Armaan Iqbal Khatri arrested after forensic handwriting expert confirmed that Solanki had written a note saying, “Armaan has killed me”, shortly before he died by suicide on campus in February
The Mumbai police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the death of IIT-Bombay student Darshan Solanki, 18, on Sunday said that they have arrested a batchmate of the victim on charges of abetment of suicide.
The accused, identified as Armaan Iqbal Khatri, was detained by the police days after they found a note purportedly left behind by Solanki blaming the former for him taking the extreme step, police said.
“Armaan has killed me,” read the note, which was found in Solanki’s hostel room recently, after which police registered a case under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant Sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The victim and Armaan had stayed on the same floor of a hostel of the premier institution and were batchmates. According to the investigators, the duo had had a dispute over Mr. Khatri’s alleged comments about a religious community.
Police said that Mr. Khatri had been arrested on the basis of the note and was not cooperating in the interrogation. He was presented before a local court on Sunday.
On hearing about the arrest, the victim’s father Rameshbhai Solanki said that the family is only hoping for a just inquiry and nothing else. “The police had shown us a question paper with the words ‘Armaan has killed me’ scribbled on the back. We could not place the handwriting and now forensic experts have confirmed it,” he said.
‘Probe systemic discrimination’
Mr. Rameshbhai added that the family has always maintained that they wanted a thorough investigation into the systemic caste-based discrimination faced by his son. “That is what he used to complain to us about and that should be the centre of the probe,” he said. Everyone on campus who had discriminated against his son on the basis of caste should be prosecuted, he said, adding that action should be taken against the institute as well.
Solanki, a first-year student in the B. Tech (Chemical) programme who hailed from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, ended his life by jumping off the seventh floor of a hostel building on the campus on February 12, a day after his semester exams ended. His family suspected foul play in his death and alleged that Solanki had faced discrimination at IIT-Bombay for belonging to a Scheduled Caste (SC) community.
A number of SC students from various IITs across the country, along with students from Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Class communities, had opened up about the kinds of caste-based discrimination they faced on their campuses. The Hindu had reported that internal surveys conducted by IIT-Bombay’s SC/ST Cell had also revealed widespread caste discrimination faced by students.
‘No specific evidence’
Solanki’s family members demanded a thorough investigation into the case, following which the State government constituted an SIT on February 28, which recorded the statements of 35 persons, including the victim’s family members, faculty and fellow students. However, by March 2, a 12-member internal panel formed by the institute had ruled that there was no “specific evidence” of caste discrimination faced by Solanki, despite recording depositions of his family and a senior student who submitted otherwise.
On Friday, the SIT officials received a report from a handwriting expert, who said that the handwriting in the purported note found in the hostel room matched the writing samples of the victim, confirming that it had been written by him.