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A deserving student from a low income family in Hyderabad studying at the elite LSR died of suicide a couple of days ago, due to lack of finances. Why did this happen?
Trigger Warning: This post contains descriptions of depression and suicide, and may be triggering for a survivor.
Why did she not reach out to the college for help?
This is the question people are asking about this young woman who had a bright future ahead, but who chose to die of suicide as her INSPIRE scholarship was not reimbursed to her, and she did not have the means to study after she was asked to leave the hostel. LSR rules say that hostel accommodation is given only to first years, and she would have had to find private accommodation. Her parents were unable to afford this, and she had gone to LSR on the basis of a merit based scholarship.
In a statement, the alumni and student body of LSR have said, “No student should have to choose between quality education and their life… between acquiring a degree and being reduced to abject poverty… We urge the institute to take cognizance of its role in the student’s suicide…” The Students Federation of India has also asked for action to be taken.
People have asked, “Why did she not reach out to the college for help?” Why should she have? The scholarship was her due, and she should have received it by now.
But let me answer the question. Why it is difficult for students from a lower socio-economic strata, or Dalit Bahujan students, to reach out to their college for help? Let me explain why, since people (read LSR admin and ex-students) have difficulty understanding this.
College is a very different space from school. School is generally closer to home and a place that your parents can physically reach easily. Where PTMs are frequent, and your friendships have been strengthened by years of studying/growing up together.
To go from that place to a college, especially a college with a certain hype built around it, is very daunting. To go from a sheltered existence, to a place where you are on your own, in pretty much problematic in every way. I’m sure people can relate to this.
It starts to get tricky when a student coming from a small town, or from a lower socio-economic strata sees that the people around her are not only able to easily afford college, but also have resources to do much more than just pay the fees, which she does not.
Sure, she has a ‘seat’ in the college, but does she have a seat at the table in the cafe where mental health is discussed?
Does she have the language to speak of her troubles in a way that others will relate to?
Does she feel like she belongs to the institution in the same way that others do?
Is she seeing the same targeted posts about mental health and “reaching out to someone” that we just take for granted as some kind of public information? Is she even aware that her college would have helped her?
Maybe she just isn’t friends with anyone who got aid from college, and maybe there is some stigma that she associated with asking for aid, as we all often do in our lives.
Why do we want institutions to give up all responsibility of taking care, and interest in the very limited number of students they admit by asking dead Dalits to have perfect alibi and accountability?
Most campus counsellors are pretty useless. They can hardly help with difficulties related to academics, let alone ‘family problems’, ‘financial troubles’, or caste based discrimination. I know this because I am from a college that had an on-campus counsellor who asked me to do adventure sports because I told her I had no energy to attend classes. This is not some kind of exceptional incompetency. It’s just impossible for colleges to solve institutional problems of alienation with one or two college counsellors (who do not generally even work full time, by the way) for what – a thousand, two thousand students.
The question to ask is not “why did she not ask for help?” The question to ask is- why was her due, and not help, not given to her?
She did not ask for help because she was not helpless, she was an independent student who was surviving the harshest parts of Delhi. Because until now, she did not need help, she needed to be given what she deserved, whether it be her scholarship or her hostel room.
The writing’s pretty much on the wall- This country is killing its students. In the most oppressive manners possible. What will we do about it?
If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
Image source: Sofia Alejandra on pexels
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Amisha Singh is a Dalit woman, currently a graduate student at the Centre for the
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