Against the backdrop of the death of Dalit JNU student J Muthukrishnan, several Dalit intellectuals Wednesday addressed a press conference condemning “growing instances of caste-based discrimination” in educational institutions and demanded that the government take steps to curb this trend. Several scholars lamented that the Thorat Committee recommendations on AIIMS — which was tabled in 2011 and spoke on how to deal with caste-based discrimination in educational institutions — had still not been implemented despite Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula committing suicide at the University of Hyderabad last year. They demanded that the recommendations be implemented and a grievance redressal committtee be set up in colleges and universities.
Addressing the press, DU professor Ratan Lal said, “A suicide is not just suicide; it is the outcome of institutional oppression. Universities and colleges are places which allow and encourage questioning and critiquing. However, we see that those who are doing this are the ones who’re getting oppressed. Why are there no helpline numbers for Dalit students and professors? Why, despite so many liberal and progressive MPs, is caste-based discrimination of students not becoming a political question?”
“Since the last two years, caste-based discrimination in educational institutions is becoming common. Even in institutions like JNU, it is very common that Dalit students who have scored very well in their written test, don’t score well at the interview level. Many times this happens because they cannot converse well in English. The Thorat Committtee had recommended that there be a grievance cell, but the government has not paid any heed to it. Even remedial classes are not being held,” said DU professor Hansraj Suman.
Meanwhile, the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) met the V-C demanding that the university take “immediate steps to constitute a mechanism to address grievances of caste-based discrimination in our university”. “We urged the university administration to constitute a representative committee that would hold extensive public discussions on what this mechanism could be,” the JNUTA said.