With Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma pressing for Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the death of his niece Dana Sangma, Amity University on Friday dismissed allegations that the student, who allegedly committed suicide after being caught with a mobile phone during an exam, was discriminated against.
The university strongly defended its action of asking Dana to leave the exam hall after she was found with a mobile phone in the hall saying the same process would have been applied to any another student in such circumstances and suggested Dana may have taken the extreme step due to personal reasons.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, authorities of the university's Gurgaon campus on the city outskirts, where Sangma was studying, said there is "feedback" that the girl was using her phone continuously for a few days, sometimes throughout the night before the incident and also she was seen crying.
"This may indicate that there may be some personal reasons that led to big mental pressure on Dana. These reasons may emerge further in the course of investigation," Padmakali Banerjee, co-vice chancellor of the university, said.
"The untimely demise of Dana Sangma is a tragic incident which certainly cannot be attributed to racial or regional discrimination," she said.
Her comments came in the wake of Mukul Sangma alleging that his niece was subjected to discrimination by the college staff that led to her taking the extreme step of committing suicide.
The university authorities also said Dana's "unfortunate death" has raised a very vital question in the teaching community.
"If any student is found copying during an exam, what should be the role of the invigilator? Should the invigilator close his eyes and allow the students to follow wrong practices during their exams? Or, should the invigilator act then and there to conduct free and fair exams," Banerjee asked.
She rejected allegations that Dana's answer book was torn by the invigilator or harsh language was used against her.
"There are a large number of witnesses to this," she claimed.
Banerjee said Dana had arrived 10 minutes late for the exam on the day of the incident but she was still allowed to sit for the paper.
Further, she would have been debarred from one more paper due to slight shortage of attendance but following university rules, grace points were given to her so that she could sit for the exam, she said.
Noting that investigations were on in the matter, she said the university is cooperating fully and police have been requested to conduct a fast and thorough probe "especially as there are a large number of misrepresentations by the media".
Rubbishing allegations of discrimination based on region, she said there are more than 500 students from the north-east studying in various institutions of higher education at Amity campuses, and in addition to that, there are a large number of students from the north-east studying in Amity International Schools.
"About 40 faculty members from the north-east are working at senior positions in the university in NCR and Amity Institute of Anthropology is headed by a professor from Shillong, Meghalaya, who has been with us since long," she said.
Students at the university from north-east hold prominent leadership roles in sports and other endeavours, she said, adding, the captain of the university's football team is from the north-east.
"To date we have not received even a single complaint of discrimination from these students. There can be no discrimination towards any student based on caste, creed, religion or gender at Amity as this goes against our very philosophy," she said.
The administration provided unconditional support to the grieving family and shared their deep sorrow, the co-vice chancellor said.
Immediately after the incident, university administration sprung into action and tried to contact all the available communication channels and within a short time, was able to speak to her mother to share the sad news, she said.
"The untimely demise of Sangma is a tragic incident which certainly cannot be attributed to racial or regional discrimination. Amity believes and in turn fosters the importance of national unity and integration in all its faculty members and students," she said.
She said the university is greatly concerned and active on the issue of development of education and skills in the north-east.
"We have already established Amity University in Nagaland through an act of the state legislature of Nagaland and we have made applications to all states of the north-east to establish the university, which are being processed. Therefore the allegation of racial discrimination from the students of north-east cannot arise," she said.