Can you imagine a university where caste is the main driving force? A university where all discussions start and end with caste? Such a university does exist in India in the 21st century.
This is not an exaggeration; any person breathing the air inside the university can sense this. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) in Lucknow has a special provision of reserving 50% of its seats for students from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities.
This university is named after the messiah of the downtrodden, Dr Ambedkar. It claims as its objective the promotion and study of Dr Ambedkar’s principles, for which he worked throughout his life. One may ask what was the most important ideal for which Ambedkar struggled? The obvious response will be social justice and the ‘annihilation of caste’.
But the university has brazenly buried Ambedkar’s ideals. The whole university is broadly divided into two antagonising sections on the caste line. On one side there are students from the Dalit community and on the other, students belonging to general category and Other Backward Classes.
Interestingly this phenomenon is not confined to just students but also the university staff who are equally complicit.
The main issue of the tussle is the special reservation given to SCs and STs but withheld from OBCs. Generally, OBCs are also provided with reservation but as the university has no such provision, students belonging to OBC category dragged the issue to court. There were some professors too, who supported the students’ drive to establish quota for OBCs. This further increased the tensions among the two sections.
The situation grew worse when members of Ambedkar University Dalit Students’ Union (AUDSU) allegedly led an attack on a senior professor of the university. This incident led to further divides and more conflict. The entry of ABVP in the feud has also ignited the division in two groups. Most of the students belonging to general category have sided with them and it has become a party in the conflict.
The present situation of the reservation dispute is that the case is pending before the Supreme Court and a final decision is yet to be made.
The most saddening part is that despite having a number of faculty members who are known to be progressive in academics, the university still deals in the binary of ‘general’ vs. ‘Dalit’. The progressive forces present in the academia of the university also side with the lobbies of their categories when targeted and prefer to remain silent.
This is the situation in the university when there are no student elections held and there is only a nominated student council. In a situation like this, students need to contemplate whether this is the kind of university Ambedkar had dreamt of.