In a letter highlighting caste-based discrimination at National Law University, Delhi, a group of Dalit and Adivasi students have written a letter condemning the administration’s apathy towards students from marginalised communities.
The letter has been backed with testimonies of around 40 students from scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities who, in a common statement, say: “There have been grave incidents in the past, but the authorities have failed to protect our fundamental rights and discharging their duty of care towards us.”
The students have chosen to stay anonymous to avoid retaliation from the administration.
The full text of the letter has been reproduced below:
Marginalisation of students coming from certain caste backgrounds on campuses is a topic not discussed very often. There are occasional upheavals that shed some light on their plight but it dies down very quickly. The recent suicide of a tribal doctor from Mumbai shook the conscience of the country.
In 2015, Rohith Vemula, a student scholar from Hyderabad Central University, committed suicide, an incident that created ripples across the country. There are countless such students who suffer under to yoke of marginalisation. This marginalisation is ubiquitous and all pervasive. To think that institutions of excellence professing progressive values are beyond this malaise would be a folly.
This letter is also about an institution of excellence professing progressive values to the world but rotting from within. This is not a lament, nor is it an appeal for help. It is rather a narration of how all legal and constitutional safeguards and guarantees are trampled under the feet of powerful satraps in this ostensible legal haven; this is an account of the travails and struggles of students of NLU-Delhi who come from SC and ST backgrounds. It is not our intention to malign some or cast aspersions on others. We only wish to bring the reality of this institution to your notice.
Marginalisation and discrimination start early at NLU-Delhi. The administration does its bit in ensuring that. Rooms would be allocated based on marks and a separate list of students from reserved categories used to be maintained for such allocation. Attempts were made to bring to the notice of the administration this problem. It was only after a lot of begging and pleading that this practice was discontinued.
There have been repeated attempts at highlighting the toxicity of the situation for the administration. As an institution that preaches inclusivity to the world, it is also important for it to uphold the same principles in its own environs. It is important to note that the administration has neither endeavoured to undertake any sensitisation of its faculty and students, nor has it ever acknowledged the existence of these problems. Empty promises were made every time such problems were brought to their notice.
Discrimination manifests itself not only in dealings with the admin but also in interaction among students. When a Dalit student was physically assaulted and abused because of his identity, the administration chose to cover the matter up entirely and tried to blame the victim in the case instead. When said student approached the police, the college authorities obstructed investigation and as a result no action was taken. This is not only vile on the college’s part, it is also criminal. Multiple Dalit students have attempted suicide in the recent and not so recent past. It is as if the University has teamed up with its student population to oppress its students from backward communities.
It is also a given that students from Dalit-Adivasi backgrounds haven’t enjoyed as much privilege in life as their Savarna counterparts. It starts early with sub-standard schooling and conditioning and continues to manifest itself in the University in many ways. Most dropouts since 2008 have belonged to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe backgrounds. Their attrition rates have been as high as ever. Even among the detainee students, students from these communities feature most prominently. In a bid to stop the exodus of students from the University, attempts have been made to communicate with faculty members their problems and suggestions have been made to arrange remedial classes as a part of the mandatory teaching requirements set by the UGC.
This has only been met with derision, scorn and judgement from the faculty. The administration has also been apathetic on the issue. Even on the issue of English language training, the University has resorted to tokenism and no real steps have been taken in that direction. Most SC/ST students receive their school education in vernacular mediums.
Therefore, it is obvious that they face comprehension issues. Over the last ten years, the administration has taken no concrete steps to address the issue. It is pertinent to note that this also forms a part of the pattern of institutionalised discrimination so deeply rooted on campus. When SC/ST students aren’t being assaulted and mistreated, they’re being excluded by discriminatory academic practices.
As a paragon of virtue of all that is progressive and inclusive, the University hasn’t really bothered with complying with UGC rules and regulations. The college has chosen to absolutely ignore the fact that it is mandatory for them to create and SC/ST cell as provided by the UGC.
It is this facade of inclusion and progressiveness that is more dangerous than anything else. All the above discussed factors lead to a feeling of isolation and eventual marginalisation. Helplessness and misery creep in. Depression and mental other ailments take over. Social withdrawal takes place. It is not hard to notice that a significant chunk of the student body has been made invisible and their existence has been relegated.
This letter has been penned in the aforementioned backdrop. The purpose of this mail is to apprise the world of the condition of a large chunk of the student body of this campus.
Featured image credit: NLU Delhi official website