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India: A teacher’s perspective: Casteism is pervasive and entrenched in the campus

Sunday 31 January 2016, by siawi3


by: Maitreyee Boruah

Updated: Friday, January 29, 2016, 8:16 [IST]

Along with students, teachers at the University of Hyderabad are protesting, demanding justice for Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide at the university campus.

Rohith hanged himself on January 17 after being expelled by the authorities of his alma mater. OneIndia spoke to Karthik Bittu, a faculty fellow of University of Hyderabad and a member of Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti over the phone about Rohith’s death, rampant caste discrimination in the campus and why the protest is not going to end until justice is delivered.

Both teachers and students are guilty
Talking about prevalence of rampant caste biases in the campus, Bittu said, “I have been teaching in the university for the last two years. I have seen how openly both students and teachers belonging to upper castes practice caste-based discrimination in the campus. People from upper castes verbally abuse Dalits and other backward castes. Here everyone knows everyone’s caste. Like in our society, casteism is pervasive and entrenched in the campus. That is how bad the situation is.”

Reservation is a derogatory word
Bittu laments that students from reserved categories are made to feel inferior and unequal. Often Dalit and backward caste students are bullied in the campus. “Students confidentiality is not maintained. Confidentiality is needed to protect students from facing abuse. It is the duty of the authorities and teachers not to share students’ information openly. Reservation is a derogatory word in the campus. Students from the reserved categories have to face the ordeal of caste bias every day,” the teacher added.

Unfriendly teachers
Even after the tragic death of Rohith, which has once again brought the spotlight on caste and reservation across the country, Bittu says most of the teachers don’t understand the plight of students. “It is sad that caste prejudices exist in our higher educational institutions. It is killing so many students. Unfortunately most of the faculty members are not ready to understand the plight of students belonging to various minorities groups. Most of the teaching staff belongs to the upper caste. However, there are some, especially after the nation-wide protest demanding justice for Rohith, have changed their views. They have become tolerant towards all. However, it is just one-third of them,” Bittu added.

Protest is to achieve justice
Bittu, who has been at the forefront of the protest, admits it is not an easy fight. “But we will fight till justice is delivered.” What about those who are saying that protests and strikes are hampering students’ careers? “Suddenly authorities are concerned about the students’ future. Recently, water crisis in the campus caused a lot of inconveniences to the students, hampering their classes. Later on students were asked to attend classes on holidays also. Now, when we are fighting for a right cause-to create an inclusive and caste free society—they are using the pretext of students’ future as an excuse to stall our agitation,” said Bittu.