On June 30, Gowtham Biswal, a 23-year-old security guard at Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, died after a sliding metal gate weighing about 500 kg fell on him. A case of negligence was registered at the Sadashivnagar police station against the concerned authorities under section 304A of the IPC. Three days since however, students allege that no action has been taken by authorities to punish those responsible.
Hundreds of students have been protesting against the IISc Director Anurag Kumar since Monday, demanding justice for Gowtham and that the Centre for Campus Management (CCMD) engineer Col Arun Sharma be suspended for approving the installation of the gate, and not heeding complaints by students as well as security personnel that the gate was not functioning properly.
On Wednesday, police officials were called to campus, allegedly by college authorities. "We do not understand why this has been done. It is a peaceful protest," one student told TNM.
No action taken
Some of the nearly 600 protesting students spoke to TNM on the condition of anonymity, describing the developments since Gowthamâ€™s death. There appears to be little official communication from the authorities.
Students have been protesting on the campus since Monday, and Wednesday marked the third day of protest.
They alleged that the name CCMD engineerâ€™s name on the FIR is incorrect â€“ the first name is recorded as Ajay instead of Arun. However, when some students went to the Sadashivnagar police station to get officials to rectify the same, they were turned away.
Seema*, a student protester and PhD student, told TNM that the director had been delaying taking action against Col Sharma. â€śHe says that they will have a council meeting and then take a few weeks to decide on the matter. We donâ€™t want them to wait for 2-3 weeks. Justice delayed is justice denied.â€ť
Transparency in investigation
Student have also been demanding that the committee that will be set up to investigate the circumstances behind Gowthamâ€™s death should have some student representatives. However, this has not been accepted.
Towards the evening on Wednesday, after hundreds had been protesting with cries of â€śWe want justice!â€ť, director Anurag Kumar told students that they will form an internal committee with two external representatives and a report will be given within two weeks. But they are not willing to make the minutes of the meetings public or include any student representatives or even as an observer.
Student protester Hari added that the director had told students that Col Sharma would be suspended, but nothing had been given in writing. â€śThe request for transparency is turned down,â€ť he said.
Previous incidents of negligence
In December 2018, IISc had made news for an accident at the Aerospace Engineering Departmentâ€™s Laboratory for Hypersonic where a cylinder blast killed a research student, Manoj Kumar, and injured two others.
Seema alleges that as a premiere institute in the country, there are protocols for storing sensitive equipment that are to be followed. She alleges that this too was likely a case of negligence.
Another student told TNM that a month ago, a part of the ceiling in the new Biological Sciences building had also fallen. There were no injuries, however, students allege that projects are being approved without proper safety measures in place.
â€śWhat happened to Gowtham under that gate, but it could have been anyone. It could have been one of us too,â€ť Hari points out.
Students also say that they have been receiving indirect threats from authorities against their protest, with authorities saying their degrees and doctorates will be held ransom if they donâ€™t disperse.
No clarity on compensation to Gowthamâ€™s family
Ramesh*, a PhD student at IISc, says that there has been no clarity on whether Gowthamâ€™s family is going to be given any compensation. Hari, says that the director had verbally told the protesters on Tuesday that they would award a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the family of the deceased, but still, there is nothing concrete.