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Caste Discrimination in IIT Delhi: A Report

May 1, 2011

[ From our magazine Insight Young Voices (Feb-Mar, 2009) issue]

byAnoop Kumar

The dismal representation of SC/ST students in IITs demands some serious questioning from all who believe in equal opportunities and social justice. Even after 40 years of their existence, most of the IITs have also singularly failed to recruit faculties from these communities.

On the top of it, there are various instances that indicate towards the prevalence of caste-based harassment of Dalit students.

Recently IIT Delhi was in news due to the termination of 12 Dalit students together with allegations of prevalance of caste-based discrimination. In the wake of this incident, the author here has tried to map the experiences of Dalit students within IIT Delhi structure. 

 

On May 2008, 12 Dalit students (11SC & 1ST) were terminated by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, citing their ‘low academic performance’. Eleven of these students were from the first two years of their undergraduate courses.

After receiving the termination letter, some of these students filed a petition in the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes (NCSC), alleging caste-based harassment in IIT Delhi and demanded annulment of their terminations.

According to the students, many IIT Delhi faculty members harbour deep prejudices against students admitted through reservations and they receive very poor grading despite performing well in the exams. The NCSC immediately summoned the Director of IIT Delhi, and asked him to investigate into these allegations and also to review the terminations.

Later, in July first week, the IIT administration submitted a one-page report to the NCSC stating that, it has decided to revoke the expulsion of 2 Dalit students by giving some relaxations in their grade requirements.

It also informed the NCSC, about the IIT review committee, constituted in response to the summon issued by the NCSC, to inquire about the prevalence of caste based discrimination.

The report further stated that ‘no case of caste discrimination was brought out by the students in their meeting with the Review Committee’.

The last paragraph of the report reiterated that, “IIT Delhi is very sensitive to the special needs of SC/ST students and faculty members spare no efforts in helping them, and indeed all weak students, to come up to our higher academic standards”.

However, the Dalit students countered this report by claiming that the members of IIT review committee did not entertain issue of caste discrimination at all. The members only inquired about their academic performances and refused to take up questions related to the caste discrimination.

Later, the Dalit students took out two rallies, demanding the re-admission of remaining 10 Dalit students and also sent their representations to the HRD ministry.

As a last resort, some of these students also filed a case against IIT Delhi in Supreme Court. In the first week of this year, after six months of their continuous struggle against one of the country’s most powerful institutions, finally there was some good news.

The Supreme Court agreed to the demands of students and passed an interim order for readmission of the six Dalit students and one more Dalit students was readmitted by IIT administration itself in the same week. As for now, nine Dalit students have been readmitted in IIT Delhi.

Read more…

To Senthil

April 29, 2011

[Senthil Kumar, PhD, Department of Physics, Hyderabad Central University committed suicide on 24th February, 2008. The poem was first posted at  http://unbrokensilences.blogspot.com, a blog by Senthil’s friends,  to fight against the injustice that led  to his death] 


I did not know you when you lived,

I seem to know you so well after you have gone.

Did we not walk the same lonely paths?

Paths strewn with little hurtful insults,

some obvious most not-obvious humiliations

designed to erode our self worth,

with the power to shake our confidence in humanity,

in our thinking, in our love for life and our search for

its meaning.

Could we have talked about our shared bewildering experience,

of hearing a system stealthily tell us that

we are not good enough to seek knowledge?

Today, you have chosen to protest

in a way that only intensifies my pursuits more lonely,

or should I believe that you have instead

opened a channel for the rest of us?

To make public what until now,

is our private pain,

pain delivered to us

by systems meant to deliver knowledge

and uplift mankind

– By an HCU drop-out Dalit


Dharmic Expressions

April 29, 2011

This post courtesy the blog: Time and Us

Vaibahv Wasnik’s comment on this pic: “And these are going to be life givers. They hate 85 percent of the country, the sc/st/obcs so much that they cannot even tolerate people from these communities as co-doctors. How can these be expected to treat the illnesses of these same people.”

Kuffir, calls this picture “the ordinary faces of hate.”

I recently read an academic paper which was laboring to make a point about UN recognizing caste as a race issue and trying to decipher the relation and difference between race and caste. this is what this picture made me write “caste is not a sibling of race, it is not even the parent, it is the God of all forms of discriminations.”

Just look at those women’s faces, there is no hate, there is only a supreme conviction of righteousness, such pure dharmic expressions.

Who needs conical masks and nooses, who needs to disguise hate that is so pure that it does not even require the face to contort into a negative expression.

On Suicides, Caste and Higher Education

April 26, 2011
[Present article written by K.P. Girija (girijakp@gmail.com)  was the cover story of our magazine Insight Young Voices (Feb-Mar, 2009). We are reproducing it for our readers. This article analyses the suicide of three Dalit students – Rejani, Senthil and Ajay Sri Chandra]

K. P. Girija

No suicide can perhaps be seen only as a result of  personal frustrations , least of all, Dalit student suicides. It becomes important for all concerned to analyze whether these suicides are intrinsically connected to the power structure of the higher educational institutions and the entry of Dalits into it.

Rejani S. Anand, a Malayalee student of Institute of Human Resource Development (IHRD) Engineering College at Adoor in south Kerala committed suicide on 22nd July 2004.

Senthil Kumar, a Tamil student hailing from an interior region in the state, admitted for PhD in the School of Physics, University of Hyderabad, took his life on 24th February 2008.

Ajay Sree Chandra, a Telugu boy and an Integrated-PhD scholar at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, committed suicide the year before, on 27th August 2007.

If one were to look for similarities that bind these three disparate incidents, we find that all were doing courses in Sciences and admitted to prestigious institutions. They all were also in the peak of their youth. Rejani and Ajay were both just 21 years olds at the time of their death. Senthil was 27.

Their youth might have been mixed with hope and an equal measure of uncertainty about their future. However, the most striking feature, that binds all these deaths, would be the caste of the deceased. All the three students were Dalits.

No suicide can perhaps be seen only as a result of .personal frustrations, least of all, Dalit suicides. These personal frustrations have visible connections with the context around them. They are political, cultural and social and therefore need special attention. Hence it becomes important for all concerned to analyze whether these suicides were intrinsically connected to the power structure of the higher educational institutions and the entry of Dalits into it.

The Culprit behind Senthil’s Suicide

Senthil Kumar, Age 27, PhD Student
University of Hyderabad

In 2007, Senthil Kumar came all the way to University of Hyderabad, from a village of Salem district in Tamilnadu. He was admitted for his PhD in the School of Physics. He belonged to the panniandi caste, which is traditionally involved in pig rearing and is at the bottom of the caste-hierarchy.

Read more…

Our Demands

April 26, 2011

 The large number of suicides by Dalit students in Indian educational system, especially in premier science and professional colleges and universities, are a mere pointer towards the widespread prevalence of various forms of caste-discrimination and humiliations that our students have to undergo on a regular basis while pursuing their higher education.

The testimonies of Balmukund Bharti’s parents and family members in the documentary  ‘The Death of Merit’ also prove the kind of mental torture and harassment our students have to go through just because they belong to the ‘wrong’ castes.

Therefore, on behalf of all Dalit and Adivasi students, we demand the Government of India to

• Order investigation into the suicides of Linesh Mohan Gawle (NII) and Balmukund Bharti  (AIIMS)

• Appoint an enquiry committee to probe into students’ suicides in Indian campuses

• Appoint a judicial commission to enquire about the prevalence of various forms of caste-discrimination in higher education and to come out with stringent measures to prevent such happenings and for punishing the guilty faculty members, students and administration.

• Take steps for immediate implementation of recommendations made by Prof Thorat Committee report and we also demand exemplary punishments for faculty members and students who were involved in harassing our students in AIIMS as per the committee report.

If these demands are not met by the Indian government by 31st May, 2011, the Dalit and Adivasi students and youth will be forced to start a nation-wide agitation from June 1.

We, the Dalit and Adivasi students and youth, are now determined to make our campuses caste-discrimination free and will go to any extent possible to assert our constitutional right of pursuing education in free and fair manner. 

AIIMS and its history of caste discrimination

April 26, 2011

If the government and AIIMS authorities had acted on the Prof Thorat Committee report and its recommendations and tried to prevent the discrimination meted out to Dalit and Adivasi students at AIIMS, Balmukund’s family would probably not have been grieving on the death of their bright child today and the community and the country would not have lost a brilliant student, a doctor.

 All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi is one of the premier educational institutions of the country and has been in the news since the last few years for rampant prevalence of caste discrimination and the fight of Dalit students against it.

Following are the links that might help us to gauge the gravity of the entire issue.

• ‘Even if I never become a doctor, I will not give up this fight’: Ajay Kumar Singh (Tehelka, June 2, 2007)

  

In this video Jeetendra Kumar Meena shares what happens with SC and ST students in AIIMS with CNN IBN (26 September, 2006)

• Ghetto in medical hostel – Quota students in AIIMS allege being driven into a corner ( The Telegraph, 5 July, 2006)

Following these allegations from students and news reports of blatant caste discrimination practised against SC and ST students in AIIMS, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry instituted a three-member committee headed by University Grants Commission Chairperson, S K Thorat, to enquire into the conditions prevalent in the institution.

 Thus AIIMS became, probably, the first and until now, the only education institution in the country to be investigated for caste-based discrimination, a phenomenon that is prevalent in almost all the country’s educational spaces but has never became ‘public’ knowledge.

The Prof Thorat Committee came out with its report in May 2007 and exposed the various forms of caste discrimination practised against our students both by other students and faculty members there and accused AIIMS authorities of ‘encouraging hostile caste discrimination’.

 News links on Prof Thorat Committee Report:

• ‘AIIMS apartheid, cricket to class’ (The Telegraph, May 7, 2007)

 ‘SC/ST students at AIIMS face discrimination’ (The Indian Express, May 6, 2007)

However, despite Prof Thorat Committee’s report the Indian government chose to completely ignore its findings, its recommendations and did nothing to prevent the continuing discrimination.

• Probe allegations of caste discrimination in AIIMS, High Court tells Centre (The Indian Express, December 6, 2007)

 If the government and AIIMS authorities had acted on the Prof Thorat Committee report and its recommendations and tried to prevent the discrimination meted out to Dalit and Adivasi students at AIIMS, Balmukund’s family would probably not have been grieving on the death of their bright child today and the community and the country would not have lost a brilliant student, a doctor.

 

List of Dalit students committing suicide in last four years in India’s premier institutions

April 25, 2011

Here is the list of the Dalit students who have committed suicide in last four years. This is by no means an exhaustive list but covers only those cases which we were able to document and where parents and relatives have raised their voices and had accused the institutions of caste discrimination against their children that led to their suicides.

We are sure that the actual numbers of Dalit students committing suicide in country’s premier institutions in last four years will be much higher.

• M. Shrikant, final year, B.Tech, IIT Bombay, 1st Jan 07

• Ajay S. Chandra, integrated PhD, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore – 26 Aug, 07

• Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, 27 Jan 08.

• Senthil Kumar, PHD, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad – 23 Feb 08

 Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 19 April, 08

• G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 2nd Jan, 09

• Ankita Veghda, first year, BSc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, 20 April, 09

• D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, 13 Aug, 09

• S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, 4th Nov, 09

• Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, 5th Nov, 09

• Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visvesvaraiah Technological University, Bangalore, 30th Jan, 10

• Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, 31 Jan, 10.

• Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, 3rd March, 10

• JK Ramesh, second year, BSc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, 1st July, 10

• Madhuri Sale, final year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 17th November, 10

• G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, 30 Jan, 2011

• Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year B.Tech, IIT Roorkee, 13 Feb, 11

• Linesh Mohan Gawle, PhD, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, 16 April, 11

‘The Death of Merit’: A Documentary

April 24, 2011

On Suicides of Dalit Students in India’s Premier Educational Institutions

Linesh Mohan Gawle, a second year PhD student from National Institute of Immunology (NII), New Delhi, committed suicide in his hostel room on 16 April 2011. He belonged to a Dalit family from Dindori Tehsil in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh).

Linesh’s suicide is just one more addition in the growing list of Dalit students committing suicides in the country’s educational institutions, especially that of sciences and professional courses in recent times.  Most of these institutions are considered to be ‘top class’ and have ‘All India character’.

The number of students committing suicides in Indian campuses is in itself a big cause of worry for our society and points towards lacunae in our higher education system, proving it to be completely feudal and insensitive towards the students to say the least.

However, the disproportionate numbers of Dalit and Adivasi students committing suicides, especially, in premier institutions also points towards the kind of caste discrimination prevalent in these campuses where our students have to face harassment due to their caste background on a regular basis from not only their colleagues but more from the faculties and even from the administration.

The Documentary 

Last year, on March 3rd, 2010, another Dalit, Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS student from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi committed suicide. He was from Kundeshwar village from Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh. He was a bright student from a very humble background.

His parents accused AIIMS of caste discrimination that drove their son to commit suicide and demanded a probe. However, the police and the AIIMS administration plainly refused to consider this demand and cited ‘personal reasons’ for suicide without even conducting a preliminary enquiry.

Knowing the history of caste-discrimination in AIIMS our group decided to investigate the matter and went to Balmukund’s home to meet his parents on 1st April 2010.

What came out of our interaction with his parents and other family members was a shocking tale of how a young and bright Dalit student from very poor background was victimized so much on caste grounds in one of the premier educational institutions of the country that despite his entire record of struggle all through his life, he finally lost his willingness to even live.

We recorded the testimonies of Balmukund’s parents and his family members, taking small video clips with a digital still camera.

The Documentary ‘The Death of Merit’ is based on these testimonies and is a result of our amateur efforts to bring out the truth behind the kind of caste oppression suffered by Dalit and Adivasi students in higher education and the resulting suicides of our bright students like Balmukund Bharti.

It also raises a question on the definition of ‘merit’ in the country that is used to denigrate, harass, abuse Dalit and Adivasi students and has become a tool to display caste prejudices openly in Indian campuses both by faculties and other students.

What about the merit of students like Balmukund who defy all socio-economic odds and reach institutions like AIIMS based on their hard labour, determination and will to succeed in life?

Until when will our campuses remain the graveyard of students like Balmukund Bharti, a real meritorious student? 

One more suicide. Once more the death of merit.

April 24, 2011

On 16th April, 2011, Linesh Mohan Gawle, a PhD scholar at the prestigious National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, became one more name in the long list of Dalit and Adivasi students, who have committed suicide in India’s premier educational institutions in recent years.

The large number of Dalit and Adivasi students committing suicide clearly indicates the wide-spread prevalence of caste discrimination in the Indian education system, which perceives them as ‘non-meritorious’, not fit to belong there.     

When a student from the lowest strata of society fights against all odds to prove her merit and reach the best educational institutions in India, are those institutions proving themselves meritorious enough to recognize her worth, to accommodate, let alone nurture her aspirations?

When a Dalit or Adivasi student becomes an engineer, doctor, business graduate or scientist, it should be a cause of pride for not just the family or the community but for the entire nation.

Instead, why do our nation and its educational institutions reward their merit with discrimination, humiliation, violence and death? 

The time has come for Dalit and Adivasi students to speak up, share their experiences and bring their struggles in the public domain, so that we can fight together to make our campuses caste discrimination-free.

Our communities cannot afford to lose our bright, young hopes like Linesh and Balmukund, in the hands of an insensitive and casteist educational system.    

Please tell us about your experiences by calling our Dalit & Adivasi Students Helpline: 0 99 99 48 42 49 or mailing us at deathofmerit@gmail.com.

This blog shall document all kinds of casteist oppression in institutions of higher education, including the kind which results in the ‘suicides’ of young and meritorious Dalit and Adivasi students.