“My little brother took his life 17 days back at @azimpremjiuniv (Azim Premji University) and we haven’t received a single official email from them…”, began a tweet posted by Ashish Nambiar today, November 27 at 11.10 am. The little brother he is referring to is M Ashwin Nambiar, a 21-year-old student at the Azim Premji University, who died by suicide after jumping from the 16th floor of the university on November 10.
The tweet has not only garnered 219K views (and counting) on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), but has also sparked conversation on mental health and the need for student bodies on campuses.
Ashish Nambiar, who is an alumnus of Azim Premji University and is currently pursuing his PhD with the Department of Biology at Indiana University, in a conversation with EdexLive shared that Ashwin had been struggling mentally prior to his death.
He revealed that accusations of possessing and smoking cigarettes in the hostel by the institute’s disciplinary committee could have been the tipping point for Ashwin, leading him to take the extreme step.
Allegations by the disciplinary committee
“Recently, there was an incident where smoke was detected in the hostel and as per the protocol, hostel rooms were inspected. It is very unfortunate that a cigarette box was found in my brother’s belongings. After that, he was asked to appear before a disciplinary committee meeting and was accused of misdemeanours based on no evidence. While as an adult, he can possess cigarettes, there was no evidence suggesting that he was smoking on campus,” said Ashish.
Ashish added that Ashwin was threatened with severe disciplinary action and suspension as a consequence. Moreover, he was allegedly asked not to communicate any details of the disciplinary committee meeting with any of his peers or family, added his brother.
“At Azim Premji University, one of the sad things is that no one can know what has been happening at these committee meetings. As a person already struggling with depression, Ashwin was unable to defend himself in the meeting and he was asked not to share any details of the meeting with anyone. The family was also not contacted by the institute regarding these accusations,” added Ashish.
No contact by the institute
Even after over two weeks have passed since the student’s death, the university has reportedly not made any official contact with the aggrieved family, said Ashwin.
“It has been 17 days and we have not yet heard anything from the university officially. It should be the institute’s responsibility to extend their condolences to the family but the university has taken zero accountability for the incident which is highly unacceptable and apathetic. As an alumnus, I have had a very positive experience at Azim Premji University during my time. But during my interaction with several undergraduate students at the institute, I was deeply disheartened to note that most students are facing a multitude of problems on campus,” he added.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the institute stated that it has been engaging with the family and peers of the deceased student.
“Systemic flaws” in the varsity
The death of 21-year-old Ashwin Nambiar has resurfaced the allegations of apathetic administrative policies by the institute. In a memorandum submitted to the institute, his fellow students highlighted several issues prevalent on campus, hindering student well-being and mental health.
One of the primary concerns of the students is the lack of an elected student body on campus. The same has been echoed by the deceased’s family as well.
“Azim Premji University claims to be many things, it claims to work towards a ‘just, equitable, humane’ society but then it prevents the formation of an active student body on campus. In reality, the varsity is also like other institutes that grinds the students, churns them and spits them out. There is no student representation on any of the committees on campus and the institute takes no accountability,” expressed the deceased’s brother.
Ashish further added that instances have been reported from the university where close to 50 per cent of the individuals in a class have been failed by the faculty members.
“If one student is failing, you can blame the student. But if 50 per cent of the class is failing an examination, it shows a fault in the overall course structure or faculty itself. These factors have contributed severely to Ashwin’s deteriorating mental health. In my conversation with the students, I have realised that they are dealing with several issues. But there is no way to hold the institute, the faculty members or the management responsible for any of these,” he further added.