several months.
From October 20 to 22, Divekar and Kamble participated in a demonstration aga-inst the inequities of contract labour, held by the IIT's union for backward classes. When they reported for work on October 23, Deshmukh allegedly said, "Mahar bhangi log union banake khud ko kya samajhte hain? Tum mahar bhangi logon ke liye jagah nahin hai yahan pe. Tum log is kaam ke layak nahin ho. (Who do mahars and bhangis think they are, creating their own unions? There is no place on the campus for mahars and bhangis. You are not fit to work here)." The boys said Deshmukh then asked them to quit.
The two immediately lodged a complaint with the Powai police. Subsequently, the centre was shut down for Diwali vacations. When the boys reported for work on Monday after the vacations, they said they were insulted and turned away by Deshmukh once again. "We handed over written complaints
against Deshmukh to the head of CDEEP, the IIT director as well as the registrar on Monday morning,"says Divekar.
The two were distressed when they received no response to their complaints. In a moment of desperation, they attempted suicide outside Deshmukh's office. Divekar gulped down half a bottle of phenyl. Kamble first tried to jump off the building but when stopped, he later slashed his forearm. Both were taken to Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar where they are currently recuperating. The Powai police registered an FIR the following day.
When contacted, Deshmukh denied the allegations. He was, however, aware that they had attempted suicide outside his office.
"We did not receive the complaints that the two boys sent to the institute until after the incident occurred," said IIT's PRO Jaya Joshi. The two youngsters have been allowed to return to work as their services were never really terminated. Meanwhile, Deshmukh has been offered leave and he has accepted it. "This, I would like to clarify is not a suspension, only a leave," added Joshi.