A Dalit professor at Mumbai University has alleged in a police complaint that the dean of the arts faculty hurled a caste slur at him at a meeting on July 7.
<b1>According to the non-cognisable complaint filed with the Azad Maidan police by Vishnu Sarwade, head of the Hindi department, dean Parvathi Venkatesh told him: "Tum achhoot log, achhooton pe hi kaam karte ho kya? (Do you untouchables only work on fellow untouchables?)"
Sarwade applied on Friday for the complaint to be turned into a first information report under which police action could be taken.
Venkatesh told Hindustan Times: "I made no casteist remarks. I don’t know what the remark is. Neither the police nor the varsity has contacted me. Whatever happened in the meeting is in the minutes."
University Registrar K Venkatramani also countered Sarwade’s charge. "Sarwade and Venkatesh argued over the agenda... But there was no insulting remark," he said.
According to Sarwade’s complaint, he was abused when he requested an external examiner for a PhD that Sunil Chavan, head of the Hindi department at Arts & Commerce College in Lanja, Ratnagiri, was working on under him. Chavan is a Dalit too and was working on a thesis on Dalit writer Mohandas Naimishray. The Research and Recognition Committee for the Board of Studies in Hindi had convened at the varsity’s Fort campus to approve thesis topics and appoint referees for those who’ve completed their theses.
"Even before and after the meeting, the two had arguments. Since there was no time, Venkatesh decided to postpone the tabled items for 15 days, which irked Sarwade," said Venkatramani, adding that the matter is with Pro-Vice Chancellor AD Sawant.
Sarwade claimed to have met Venkatramani after the incident. "He asked me to write a complaint and follow the ‘official channel’. I didn’t expect such treatment,” he said.
Sarwade also wrote to Governor SC Jamir, the university’s chancellor, Social Welfare Minister Chandrakant Handore, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy RR Patil. Rights group Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar School of Thought demanded that Venkatesh be charged under the Atrocities Act (1989). "We want her to be suspended until an inquiry is conducted," said Professor BL Jadhav, DBAST president.