This post is a part of #JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
The constitution-makers of India addressed the historical oppression of the oppressed communities due to the caste system by adopting various welfare policies. The motto of these policies was to make India a social democracy where everyone will be treated equally irrespective of the caste they belonged to. But unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to happen.
“Is this the India that the Constitution makers envisioned?”
For the majority of Dalits and Bahujans, education is the only exit strategy to jump up the oppression forced upon them by the caste system which always kept them at the lowest possible rungs of the social hierarchy.
But the education system too is not free from the caste discrimination which leads to ragging and bullying of ‘quota’ students by the other fellow so-called upper castes students and even the professors/teachers. Eventually, they are slowly excluded from the group. To address this issue, the government has made it mandatory to set up an SC/ST atrocity committee and anti-ragging cell in every educational institution.
The caste ragging is much related to power and social honour. Society’s behaviour can be manipulated and encouraged by power equations. When conservatives rise in power, social and psychological attacks on those who are not in line with conservatives rises too. Groupism plays a major role in exclusion in educational institutes which resists a positive change in society.
When asked about experiences of casteism in educational institutes, many students have felt it directly and indirectly. I am sharing a few of them. The names of these students have been changed for privacy.
Gayatri More who is doing graduation in science said, “During my first year, everyone was shocked to see my name in the merit list and they felt that I got that seat just because of reservation. I heard them taunting me that how the lower caste people are taking their rights by getting more seats despite being less talented than us. But these same people didn’t utter a word when EWS reservation was implemented.”
Akash Ghodeswar who is now studying International relations experienced bias from the college administration. He said, “when I was selected for a merit-based scholarship for SC students and had to collect the scholarship amount from the admin office, the executive used to taunt him as ‘sarkarcha jawaai’ (those who are cared too much by the government). “
Surbhi who is now preparing for UPSC said, “I was always placed in the second row and preference was given to the girls belonging to other castes in our dance classes. They were always the main lead in any play or act. No matter how much you scored in school or how better you were in the curriculum, teachers chose only the higher caste girls. In college, maximum professors were Brahmins and always favoured those who belonged to their caste while giving marks even when my performance was good.
While one professor who was from the SC community, he never discriminated against those who are not SC or never favoured me just because I was from his community. When I got a hostel room from a ‘general’ slot as I scored better, I was taunted by a Brahmin girl that they don’t get a place to stay because of reservation despite good marks.”
These conversations are an everyday part of people from the SC/ST community. The psychological harassment goes unnoticed by the administration of the institution. Many students don’t report to SC/ST committees because a written complaint is needed which exposes the identity of the victim. Some suffer in silence while some take harsh steps. In 2007, a committee was set up by the government under the chairmanship of Professor Sukhdeo Thorat to enquire into the allegation of differential treatment of SC/ST students in AIMS, Delhi. Few important points from the report were as following:
The basic thing which the oppressors can’t understand is that intellect and ability have no relation with the caste.
The Supreme Court, in a judgment, said that a “meritorious” candidate is not merely one who is “talented” or “successful” but also one whose appointment fulfils the constitutional goals of uplifting members of the SCs and STs and ensuring a diverse and representative administration”. The prevalence of casteist beliefs and prejudice that SC/STs are less productive and efficient has shaped the psychology of Indian people. How many finance ministers of India belonged to SC/ST people?
Why is it that people from SC/ST communities only find a place in the Social Justice Ministry?
The discrimination and violation of human rights will continue to happen due to caste unless we stop believing in it.
Dr Ambedkar has an answer to this question. He said, “make every man and woman free from the thralldom of the shastras, cleanse their minds of the pernicious notions founded on the shastras, and he or she will inter-dine and inter-marry, without your telling him or her to do so.”
But even after 70 years of independence, caste is operating with more impunity and any responsible person who believes in the constitution can easily point this out. Educating the minds and sensitising students about caste discrimination and its impacts is one of the ways to stop the daily harassment of SC/ST students. The other way that is longer and one that will need more effort from the government as well as society. It is to induce harmony and love for all keeping aside the caste and religious politics.
I would like to end by giving tribute to all those like Dr Payal Tadvi who ended their life due to caste humiliation with a short excerpt of a poem by Aruna Gogulamanda.
Her eyes two dry hollows bear silent witness
To hundreds of deaths of her mothers, daughters, sisters
Their dreams, respect and their bodies.
Her calloused hands, her unkempt hair
Her cracked heels, her wrinkled hair
Tell the tales of living through fears and years
Of centuries and millennia of violations and deaths.
She was told
That she was dirt,
She was filth and
In this sacred land of thousands of goddesses
She is called a Dalit.