IISC Bengaluru Students’ Protest, Demand Justice for the Deceased Security Guard: A Report

 – by a Student of IISc Bengaluru

On Sunday, June 30, 2019, the new main gate of the Indian Institute of Science on CV Raman road collapsed on a young security guard in his early twenties around 1 pm in the afternoon. The gate, which has been in operation for less than a month (the institute sent out a broadcast email on June 6 stating that the gate was in operation), was a sliding gate and it had been approved for usage despite the fact that it lacked a stopper. Consequently, the gate weighing around 1 ton, slid off the rails and fell on Mr Gautam Biswal, who was operating the gate at that time.

A condolence meeting and fundraiser was organised by the Students’ Council on Monday night. After the candlelight vigil, students raised concerns about how the institute dealt with such incidents, the safety of those on campus, and subsequent action that was being taken. A part of the assembled students visited Sadashivnagar police station to enquire about the status of the FIR if one was filed, and submitted an additional application citing complaints of the security guards who had witnessed the incident. It was found that the primary accused were arrested and released on immediate bail.

Once the students were sure that the legal proceedings were on progress, on Tuesday morning, they raised concerns regarding the steps taken by the institute authorities in this fatal issue and demanded to meet the director when satisfactory answers were not provided. The students marched around the campus sloganeering in demand of justice. Before the lunch hour they drafted a letter mentioning the demands which included starting a transparent investigation at the earliest from the institute side and the suspension of the main accused till this investigation is complete and the committee has made its recommendations. It was intimated that a committee comprising one external and two internal members from the institute had been formed and they would convene for the first time only on July 16, 2019, over two weeks after the grave incident. The students vehemently objected to the delay and demanded the process be fast tracked. So the protest continued till evening when the director addressed the crowd, and asked time till next morning for consideration of their demands.

The protest resumed next morning punctuated by intermittent meetings with the IISc authority through the day. The uproar grew sharper by the hour as no common ground was found between students and the authority. At some point of time, the police was also called by the institute. Some of the students were even threatened by Prof Satish Kailash, student advisor that they would be arrested and their career would be ruined. Despite all these, the students kept their spirits high. In the evening the authority (the director, registrar and a few divisional heads) agreed to sit in a meeting with four student representatives. The meeting took place in presence of a police officer and the following conclusions were reached:

  1. An immediate disciplinary action was taken against the primary accused (the project engineer).
  2. A comittee comprising of two external and two internal members as opposed to the three member committee was being formed, and the commencement of the investigation had been preponed to 4th of July (the very next day) instead of the earlier proposed date of 16th July.
  3. A transparent investigation on this issue has been promised within a timeline of two weeks unless further complications arrive. Upon its completion (tentatively 19th July), the detailed report of the investigation will be made available to the student community.

Update: A meeting with IISc administration was conducted for updates regarding this incident. The committee formed for internal investigation consists of 4 Members. 2 of them were experts from industry and remaining two were IISc faculties. And chairman of that committee was senior external member. On site inspection was done by committee besides other investigations. The committee submitted their report to the director on 17th July 2019.  Due of legal implications, the report couldn’t be made public. The case is also under police investigation now. This report will be submitted to police also and they will also use this report for investigation.

The committee has confirmed that lack of stopper led to this accident. One more committee has been formed to review the report and on recommendation, immediate and necessary actions will be taken regarding this incident. Also, this committee will give suggestion so that this kind of incidents never happens again.

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