IIT Kharagpur student’s suicide: Experts question lack of action

The absence of any appropriate action after the first suicide raises questions,” asserted professor Ravikant Kisana, a specialist in cultural studies.
Representational image of IIT-Kharagpur (File Photo)
Representational image of IIT-Kharagpur (File Photo)

HYDERABAD: ‘How many more students need to die in order to call it a crisis?’ ask experts commenting on the recent suicide of 21-year-old K Kiran Chandra, an IIT Kharagpur student hailing from Telangana. Experts observe a distressing and recurrent pattern in Kiran Chandra’s suicide. The initial response typically is to blame the student’s inability to cope with the rigorous curriculum and a promise to form ad hoc committees aimed at helping struggling students. However, there is no soul-searching about the reasons for the death of another innocent student.

Kiran’s parents held the institute’s faculty responsible for their son’s apparent suicide. Speaking to the media, the father questioned the intense academic pressure faced by students at IITs.“The question at hand goes beyond identifying the causes of stress; it’s about examining the actions these institutions take in response to such issues. The absence of any appropriate action after the first suicide raises questions,” asserted Professor Ravikant Kisana, a specialist in cultural studies. He underscored that attributing student suicides to syllabus issues or personal coping abilities oversimplifies the matter and verges on victim-blaming.

Paradoxically, these institutions almost seem to derive a sense of validation from the intensity of their programs, as if extreme measures taken by students attest to the rigour of their systems. Drawing attention to IIT Kharagpur, Prof Ravikant noted a disturbing incident involving Prof Seema Singh berating students during an online class. He pointed out that it’s not solely a matter of caste-based discrimination; these issues are rooted in Brahmanical notions of knowledge and the guru-shishya parampara. These institutions lack empathy, treating students as if they are in a boot camp with a militaristic ‘Cope or die’ mindset that persists even before students enter college.

Comparatively, private liberal universities handle suicides differently. While Prof Ravikant acknowledged that action against harassing professors is uncertain, at least students are heard in such institutions. The tendency of administrations to present each suicide as an isolated incident conceals the systemic nature of the problem. Students lack the agency to negotiate with these institutions, and there has been no accountability demonstrated through resignations or actions taken in response to such incidents. Professor Ravikant highlighted the silence of the HRD Ministry, which typically issues notices to professors for their political opinions but remains quiet regarding student suicides.

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