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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

Battling caste injustice on campuses | HT editorial

A plea to the SC highlights continued discrimination, offers remedies

editorials Updated: Sep 05, 2019 21:47 IST

Hindustan Times
These formidable women are bound together by the tragic deaths of their children, Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi, who ended their lives in 2016 and 2019 respectively
These formidable women are bound together by the tragic deaths of their children, Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi, who ended their lives in 2016 and 2019 respectively(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
         

On August 27, Radhika Vemula and Abeda Salim Tadvi filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking its intervention to end caste discrimination in universities and higher education institutions. The petition highlighted the “inadequate mechanisms” of the University Grants Commission to fight caste-based injustices. These formidable women, from different states, are bound together by the tragic deaths of their children, Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi in 2016 and 2019, respectively. Rohith, a Dalit scholar at the University of Hyderabad, and Payal, a medical student from a tribal community in a Mumbai college, were victims of caste discrimination for many years before their unfortunate deaths.

Systemic discrimination in educational institutions is worrying. It comes from peers, staff, and the college administration. Battling it is essential to create an equal, fair, diverse and empathetic environment for students in their formative years. This will have to include debunking the myth of merit used to undermine and stigmatise reservations; promoting inclusive growth for all students, irrespective of their background; rejecting caste-based divisions and slurs; and strict and swift action against perpetrators.

To be sure, existing mechanisms are in place. But the petitioners believe it is largely on paper, and the will to operationalise it has been missing. They want institutions to upload all measures on their websites to prove their commitment to the cause. They have also highlighted the need for a redressal mechanism to help students who face discrimination, get all the institutional support that they need. This is crucial, and can ensure that no more lives are lost to what Rohith Vemula, in his suicide note, called “a fatal accident” — the caste that they are born in to.