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Unacademy educator calls tribals stupid in lecture, firm regrets

Hengam Riba, a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, was among those who first flagged the clip on Twitter— it was taken down from the Unacademy YouTube page following outrage.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi |
Updated: September 26, 2021 5:31:30 am
He made the remarks during a session on slash and burn farming, which is popularly known as ‘jhum’ cultivation across Northeast India.

A short clip showing an educator of ed-tech platform Unacademy making racist remarks against indigenous communities sparked outrage Saturday. In a statement, Unacademy said it “unconditionally regrets the comments”.

Hengam Riba, a student of Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, was among those who first flagged the clip on Twitter — it was taken down from the Unacademy YouTube page following outrage.

In the clip, the educator Siddharth Singh, who takes classes on UPSC General Studies, could be heard saying in Hindi, “Tribal log jo hota hai humare, dimaag toh hota nahi unke paas koi, nahi unke paas koi, you know, kanooni koi kagaaz hote hai zameen zaydad ke (Tribal people are stupid. They also lack legal documents related to land and property).”

He made the remarks during a session on slash and burn farming, which is popularly known as ‘jhum’ cultivation across Northeast India.

According to Singh’s profile on the Unacademy portal, he has been associated with the platform since June 24, 2020.

When contacted, Riba said, “The remarks made by Siddharth Singh reflect the systematic social, cultural structural bigotry in regards to that of the tribal communities in India.”

The Unacademy, one of the country’s biggest ed-tech unicorns, said in a statement that it has been brought to its notice that Singh made “discriminatory and hurtful comments against people from indigenous tribes”. “Unacademy has deleted the original video and has penalised the educator in compliance with our internal Code of Conduct guidelines. Unacademy unconditionally regrets the comments made by the Educator and the hurt the comment has caused,” it added.

According to the company, it has over 4,000 educators across India, who undergo “mandatory and rigorous code of conduct trainings before they start teaching on the platform, and at periodic intervals thereafter. The trainings specifically guide educators against making any discriminatory and hurtful comments.”

Unacademy did not respond to a query on the specific nature of the penalty that has been imposed on the educator.

The clip also drew criticism from leaders of indigenous communities across the country.

Gujarat MLA Chhotubhai Vasava tweeted, “Calling out unacademy for an unconditional apology for him on his unacceptable derogatory remark on Tribals.”

Pradyot Debbarman, head of Tripura’s TIPRA Motha party, tweeted, “I urge upon the CM of different states of Northeast and different parts of India to write against this education which is being imparted to our students.Racism exists in this country no matter how many times we try to deny it.”

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