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Sunday, January 22, 2017

IIT-Kharagpur Adivasi student kills himself on Rohith Shahadat Din - Indian Express

By Express News Service  |   Published: 20th January 2017 08:21 PM  |  

KOLKATA: The death anniversary of University of Hyderabad (UoH) research scholar Rohith Vemula was marred by another suicide of an Adivasi student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur who killed himself on railway tracks near industrial town Kharagpur in West Bengal on January 17.

“The body of Lokesh Meena, the 20-year-old third-year civil engineering student, was found mowed down by a locomotive engine on the railway tracks between Madpur and Jakpur stations, some 20 km from IIT Campus. Post mortem has been conducted and the body handed over to his father Rampal Meena, who identified his son,” a GRP official told Express.


Picture of deceased IIT Kharagpur student Lokesh Meena. | EPS

A native of  Dausa , a district in Rajasthan was Lokesh had gone missing from his room in Radhakrishna Hall on the campus since Sunday morning. After the initial failed searches by Lokesh’s friends in various places he frequents, the students alerted the hostel warden about Lokesh and a missing diary was lodged in Hijli Police outpost inside the campus, sources revealed.
Though the cause of suicide is yet to be ascertained, sources revealed that the deceased was depressed for the past few months, which may be because of detection of a curable disease a few months back.


The locomotive driver had informed Jakpur railway station authorities of the suicide who in turn alerted the GRP officials. The GRP and Kharagpur police are separately conducting investigations into the suicide case to ascertain the exact reason behind the extreme step.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

CASTE DISCRIMINATION Could having more Dalit professors increase sensitivity to scheduled caste students at IITs? - Scroll.In



Deaths like that of Aniket Ambhore, a Dalit student, who is suspected to have committed suicide in 2014, could be avoided in a more understanding environment.

Image credit:  Via Facebook.com/Anurag Mundhada
Yesterday · 09:30 pm  


In March 2012, Sanjay and Sunita Ambhore, parents of Aniket Ambhore, 19, a first-year electrical engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, received a letter informing them that their son – admitted on a scheduled caste quota – had failed two courses.

Concerned, the Ambhores – Sanjay, a bank manager, is a Dalit from Akola district in Maharashtra, Sunita, a junior-college lecturer, is not – met one of Aniket’s professors, who told them their son could not cope with IIT workload and would be happy in “normal” engineering colleges (with lower standards). He implied, they said, that scheduled caste students took up to eight years to complete a course that normally took four years. The professor suggested counselling to help Aniket focus on studies and named anti-depressants he could take.

The comments were a shock to Sanjay and Sunita, they said, who were until then mostly unaware that such attitudes existed in higher-education institutions.

Some high-caste professors consider Dalit students “uneducable”, wrote educationist Kurmana Simha Chalam in an 2007 book, Challenges of Higher Education.

Reflected in Aniket’s response to his professor’s outburst, casteist expression can leave Dalit students feeling that they are undeserving of their admission to higher-education institutions, concluded this 2013 King’s College London study of an Indian university, now a book, Faces of Discrimination in Higher Education in India: Quota Policy, Social Justice and the Dalits.
“Aniket did not find anything wrong with what he [the professor] had said, maybe because of the way it was said, as a well-meant suggestion,” Sunita told IndiaSpend.

Instead, Aniket – who scored 93% in his Class 10 Central Board of Secondary Education exam and 86% in his Class 12 Maharashtra state board exam – possibly influenced by disparaging talk of affirmative action, told his parents that he wanted to reappear for the Joint Entrance Examination, the IIT admission test, which he cleared in 2011 – and study engineering at an IIT only if he could crack the test without affirmative action.

Between then and August 2014, the Ambhores consulted three psychiatrists to help their son regain confidence. It made no difference. Gradually, the talented Aniket (here’s a video of him singing at an IIT- Bombay festival) turned into a student with low self esteem.

In August 2014, a joint meeting with Aniket’s head of department and the head of the Academic Rehabilitation Programme – a programme for academically deficient students that Aniket had been enrolled in the previous year headed by the same professor they met in 2012 – went particularly badly. The programme head suggested that another exam failure would devastate Aniket, so it would be best if he dropped out, perhaps joined an NGO and considered a career as a teacher.
On September 4, 2014, Aniket fell to his death from the sixth floor of an IIT-B hostel. It isn’t clear if it was an accident or he jumped.

‘Some bias on campus’
Media reporting of Aniket’s death – such as this September 6, 2014, report in the Times of India – suggested that he struggled with academics, but did not mention that his parents “had repeatedly asked the HoD (head of department) if there was any way of reducing the academic load on Aniket”, to quote from their 10-page testimony submitted to IIT-Bombay after his death.

Despite this, they were not informed about the possibility of converting the dual degree M Tech programme Aniket was enrolled for to a shorter B Tech programme.

Aniket’s death was described as an accident and reporting included comments from unnamed friends that he did not appear to be “anybody who would commit suicide”.
Media reporting also did not mention Aniket’s growing preoccupation with religion and spirituality – he was raised in an atheist household – as he tried to navigate academics and his scheduled caste origins.

The IIT system provides for an scheduled caste/scheduled tribe adviser for the redressal of caste grievances, and there is acknowledgement that caste plays some role in the life of Dalit students (and tribal students, for whom an additional 7.5% of seats are reserved).

“Some caste bias does shows up on campus, mostly as upper-caste students expressing their discontent with the reservation system,” Devang Khakhar, director of IIT Bombay, told IndiaSpend.

Questions have been raised over the efficacy of the redressal of caste grievances. Filmmaker Anoop Kumar of the 2011 documentary Death of Merit said that 80% of those who committed suicides in the IITs between 2007 and 2011 were Dalits, and none of these institutes had a grievance-redressal mechanism to address caste-based discrimination.

Sunita Ambhore now wonders if Aniket’s downward turn began when he stepped into IIT-B as a Dalit, within months believing his academic woes were a result of his inability to reconcile with his origins. This left him with the belief that he was undeserving of a seat at India’s premier engineering college – an attitude confirmed by the King’s College London study.

Could it have helped Aniket if there were at least some professors who shared his background? There are, for a start, very few Dalit professors in India’s 23 IITs.

1.1% of IIT faculty is Dalit
The quota system policy was designed in the 1950s as an early form of affirmative action to ensure that higher education institutions retained 15% of their places for Dalit students; the same proportion of faculty was also expected to come from this background.

–Faces of Discrimination in Higher Education in India: Quota Policy, Social Justice and the Dalits

In July 2016, IndiaSpend reported how affirmative action helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds get college admission.



Source: American Economic ReviewHover over the chart for more details.BC-A, BC-B, BC-C, BC-D refer to sub-categories A, B, C, D of Backward Caste. SC: Scheduled Caste, ST: Scheduled Tribe.

A 2008 government order instructed the IITs to employ 15%, 7.5% and 27% scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and other backward caste faculty, respectively – in line with the quota system being implemented for student admissions since 1973 – at the entry-level post of assistant professor and lecturer in science and technology subjects and across all faculty posts in other subjects.

Almost a decade on, you can count the number of SC and ST faculty in the IITs on your fingers.

Dalit faculty made up no more than 1.12% of IIT faculty positions in December 2012, according to this statement made in the Lok Sabha (parliament’s lower house) that year: 0.12% of IIT faculty were tribals, while OBC faculty were 1.84%. The proportion of SCs and STs were 16.6% and 8.6% respectively, as per the 2011 census.



Source: Lok Sabha; *Based on the sanctioned strength of 5,706
As on June 2015, according to an answer received by a right-to-information request by a former student, quoted in this June 26, 2015, report in The Hindu, 2.42% of faculty in IIT Madras were SC or ST, based on faculty positions filled, while the similar figure for IIT Bombay was 0.34%.

This lack of SC/ST faculty could affect students from traditionally disadvantaged groups.

“Considerate and supportive faculty who are genuinely sympathetic to student’s problems are few,” said sociologist Virginius Xaxa, professor of eminence, Tezpur University, who has studied the adverse attitude–as this commentary details–towards SC/ST students in Delhi University.

“The pervasive attitude,” said Xaxa, “is that students coming through quotas are undeserving.”

Why do IITs lack SC/ST/OBC faculty?
Too few applicants: That is the overriding reason for not having enough SC/ST faculty, the directors of IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras told IndiaSpend.

“We have very few scheduled caste faculty because we receive too few applicants from this category,” said IIT Bombay’s Khakhar.

“We receive too few good-quality applications from SC/ST candidates who meet the minimum threshold for an IIT faculty,” said Indranil Manna, director, IIT Kanpur. “While we are committed to the law and our social obligation, we are also keen to protect the IIT brand, a globally recognised Indian brand that has taken fifty years to build.”

Could prejudice impede the employment of faculty from disadvantaged communities?

In August 2016, the Madras High Court concluded that IIT Madras had committed “gross irregularity” in passing over associate professor WB Vasantha–a faculty member from a backward caste–for promotion in 1995, and then again in 1997, for lesser-qualified candidates.

“There is no corner of India where prejudice against dalits doesn’t exist,” said Anand Teltumbde, senior professor, Goa Institute of Management, formerly with IIT Kharagpur.

“It took the public sector many years to overcome resistance to employ dalits at managerial levels,” said Teltumbde, the grandson of BR Ambedkar, the writer of India’s Constitution. “India has reconciled itself to admitting dalit students in the IITs, but resistance to admitting dalit faculty is still very strong, a dalit must expect to fight the system.”

Some IITs are bending rules to increase SC/ST faculty, others do nothing

Some of the IITs that IndiaSpend contacted for comments have started to bend the rules to increase the number of SC/ST faculty. Some are doing nothing.

“We have not taken any specific measures to increase the number of faculty members belonging to the scheduled castes,” said Khakhar.

Almost all the SC/ST faculty on the rolls of IIT Delhi today were hired a couple of years ago during a special recruitment drive, a senior faculty member, requesting anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic, told IndiaSpend.

IIT Madras has considered conducting a special recruitment drive for SC/ST faculty, over and above its six-monthly recruitment cycle. However, “so far, a special drive does not seem like an idea that will give us more candidates as we are constantly on the lookout for SC/ST candidates during regular recruitment”, said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director, IIT Madras.
IIT Kanpur’s Manna sees rolling advertisement on the website as a better option to recruit SC/ST faculty than a separate, one-time recruitment drive. “A drive would only provide access to talent existing at a given point of time,” he said.

SC/ST applicants compete against general category applicants in regular recruitment. Does that increase the odds against them? .

Manna does not think so: “SC/ST candidates would not be disadvantaged because they are treated under a separate category with a different level of expectation,” he said.
At the entry level, applicants need not possess “a superlative record”, said Manna. A doctoral degree from a “decent” university, a good academic background, some good publications and a couple of years of work experience.
“I would definitely prefer the SC/ST candidate if I had three candidates of different social status but comparable merit and qualification,” said Manna, who added that IIT Kanpur would only relax the work-experience requirement for an “exceptional” SC/ST doctoral candidate and “appoint such a candidate on a contractual basis with scope for regularisation in due course”.
“We relax the age and work experience norms for OBC/SC/ST candidates to ensure more candidates from among those who apply are called for interview,” said IIT Madras’s Ramamurthi. “We also ensure representation from reserved categories in the selection committee when we have OBC/SC/ST applicants. They make allowance for skills which can be picked up with experience.”

Improve the learning environment, offer training to increase SC/ST faculty
At a December 13, 2016, meeting of directors of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs)–India’s chain of prestigious management institutions, where too the government has urged faculty quotas–to discuss ways to increase faculty from traditionally disadvantaged communities, the IIM Kashipur representative described special fellow programme in management for SC/ST doctoral students, who will simultaneously be trained for faculty positions.
Asked whether he could consider absorbing his institute’s own fresh SC/ST/OBC doctorates as junior faculty, Manna said: “The IITs follow a strict policy on preventing inbreeding. We would prefer that our doctorates work away for a few years, then return to us if they are interested.”

Instead, he suggested that the government take on the training of SC/ST doctorates with potential, with the intention of bringing them up to the IIT standard.

“It isn’t enough to legislate and require IITs to employ a certain number of SC/ST faculty,” he said. “Surely a group of 100 SC/ST entry-level faculties can be created to start with?”
IIT Madras has relaxed the prevention-of-inbreeding condition for SC/ST doctoral scholars. “But like our PhD scholars from the general category, our graduating SC/ST scholars often join other centrally funded technical institutes, national laboratories, industry, foreign universities, etc.,” said Ramamurthi.

Improving the learning environment and training potential candidates in-house would likely help retain more SC/ST doctoral scholars.
“Students aware of the environment in the IITs may be reluctant to join as faculty,” said Tezpur University’s Xaxa “Academic progress depends greatly on how comfortable you feel in an environment.” Aniket, clearly, did not.

This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Another Adivasi Student Suicide Marks Rohith Vemula’s Death Anniversary - Counter Currents


in Annihilate Caste — by Samar — January 18, 2017

https://www.countercurrents.org/2017/01/18/another-adivasi-student-suicide-marks-rohith-vemulas-death-anniversary/


Rohith Vemula’s suicide a year ago shook the country. The circumstances of his death left no doubt that it was an institutional murder committed through continuous harassment, and not a simple suicide. It exposed how the culture of caste discrimination was alive and kicking in Indian campuses despite being outlawed by the Constitution. Though it was no secret even before Rohith killed himself, the violent end to his dreams opened up the pent up rage against caste-based discriminations quite in the same way as the notorious gang rape and murder of a girl in Delhi in 2012 unleashed an outpouring of anger against the culture of rape.

The past year without Rohith was marked with protests demanding a law criminalizing caste-based discrimination in campuses, i.e. a Rohith Act, for prosecution of those responsible for his death and so on. His first death anniversary was not going to be any different. Quite on the contrary, it was going to be a solemn moment of stopping for a moment, looking at what the protests had achieved, and charting a way forward. And, so it did, with countless protests across the country and virulent crackdowns by those responsible for pushing Rohith to the wall.

They left no stone unturned to suppress the voices seeking justice for him and denied permission for protests in the University of Hyderabad where continuous harassment by the authorities had forced Rohith to end his life. They did not think twice before apprehending his mother, brother, a leading journalist, and all others they could get their hands on when people defied the ban and protested. Hundreds of similar protests were broken down with brute force in many other towns, including Delhi, where around 300 peaceful protesters were arrested.

Alas, terrible news that emerged on the very day was lost in the chaos. Exactly a year after Rohith had killed himself, another student from a marginalized community had to end his life in another premier institution of the country. Not many seemed to even notice the death of Lokesh Meena, a third year student of IIT-Kharagpur.

The biting coincidence exposes the fact that nothing much has changed on the ground despite all the cacophony, chaos, claims, and counterclaims that ensued in the aftermath of Rohith’s suicide. Nothing much, despite the vehement protests seeking justice on one hand, and the entrenched system rewarding those behind pushing him to the extremes.

Take, for example, the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Indian Science Congress, 2017, presented the “Millennium Plaques Honour” to University of Hyderabad Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile. He got the award despite, lo and behold, having admitted to plagiarism and having been booked for abetting Rohith’s suicide as well as under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Exact circumstances that led Lokesh Meena to take the extreme step are still unknown. A stinging reality stands out nonetheless: the reality that he came from a marginalized community just like Rohith. Lokesh was from an Adivasi (tribal) community, one of the few severely disadvantaged and marginalized communities of India.

That leads to the second stinging reality: students from marginalsied communities like Dalits and Adivasis account for the bulk of suicides committed in premier educational institutions of the country.

Why they are pushed to take their promising lives is also a giveaway. Thousands of articles, reports, and studies document the systemic and systematic harassment they face in these institutions. They elaborate upon the structures of violence – from emotional to physical –unleashed upon these students who have nothing to bank upon to. With the executive authorities having power to reward or punish every subordinate, in-house institutions earmarked to deal with discrimination often end up as their fiefdom and more often penalize the victims rather than support them.

In sum, the whole thing plays out in cycles. The students from marginalized communities get discriminated against. Then they have to make a choice between two equally distressing options. First is to suffer in silence, get depressed, and wish to make it out alive. Second is to stand up, approach Equal Opportunity Office, or whatever the local equivalent institutions are called, register a complaint, and continue to be even more victimized. This vicious cycle breaks many of the victims from within and, at times, forces them to commit suicide.

Further, tucked away in a single column snippet in the bottom left corner of newspapers or just below the main screens of the websites carrying them, if at all, these students are lost without even anyone registering this loss. The reason behind this is simple, as explained above; most of these struggles end up as being solitary ones waged inside the walled ghettoes that premier educational institutions have become in India. The victims have often to fight it out all alone without any support, without having anyone to even keep records if they fall.

They fail to make it to news in most cases, and some not even after they kill themselves. Take for instance, the struggle of eight Dalit students suspended by the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in September 2016 on the allegations of assaulting a teacher and vandalising his vehicle despite clear CCTV evidence rubbishing the same. Their suspensions arrived after they protested against attempts to dilute reservations for Dalit students in the University. Their struggle and suspension has not excited even those in civil society known for outraging.
Not all discrimination and suicide catch attention. Rohith Vemula’s suicide was not the first one by a Dalit scholar in the University of Hyderabad. He was ninth one to kill himself in a 10 year period and yet the authorities ‘failed’ to see the distressing trend at best and criminally ignored it at worst. Hyderabad University is not the sole offender or an aberration; similar reports have been received from across the country.

A documentary named ‘Death of Merit’ counted 18 suicides by Dalit students in premier educational institutions including AIIMS and IITs in a mere four years, from 2007 to 2011. The number rose to a staggering 22 by 2016; Rohith was the 23rd.
His case stirred the nation because there were people to take the case up, to fight for justice for him, and to hold those responsible accountable. But, what did even this struggle achieve? Nothing much would be the answer, if one goes by Lokesh’s suicide. Asking why and seeking answers would be natural corollary.

A simple answer to the question would be that no amount of outrage could be certain of getting justice in a system with flawed institutions to begin with. Even a cursory look at the valiant struggle of Irom Chanu Sharmila can bring this fact to the open. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act stays intact despite a 16-year long hunger strike by Sharmila and all the outrage it caused. To put it simply, outrage is no substitute for a functioning justice system that anyone and everyone, including those living on the bottom rungs of society, can approach and seek redress from.

Unfortunately that is where our struggles have failed. How many have asked and pursued the status of investigations against Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile and others booked for abetment of Rohith’s suicide. Where has the case reached? How many years would it take to conclude, provided it does? Would it not have created an example and deterrence had he indeed been found guilty and sentenced against future harassment of students from underprivileged communities?

Let us add to this a question over efficacy of any new law getting enacted in this fundamentally flawed system with entrenched vested interests. What if we indeed get a Rohith Act but those responsible for its implementation remain the same?

This is definitely not to say that there is anything wrong with outrage. In fact outraging can at times even help achieve justice; it did in the Jessica Lal case. However, it can only do that in an odd case or two. And India has over 3 crore cases pending. Outraging has a limit; it tires the ones outraging and sets in a fatigue unless it is the system that they are able to change.

There is an even more important question: why should a rule of law based justice system need outrage to deliver justice? Why cannot it operate as it does in a civilised world – so anyone who goes to the court is listened to? Of course, this is not to say that justice there is flawless, but then it is not a rarity like in our system, either.

Justice for Rohith would remain a distant dream until we add the struggle for justice institution reforms to all our struggles. Those who pushed him to death will keep getting rewarded despite the ongoing cases involving allegation as serious as abetment to suicide. We will keep losing Lokesh Meenas without even noticing, forget about outraging.

Samar  is Programme Coordinator – Right to Food Programme Asian Legal Resource Centre / Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Thursday, January 19, 2017

They Chose Death over Humiliation - News Click

They Chose Death over Humiliation

Let us not rest till we achieve a truly democratic, caste-less society.

Vidya, Tilak Tewari 17 Jan 2017

A year ago, death knocked on the doors of a university in Hyderabad. Rohith Vemula, a 27 year old student, chose death over a life of humiliation. “My birth is my fatal accident”, he said in a note that exposed an unequal society. His death woke us from our slumber of complacency, laid bare our complicity in silence, and tore down the walls of privilege. This privilege has been strengthened by years of denial. Vemula reminded us that we have failed to create a democratic society.

Now, a year later, let us look at each life lost, each family devastated, each history erased in the struggle against discrimination. Let us not rest till we achieve a truly democratic, caste-less society. For every life that refused to remain “a vote, a number, a thing”; for every young mind that was snuffed too soon; for every voice that confronted Brahmanism, imperialism, feudalism, patriarchy and fascism, we remember them. We unite and fight for every Rohith.

For a Dalit scholar who died fighting against an institution that was set to fail him


Senthil Kumar belonged to a sub caste of the Dalits named ‘Panniyandi’, and was a student of Hyderabad Central University. He was one of the first to pursue a doctorate from his community. However, because he was from a reserved category, Senthil faced severe discrimination to the extent that he wasn’t even allotted a supervisor. The minimum pass mark for course work examinations was intentionally raised for Dalit students so that they failed and abandoned their studies in distress, said  S.Thennarasu, a research student, studying in the same university. In 2008, his dead body was found in his room. The institution initially claimed the cause of death was a heart attack, but it was in reality because of poisoning. This raised the question of institutional discrimination on the basis of caste. Although the committee that was set up eventually absolved the authorities in their final findings, the report highlighted the severity of institutionalised caste discrimination on campus. 

For a bright mind that refused a life of half-existence


On the 30th of March 2010, Bal Mukund Bharti killed  himself successfully. A final year student of MBBS in AIIMS, Bal Mukund had attempted suicide a day earlier but was saved by his friends. He was from Tikamgarh in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh. He repeatedly faced casteist prejudices by the faculty members in AIIMS who felt that a harijan or adivasi did not deserve to study medicine. Coming from a poor family, his parents had taken heavy loans so that he could pursue higher education. He had cleared the entrance for AIIMS, IIT and the CPMT exam in the same year but chose to pursue his career in medicine with the hope of moving out of the shadow of his caste. Instead, he faced a hostile environment in AIIMS. This hostility came not just from his department but even his hostel. The principal openly claimed that harijans or adivasis did not have the brains for medicine. Whenever he asked questions in class, the teachers did not find them worthy of any response. He was asked to sit at the back of the class. He was graded down in his practical exams by the instructors. He was even asked to move from his allotted hostel room to another one with other SC/ST students. Despite this, a few days before he killed himself, he had purchased books worth thousands of rupees hoping to complete his education and leave the country that discriminated against him because of his caste. But, in the end, the harassment and humiliation proved too much for this bright mind and he chose death to what can only be described as a life of half-existence. 

For an adivasi boy who reached AIIMS but found himself alone in a sea of privilege


Anil Meena belonged to a tribal family of agriculturists, and had qualified the entrance exam to the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). However within two years of his stay, he committed suicide at the age of 22. Students like Anil Meena were deliberately neglected by the teachers and authorities in AIIMS because they belonged to the reserved category. Anil Meena was not allowed to write his exams as he was short on attendance. Interestingly, only students belonging to the SC/ST category were not allowed to write the exams due to low attendance, whereas other students belonging to the General category were allowed to sit. In 2006, the Indian government constituted a three-member inquiry committee under the chairmanship of Professor S.K. Thorat, the then UGC chairperson, to look into the complaints of Dalit and Adivasi students of AIIMS. The systematic segregation on caste lines in hostel with SC/ST students being forced to shift to the two top floors of Hostels 4 and 5, after sustained pressure, humiliation, abuse and even violence by 'upper' caste students, should be a matter of great shame for a premier institution like AIIMS. “Being a doctor is not just being in a profession, what comes with it is also culture capital, and a denting of traditional caste roles”, says Gurinder Singh Azad, a student coordinator.

For the minor Dalit girl found raped and killed in a water tank in Rajasthan

Delta Meghwal, a 17 year old girl from Barmer in Rajasthan, pursuing a teachers training course in Nokha in Bikaner, was a quite a prodigy. At the age of seven, she was awarded by the government of Rajasthan for her artwork. Her last days were spent in the hostel of the Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute for Girls. Under the instruction of the hostel warden, Priya Shukla, she was forced to clean the hostel premises and regularly faced casteist slurs by the authorities. On the evening of 28th March 2016, she was asked by the warden to go to her PT instructor Vijendra Kumar’s room in order to clean it. There were only three other girls in the hostel at the time. Most hadn’t returned after the Holi vacations. In Vijendra Kumar’s room she was sexually abused for hours. Late at night, when the others in the hostel went looking for her, the warden knocked on the door of the PT instructors’ room. When he answered, it was apparent that Delta, a minor who was still in his room, had been raped. Instead of addressing this, the officials of the institution arranged for both the PT instructor and Delta to write a maafinama (letter of apology) wherein they were made to claim that the physical relationship was consensual. The next day, a worker of the school found Delta’s body in the water tank of the hostel. The police was informed and two constables arrived and arranged for her body to be removed from the tank. They carried her body in a municipal garbage disposal truck, without a ‘Panchnama’ or any documentation of the process on video, as is the procedure. An FIR was filed a day after her body was found. On the insistence of Delta’s parents, the FIR named the warden, her husband, the PT instructor and the principal of the institution responsible for the death of their daughter. After an outcry from across the country, the warden, PT Teacher, and principal were booked for her death.

For the 29 year old Dalit law student raped and killed in Kerala
Jisha, 29 year old law student in the Government Law College in Ernakulam in Kerala, was raped and killed  on 28th April 2016 by a migrant labourer in Perumbavoor. She was brutally hacked to death.  Raped, killed using sharp objects, then stabbed over 30 times, Jisha’s body was severely mutilated when found by her mother Rajeshwari. The mother and daughter lived in a small home in purampokku land (land liable to be submerged when the canal is full) in an area surrounded by palatial homes belonging to Nairs and Christians. This duo was ostracised by the neighbourhood citing the mother’s unusual behaviour over the years. On closer inspection, it was found that this family of two living in a shack next to a canal did not even have basic utilities in their house. Living out of little boxes, without a toilet or a bathroom, and estranged from their extended family, they kept to themselves. A quick glimpse at the history of the family in the area reminds us that Rajeswari, the mother, had strived to protect her daughter through thick and thin. In the past, when Jisha was harassed, injured, attacked or their home pelted with stones, Rajeshwari has filed police complaints several times. Jisha, on her part, strove to complete her education. She hoped to save enough money to purchase land and build a pakka home for the two of them. Early in her life, Jisha’s father abandoned the family. When Jisha’s elder sister Deepa moved away from the family to marry, Jisha and Rajeshwari were left to fend for themselves. The wealthy, high caste neighbours wanted nothing to do with the family, they had no idea of the way the mother and daughter survived and vehemently denied having discriminated against them over the years. Only after Jisha’s classmates in the Government Law College and human rights activists raised the issue, did this brutal murder come to light. Following an outcry from across the state, the Kerala police nabbed the man who killed Jisha.

For a man disqualified for his caste and not merit

Dr Jaspreet Singh committed suicide in 2008 because of harassment. He failed to clear his exams because of the casteist behavior of one professor who taught him in his fourth year in Government Medical College, Chandigarh. He was a Dalit student from a very humble background and had successfully cleared all papers without fail until his fourth year when he was under a professor whose criteria of assessment was Jaspreet’s caste rather than his academic performance. The professor humiliated him on caste lines and threatened to continually fail him in his papers. “Do whatever you can do, I will make you to do your MBBS all over again”, taunted Prof N.K. Goel, Head of Department, Community Medicine. Jaspreet had left a suicide note in the library naming the professor and revealing his casteist behaviour. The exam in which the professor had failed Jaspreet Singh was later sent for reevaluation, and he was given a passing mark. 

For a Dalit harassed by the University for being ‘chamar’

Manish Kumar Guddolian, studying in the Department of Computer Science and Technology of IIT Rourkee, committed suicide at the age of 20 in 2011. Both IIT Roorkee and Roorkee police attributed his death to his inability to cope with academic pressure. However, the truth is that he was unable to tolerate caste assaults against him by his own classmates, and the insensitive attitude of the hostel warden forced him to live outside IIT Roorkee. The institution also made his father sign a false statement that he didn’t want an enquiry into the death. Manish's parents have alleged that he faced caste-based harassment throughout his stay at IIT. Their testimony has been recorded on camera by Insight Foundation, an activist group which aims to protect the rights of SC/ST students. The recording is part of a documentary series which has already documented two cases of suicide of Dalit students in medical colleges. Manish's mother, Bhanmati, has said in the documentary: "They used to call him a chamar and asked insulting questions like 'Do chamars have the capacity to study?'" Manish had to shift outside the hostel, undergo psychiatric treatment, drop a semester, and rejoin the course. And then, after years of marginalisation and humiliation, he killed himself. 

For a mother without a son, the dream of IIT stopped short because of caste

Aniket Ambhore was a Dalit student in IIT Bombay who committed suicide in 2014, and was discriminated against on the basis of his caste. His parents had submitted a 10 page testimony to the Director of IIT Bombay, elaborating the kind of caste discrimination he faced in his life.  An inquiry committee was eventually set up. However, its findings was never made public. Ambhore’s mother said , “Students’ agitation is the only hope remaining. Perhaps only the students will be able to wake up the dormant system. We are waiting to find some solace for the pain suffered by Rohith’s family and the Dalit society.”

For three Dalit girls driven to suicide after being pressed to pay excess fees


Three 19 year old girls, V Priyanka, E Saranya and T Monisha, studying Naturopathy in SVS Yoga Medical College in Kallakurichi, near Villupuram, committed suicide  to escape the torture they faced at the hands of the college chairperson Vasuki Subramaniam. They were aware that their decision to kill themselves could bring to light the excesses of the chairperson. They felt cheated by an institution that was determined to extract money without providing education. Their suicide note preempts the attempts that would be made by this chairperson to discredit their account by calling these girls ‘characterless’. Yet, in their death, they hoped that this act would expose the extortionist institution and force the authorities to take action against the chairperson. This suicide was preceded by a long series of protests by students of the college demanding basic facilities like adequate teachers, bills for each payment made, and a stop to the hiking of fees. Instead of addressing the concerns of the students raised over several years, including several attempts by students to commit suicide in 2015, the authorities, including the state government, turned a blind eye to the violations of the management.

For Rohith who refused to be reduced “to a vote, to a number, to a thing”

Rohith Vemula was one of the five Dalit scholars suspended from Hyderabad Central University last year, in an extreme case of caste discrimination. This led led him to commit suicide on the 17th of January in 2016. His death triggered a series of reactions from all over the world and has brought to the front the widespread issue of caste discrimination in institutes of higher education in India. Sadly, the only reaction from the government has been to try to prove that the student was not a Dalit but an OBC, thus entirely diverting the focus away from relentless caste-based institutional discrimination. 
The onus is on us to take a stand and not let his struggle against oppressive regimes be in vain. We need to emphasise that this is not simply the death of a Dalit, but a human being and fellow student who was methodically discriminated against, as are many more in various other institutions all over the country.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.
Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum, Original published date:
17 Jan 2017




Newsclick Report

18 January 2017
Students belonging to JNU, DU and Jamia organised a protest in Delhi on 17th January, commemorating one year death anniversary of Rohith Vemula, an

Sonali

17 January 2017
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Indian Cultural Forum


29 September 2016
A stage adaptation of Mahasweta Devi's short story "Draupadi" by the Department of English and Foreign languages at the Central University of Harya
Pagination

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

If IITs had more Dalit professors, would Aniket Ambhore be alive - Economic Times


By IANS | Updated: Jan 17, 2017, 03.45 PM IST
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Some of the IITs that IndiaSpend contacted for comments have started to bend the rules to increase the number of SC/ST faculty.

By Charu Bahri 

In March 2012, Sanjay and Sunita Ambhore, parents of Aniket Ambhore, 19, a first-year electrical engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), received a letter informing them that their son — admitted in the Scheduled Caste (SC) quota — had failed two courses. 

Concerned, the Ambhores — Sanjay, a bank manager, is a Dalit; Sunita, a junior-college lecturer, is not — met one of Aniket's professors, who told them their son could not cope with IIT workload and would be happy in "normal" engineering colleges (with lower standards). He implied, they said, that SC students took up to eight years to complete a course that normally took four years. The professor suggested counselling to help Aniket focus on studies and named anti-depressants he could take. 

The comments were a shock to Sanjay and Sunita, they said, who were until then mostly unaware that such attitudes existed in higher-education institutions. However, "Aniket did not find anything wrong with what he (the professor) had said, maybe because of the way it was said, as a well-meant suggestion", Sunita told IndiaSpend. 

Instead, Aniket — who scored 86 per cent in his class 12 Maharashtra State Board exam — possibly influenced by disparaging talk of affirmative action, told his parents that he wanted to re-appear for the Joint Entrance Examination, the IIT admission test, which he cleared in 2011 — and study engineering only if he could crack the test without affirmative action. 

Between then and August 2014, the Ambhores consulted three psychiatrists to help their son regain confidence. It made no difference. Gradually, the talented Aniket turned into a student with low self-esteem. 

In August 2014, a joint meeting with Aniket's head of department and the head of the Academic Rehabilitation Programme (ARP) — a programme for academically deficient students that Aniket had been enrolled in the previous year headed by the same professor they met in 2012 — went particularly badly. The ARP head suggested that another exam failure would devastate Aniket, so it would be best if he dropped out. 

On September 4, 2014, Aniket fell to his death from the sixth floor of an IIT-B hostel. It isn't clear if it was an accident or he jumped. 

The IIT system provides for an SC/ST adviser for the redressal of caste grievances, and there is acknowledgement that caste plays some role in the life of SC students (and tribal students, for whom an additional 7.5 per cent of seats are reserved). 

"Some caste bias does shows up on campus, mostly as upper-caste students expressing their discontent with the reservation system," Devang Khakhar, Director, IIT Bombay, told IndiaSpend. 

Questions have arisen over the efficacy of the redressal of caste grievances. Filmmaker Anoop Kumar of the 2011 documentary "Death of Merit" said that 80 per cent of those who committed suicides in the IITs between 2007 and 2011 were Dalits, and none of these institutes had a grievance-redressal mechanism to address caste-based discrimination. 

Sunita now wonders if Aniket's downward turn began when he stepped into IIT-B as a Dalit, within months believing his academic woes were a result of his inability to reconcile with his origins. This left him with the belief that he was undeserving of a seat at India's premier engineering college — an attitude confirmed by a 2013 King's College, London, study of an Indian university, now a book, "Faces of Discrimination in Higher Education in India: Quota Policy, Social Justice and the Dalits". 

Could it have helped Aniket if there were at least some professors who shared his background? There are, for a start, very few Dalit professors in India's 23 IITs. 

The quota system policy was designed in the 1950s as an early form of affirmative action to ensure that higher education institutions retained 15 per cent of their places for Dalit students; the same proportion of faculty was also expected to come from this background. 

A 2008 government order instructed the IITs to employ 15 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 27 per cent SC, ST and other backward caste (OBC) faculty, respectively — in line with the quota system being implemented for student admissions since 1973 — at the entry-level post of assistant professor and lecturer in science and technology subjects and across all faculty posts in other subjects. 

Almost a decade on, you can count the number of SC and ST faculty in the IITs on your fingers. 

Dalit faculty made up no more than 1.12 per cent of IIT faculty positions in December 2012; 0.12 per cent were tribals, while OBC faculty were 1.84 per cent. 

The proportion of SCs and STs in the country's population were 16.6 per cent and 8.6 per cent, respectively, as per the 2011 census. 

This lack of SC/ST faculty could affect students from traditionally disadvantaged groups. 

"Considerate and supportive faculty who are genuinely sympathetic to student's problems are few," said sociologist Virginius Xaxa, professor of eminence, Tezpur University, who has studied the adverse attitude towards SC/ST students in Delhi University. "The pervasive attitude is that students coming through quotas are undeserving." 

Why do IITs lack SC/ST/OBC faculty? Too few applicants: That is the overriding reason for not having enough SC/ST faculty, the directors of IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras told IndiaSpend. 

"We receive too few good-quality applications from SC/ST candidates who meet the minimum threshold for an IIT faculty," said Indranil Manna, Director, IIT Kanpur. "While we are committed to the law and our social obligation, we are also keen to protect the IIT brand, a globally recognised Indian brand that has taken 50 years to build." 

Could prejudice impede the employment of faculty from disadvantaged communities? In August 2016, the Madras High Court concluded that IIT Madras had committed "gross irregularity" in passing over Associate Professor W.B. Vasantha — a faculty member from a backward caste — for promotion in 1995, and then again in 1997, for lesser-qualified candidates. 

"There is no corner of India where prejudice against Dalits doesn't exist," said Anand Teltumbde, Senior Professor, Goa Institute of Management, formerly with IIT Kharagpur, and grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, the writer of India's Constitution. 

"India has reconciled itself to admitting Dalit students in the IITs, but resistance to admitting Dalit faculty is still very strong, a Dalit must expect to fight the system." 

Some of the IITs that IndiaSpend contacted for comments have started to bend the rules to increase the number of SC/ST faculty. 

Almost all the SC/ST faculty on the rolls of IIT Delhi today were hired a couple of years ago during a special recruitment drive, a senior faculty member, requesting anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic, told IndiaSpend. 

IIT Madras has considered conducting a special recruitment drive for SC/ST faculty, over and above its six-monthly recruitment cycle. However, "so far, a special drive does not seem like an idea that will give us more candidates as we are constantly on the lookout for SC/ST candidates during regular recruitment", said Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras. 

SC/ST applicants compete against general category applicants in regular recruitment. Does that increase the odds against them? 

Manna does not think so. "SC/ST candidates would not be disadvantaged because they are treated under a separate category with a different level of expectation," he said. 

At the entry level, applicants need not possess "a superlative record", said Manna. A doctoral degree from a "decent" university, a good academic background, some good publications and a couple of years of work experience. 

"I would definitely prefer the SC/ST candidate if I had three candidates of different social status but comparable merit and qualification," said Manna. 

Improving the learning environment and training potential candidates in-house would likely help retain more SC/ST doctoral scholars. 

"Students aware of the environment in the IITs may be reluctant to join as faculty," said Tezpur University's Xaxa "Academic progress depends greatly on how comfortable you feel in an environment." Aniket, clearly, did not. 

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Charu Bahri is a freelance writer and editor based in Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend.)


Student groups at IIT Delhi, JNU to mark a year of Rohith Vemula’s death - Hindustan Times

DELHI Updated: Jan 17, 2017 13:35 Ist


Hindustan Times

Students demand justice for Rohith Vemula who had committed suicide after alleged discrimination on the basis of caste. (HT FILE)

A year after PhD student Rohith Vemula killed himself at University of Hyderabad after caste based discrimination, students in Delhi will come together to remember him.
Vemula’s death had sparked protests in the university and across the country over caste discrimination. It had led to heated discussions in Parliament and committees were formed to probe the events leading to his death even as contradictory reports emerged over whether he was an OBC like his father or an SC like his mother. The one-man committee formed by HRD ministry said that he was not a Dalit.

To mark a year of Vemula’s death on January 17, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) will be organising a protest march from Mandi House to the HRD ministry. “We will march to demand enactment of Rohith Vemula Act against caste based discrimination in campuses. And also to seek punishment for those responsible for his death,” said Mohit Pandey, president JNUSU.

At IIT-D, a group of students and professors have come together to form “Ambedkar Study Circle” which will hold a remembrance meeting. “We will organise a meeting of remembrance and commemoration for Rohith Vemula Shahadat Diwas,” a member said.

IIT Kharagpur boy commits suicide by jumping in front of train - News X

By
NewsX Bureau
| Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 09:28

 Lokesh, a resident of Digheria village in Rajasthan's Dhasa district, was suffering from anxiety and depression

New Delhi: A student from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur committed suicide on Sunday morning by jumping in front of a train between Jakpur and Madpur station.
The incident came to light when Lokesh Meena, 20, went missing from Radha Krishnan Hall on Sunday morning. Wary of the alleged information that Lokesh was suffering from depression, his friends conducted a frantic search near the hostel campus but could not locate his whereabouts. The hostel warden then lodged a complaint with the police at Hijli police outpost.
Lokesh, a resident of Digheria village in Rajasthan's Dhasa district, was suffering from anxiety and depression, said officials. His body was handed over to his father after the autopsy was conducted.

“The accident took place around 8am on Sunday. We got information around 9.30. A loco engine which was moving on the middle line mowed Lokesh down as he jumped in front of it. The engine driver informed the railway staff at Jakpur station," officials investigating the case said.

‘Depressed’ IIT-Kharagpur boy ends life on railway tracks - TNN

‘Depressed’ IIT-Kharagpur boy ends life on railway tracks

TNN | Jan 17, 2017, 05.38 AM IST

KHARAGPUR/KOLKATA: A third-year civil engineering student of the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur jumped in front of a train between Jakpur and Madpur, around 10km from the campus, on Sunday morning. It is believed that Lokesh Meena, the deceased, had health issues and was suffering from depression. 

Lokesh, 20, went missing from Radha Krishnan Hall, the campus hostel where he stayed, on Sunday morning. His friends launched a frantic search but failed to track him down. The hostel warden was informed and a complaint was lodged at Hijli police outpost. Police finally found the body on the tracks. Officials from the institure reached the Kharagpur sub-divisional hospital and identified the body. He was a resident of Digheria village, which is in Rajasthan's Dhasa district. 

After being informed by IIT officials, Lokesh's father Rammpal reached the campus on Monday. The body was handed over to him after the autopsy. 

"The accident took place around 8am on Sunday. "We got an information around 9.30. A loco engine which was moving on the middle line mowed Lokesh down as he jumped in front of it. The engine driver informed the railway staff at Jakpur station," said a senior Kharagpur GRP official.

A police team that interrogated friends of Lokesh were got to know that he was suffering from anxiety and depression. "We have been told that Lokesh was detected with tuberculosis and also had other health issues. We have also got information that he had spoken to someone at length just before committing suicide. We are now trying to speak to his father. We are trying to find out if any personal loss or family affair was the trigger for Lokesh to end his life," added an invesigating officer. 

Latest Comment
VERY BAD NEWS, DEPRESSION IS SPREADING, MUST BE CONTROLLED.
Azad Hind

"Kharagpur town police station has ended an investigation. The GRP is conducting a separate inquiry," said SP Bharati Ghosh.

According to IIT-Kharagpur director Partha Pratim Chakrabarty, it was a very sad day for the institute. "Lokesh was a good student and didn't have any issues related to studies. The friends never told us about his depression or anxiety. We have a counselling centre at IIT-Kharagpur. The centre has intervened many a times and ensured that students get back to their usual self, leaving all anxiety behind. Unfortunately, they couldn't get time to meet Lokesh," added the director.

IIT-Kharagpur student kills self on railway tracks - TNN


Somdatta Basu & Sujoy Khanra | TNN | Updated: Jan 17, 2017, 08.39 AM IST

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lokesh Meena, a 3rd year student at IIT-Kharagpur committed suicide on Sunday
  • According to Lokesh's friends he was suffering from anxiety and depression
  • According to police, Lokesh was suffering from Tuberculosis and also had other health issues
A 3rd year civil engineering student at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, Lokesh Meena aged 20 years committed suicide for no apparent reason by walking 20 kilometers from the campus and throwing himself before a moving train. Meena was missing from Radha Krishnan Hall since Sunday morning. After the matter was reported to the hostel warden in the evening by his friends a search ensued. 

Since morning however, friends of Meena had tried to locate him at various classrooms, hostels and even canteens. But after failing to find him out, the matter was reported to the warden. Immediately a complaint was lodged at Hijli police outpost. A team of team officials started a search operation. Around evening a body was recovered from the railway tracks between Jakpur and Madpur. 

The institute officials along with police reached the Kharagpur sub-divisional hospital and identified the body of Lokesh. The student was a resident of Dhasa district in Rajasthan, Digheria village. 

Father of Lokesh - Rammpal Meena was informed by the IIT officials. He took a flight to Kolkata and reached the campus on Monday morning. He identified his son. A post mortem was conducted on the body which was later handed over to the family. 

Kharagpur GRP informed that the incident had taken place on Sunday around 8am. "We got an information around 9:30. A loco engine which was moving on the middle line mowed him down as Lokesh jumped before the moving train. The engine driver informed the railway staff at Jakpur station. We then rushed to the spot," said a senior GRP official.

A police team who interrogated friends of Lokesh were informed that the student was suffering from anxiety and depression. "We have been told that Lokesh was detected with Tuberculosis and also had other health issues. We have also got the information that the student had spoken to someone at length just before committing suicide. We are now trying to speak to his father who has already arrived in the Kharagpur campus. Now we are trying to find out if any personal loss or family affair was the triggering point for Lokesh to end his life," added another senior police official.

Latest Comment
Sad .Parents should regularly talk to their child
And specially in such case friends should also help and definitely should . Inform such issue to parents as well as teachers
SAMYAK JAIN

SP Bharati Ghosh said that a student had committed suicide. "The local Kharagpur town police station has ended an investigation. The GRP is also conducting a separate inquiry," added SP Ghosh.

Director of IIT-Kharagpur, Partha Pratim Chakraorty said it was a very sad day for the institute. "Lokesh was a good student and didn't have any issue related to academics. Also the friends didn't inform us about any apparent depression or signs of anxiety," said Chakraborty. "We have a counselling centre at IIT-Kharagpur which is a first of its kind among the higher education institutes. The centre has intervened many a times and ensured that students get back to their usual self, leaving all anxiety behind. Unfortunately in this case they couldn't get time to meet Lokesh," added the director.

Monday, January 16, 2017

IIT aspirant goes missing, back after 12 hours - TNN



IIT aspirant goes missing, back after 12 hours

 | Jan 13, 2017, 06.09 AM IST
JAIPUR: An 18-year-old IIT aspirant went missing from his hostel on Wednesday morning, leaving behind a 32-page longsuicide letter, only to return 12 hours later.


The student, Sriyukt Kambakar, a native of Chattisgarh was preparing for IIT at a private coaching institute in the city, said police. In the letter, Sriyukt claimed to be contemplating suicide, as he was unable to concentrate in studies and prepare well for his examination. The Vigyan Nagar police in Kota conducted an extensive search to trace the student after receiving the letter around 4.30 pm.


"We looked everywhere from the city's hotels to retiring rooms, railway stations, bus stands and hospital registers. We also obtained the call detail record of the student to discover his last location in the city, as his phone was switched off," said a senior police officer. While police stopped the search operation for the day around 11.30 pm, the missing returned the next morning as mysteriously as he had disappeared.


"On Thursday morning, the hostel caretaker informed that the boy had returned. We learnt he went to Ratlam by train, and returned to his room at 3.30 am," said a senior police officer. "We're not questioning him currently as he had threatened to commit suicide and is under depression. He will be certainly be probed about this dramatic disappearance once he's stable," the officer added.



(Representative image)