This letter is written by a research scholar of IIT Guwahati, Department of Bioscience and Bioengineering showing the pathetic state of Indian research scholars, the letter is the sole propriety of the student.
Subject: Request for the intervention of the Most Honorable Prime Minister against the immoral actions of IIT Guwahati administration
Dear Most Honorable Prime Minister,
With Allegiance, I would like to convey my heartfelt greetings and good wishes for your sound health and well being. My Name is Srijeeb Karmakar, a permanent resident of the state of Tripura, and presently pursuing a doctorate degree in IIT Guwahati at the Department of Bioscience and Bioengineering, Assam. My dear departed father was a mechanic by profession and my mother is a housewife, presently his widow. Belonging to a backward ‘samaj’ with a very little access to information and knowledge, I have been struggling tremendously to fulfill my dream of becoming a scientist, overcoming all the hurdles of life including my serious mental illness, Bipolar Disorder with suicidal tendencies. However, with great sorrow, I have come to a situation that I am utterly depressed and disappointed by the mistreatment I have faced shockingly in an intellectual environment and I am losing all hope in my life, to the extent of losing my will to live.
I joined Ph.D. program in IIT Guwahati in July 2017, and after eight months, my former supervisor Dr. Vikash Kumar Dubey (presently, Professor, IIT(BHU)) left the institution and I was transferred to Dr. Lalit Mohan Pandey’s (Associate professor, IITG) Laboratory. I was then in a depressive phase of Bipolar and I felt it was necessary to inform Dr. Pandey about my mental illness which has destroyed many years of my life. I sought for co-operation and understanding at the workplace as it is increasingly emphasized that Bipolar Disorder sufferers need a support system to function well. I had also sent the email to my Lab seniors (Particularly Mr. ———) hoping that my condition will be understood and dealt better by scholars of Bioscience. To this date, I regret my decision to come out about my mental illness, because what I had received back were discrimination, bullying and cruel verbal abuse. If scholars of IIT who will undertake the future research of our dear Nation do not understand and are indifferent to a sufferer of mental illness, who will?
On September 1st, 2018, I reported to my supervisor via email (with subject “Grievance against Mr. ————) about my mental harassment by my senior, which Dr. Pandey dismissed by saying “ragging is common in colleges, don’t fight like a girl”, he went on to force me apologize for reporting my own mental abuse. I would like to mention that there have been earlier instances of students complaining against Dr. Pandey regarding inhumane treatment, mental harassment, and emotional torture. This was followed by a series of the bad behavior of Dr. Pandey towards me. I was put into unnatural work pressure and Dr. Pandey abused me verbally by his cruel comments about my ancestry and mental illness. Some of his comments were, “You have a personality defect, maybe it is something you have inherited” and “If I knew you have bipolar disorder, I would have never taken you, no one wants to invite problems”. I felt most strongly about his comment on my inheritance as it offended the memory of my dear late father and also, it was an insult to my refugee ancestors who fought in Indian freedom struggle locally and left their homes to retain their Indian nationality. Also, his comment about my bipolar disorder reflected his discrimination centering on mental illness which is also a violation of the Mental Health Care Act of the Indian Constitution.
In December 2018, I was interrogated by Dr. Pandey whether I had forwarded the mental harassment email to his former student, Mr. Sunayan Deka, who had somehow collected my mental harassment email and passed to the Director, Deans, and Head to stop my torture and also reopen his case. It is to be noted that Mr. Sunayan Deka had filed a complaint in PMO against Dr. Pandey with reference no. PMOPG/E/2017/0625025. The next things which happened with me as an aftermath were: I failed in my comprehensive exam, I was not allowed to conduct experiments, I was threatened that I will fail in my second comprehensive exam which results in Ph.D. termination, my name was excluded from a research paper I worked, and I was isolated from my labmates who were my friends. The cruelest treatment was that I was confined to sit in an isolated place under constant surveillance from 9 am in the morning to 7 pm in the evening. I specifically begged Dr. Pandey that my bipolar episodes get triggered terribly if I am made to sit constantly without any physical activity but Dr. Pandey was indifferent. I have escaped several times from the campus to avoid that abusive environment in an act of self-preservation which is now being used against me for not being regular and normal like other Ph.D. students. In April 2019, I could no longer cope up as I could not sleep for many days owing to constant mental torment and I left the campus to go back home and never return. I was contemplating to meet the Honorable Chief Minister of Tripura, Shri Biplab Deb to let him know everything about my suffering in a ‘Jan Darbar’. Unlike many of the bright students of Tripura who opted to leave the state, even country, and settle elsewhere, I was determined to go back to my birthplace and serve my country in the precincts of my state. However, my former supervisor Dr. Vikash Kumar Dubey tried negotiating with Dr. Pandey to resolve my issues and advised me to return to IIT Guwahati and start working. I also received an email from Dr. Pandey who assured me that he will render maximum help to me if I return. I went back to IIT after expressing to Dr. Pandey about my willingness to join and thankfulness regarding the assurance on 30th April 2019. On 6th May, my second comprehensive exam was conducted and on the 7th of May, Dr. Pandey called me to his cabin and asked me to take NOC for supervisor change and convinced me by saying “If you stay, you will not be happy, and I will not be happy”, “The reports of your comprehensive exam has not been sent yet, what is your backup if you fail”, ”I will help you find a new supervisor and you can always come to my lab and work” etc. Under pressure, I took NOC by stating (words which Dr. Pandey selected for me) that I was not interested in my research area and would like to explore a new field. It is to be noted that my research profile has five publications all related to “protein aggregation”, then why should I feel suddenly that I did not like the research area and why should I mail Dr. Pandey on 30th April that “Dear Sir, I will return tonight and tomorrow I will join. I am hopeful about the assurance which has been provided”, in the first place. Now I am in a situation that I don’t have a research lab, no professor wishes to take me as I am not mentally well, I have a damaged reputation as already my lab has changed twice, I am without stipend, without work, depressed, sick and I am told “if no faculty wishes to take you, you have to accept your fate”.
On 18th June, I complained to Prof. Gautam Biswas (Director, IITG) about the full incident but have received no reply. Earlier, when similar cruel treatment was reported by Mr. Sunayan Deka, who also complained to Prof. Gautam Biswas received no help. The responsibility of taking the departmental decision regarding Mr. Sunayan Deka’s accusations was given to the Department Post-Graduate Committee (DPPC), whose secretary was none other than Dr. Lalit Mohan Pandey. It was a clear violation of natural justice. Today Mr. Sunayan Deka has lost his Ph.D., his reputation, his precious time and is wandering from door to door seeking for justice. It is certainly not the way we had planned our life and it is very disheartening. Mr. Sunayan Deka carried out great work in cancer therapy with the magnetic field and was driven to contribute to cancer treatment. I was driven to elucidate the physiological aspects of neurological disorders and was driven to the welfare of mankind. And it is we who are wandering on the streets now, losing financial support and our future completely jeopardized and uncertain. The mishandling of my condition by Dr. Pandey which triggered my mental illness has also taken its toll on my personal life and affected my marriage detrimentally. I am separated from my wife now. My marital life ended before it even began. I have lost so much that no reparation or compensation can ever bring back normality in my life.
I am of this belief that we do not deserve this, and therefore, with great hope in our Prime Minister who for us is an inspiration to rise above all odds, I most humbly plead for the intervention of Prime Minister himself so that I and Mr. Sunayan Deka can reconstruct our lives. All that we need is the arrangement that we can continue our research peacefully and serve this nation by building the muscle of Indian Research. Mr. Sunayan Deka and I have lost a considerable amount of time and on the brink of total mental breakdown. We might never be able to repair our damaged careers.
I would also like to specifically draw your attention to the nature of Dr. Lalit Mohan Pandey. To be honest, I do not have the opinion that Dr. Pandey has anything personal against me. However, this is my most serious observation that Dr. Pandey’s ideological belief in his superiority though ancestry and position have made him be so dictatorial, authoritarian, autocratic, oppressive, sadist and indifferent towards the opinion of his inferiors (by ancestry or position). It is very much in line with the mentality of Adolf Hitler who tortured so many people he considered lesser humans. It is my final plea, that there should be a psychological evaluation of Dr. Lalit Mohan Pandey to assess his eligibility to guide students as most of his doctoral students feel they are losing their individuality, personal liberty, and research interest.
I hope that our Most Honorable Prime Minister will extend his helping hand and intervene so that we can reconstruct our lives to contribute to the service of our motherland.
Most Respectfully and Loyally
Department of Bioscience & Bioengineering
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