Thursday, June 06, 2013

Suicide by Dalit students in premier institutions: NHRC notice to the Union government

By Our Representative
The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development on the basis of reports alleging fierce caste-based discrimination and violence in the hostel of Dalit students at several places in India. The Commission observed that the news reports, if true, reflects “widespread prevalence of discrimination towards Dalits in the educational institutions driving them to take extreme steps”, adding, “The state has the responsibility and duty to ensure that an atmosphere is created in educational institutions wherein everyone, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, can pursue studies. The Constitution of India has also elaborate provisions to stop discrimination against the Dalits.”
The notice is based on a complaint filed by Kantilal Parmar of the Navsarjan Trust, Ahmedabad, on May 24, 2013, drawing attention of the Commission to an online news reports highlighting a series of suicides by Dalit students in premier educational institutions in India during the last four years.
Parmar cites 18 specific incidents of death by suicide by students of IIT, Bombay, IIS Bangalore, IIT, Kanpur, AIIMS, New Delhi and various other premier institutions and alleges that this is an indication of widespread prevalence of caste discrimination in the Indian education system. The notice also takes note of violence in the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of Patna during the last week of January this year.
The NHRC said, “It cannot be denied that caste discrimination is still prevalent in the country in all pervasive form. The Constitution of India has elaborate provisions to do away with caste discrimination and to uplift the dalits and empower them through affirmative actions. Education is an important tool by which the Dalits and other weaker sections of the society can be empowered and helped to achieve their rightful dignified place in the society.”
It underlines, if the reports cited by Parmar are true, they “reflect widespread prevalence of discrimination towards Dalits in the educational institutions driving them to take extreme steps which is gross violation of human rights”, asking the Ministry of Human Resource Development to provide a report within four weeks.
In his complaint, Parmar cited a list of Dalit students who committed suicide during the last four years in some premier institutions. Saying that this is “by no means an exhaustive list as it only covers cases which could be documented and where parents and relatives raised their voices and accused the institutions of caste discrimination against their children that led to their suicides”, the list includes the names of following persons, with date of suicide:
1. M. Shrikant, final year, B.Tech, IIT Bombay, 1st Jan 07
2. Ajay S. Chandra, integrated PhD, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore - 26 Aug, 07
3. Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, 27 Jan 08.
4. Senthil Kumar, PHD, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad - 23 Feb 08
5. Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 19 April, 08
6. G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 2nd Jan, 09
7. Ankita Veghda, first year, BSc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, 20 April, 09
8. D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, 13 Aug, 09
9. S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh,Hyderabad, 4th Nov, 09
10. Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, 5th Nov, 09
11. Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visvesvaraiah Technological University, Bangalore, 30th Jan, 10
12. Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, 31 Jan, 10.
13. Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, 3rd March, 10
14. JK Ramesh, second year, BSc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, 1st July, 10
15. Madhuri Sale, final year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 17th November, 10
16. G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, 30 Jan, 2011
17. Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year B.Tech, IIT Roorkee, 13 Feb, 11
18. Linesh Mohan Gawle, PhD, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, 16 April, 11

Parmar said, “A large number of Dalit and Adivasi students committing suicide clearly indicates the wide-spread prevalence of caste discrimination in the Indian education system, which perceives them as 'non-meritorious', not fit to belong there. When a student from the lowest strata of society fights against all odds to prove his/her merit and reach the best educational institutions in India, are those institutions proving themselves meritorious enough to recognize their worth and to accommodate them, let alone nurture their aspirations?”
He emphasised, “Our communities cannot afford to lose our bright, young hopes like Linesh and Balmukund, in the hands of an insensitive and casteist educational system. A documentary “The Death of Merit” documents the horors of caste-discrimination that is prevalent in AIIMS, New Delhi that resulted in the suicide of a very bright Dalit student Balmukund Bharti who came from a very humble background (watch the documentary HERE).
He went on to underline, “The dismal representation of SC/ST students in IITs demands some serious questioning from all who believe in equal opportunities and social justice. There are various instances that indicate towards the prevalence of caste-based harassment of Dalit students. Recently IIT Delhi was in news due to the termination of 12 Dalit students together with allegations of prevalence of caste-based discrimination. In the wake of this incident, an attempt was made to map the experiences of Dalit students within IIT Delhi structure.”
On May 2008, he informed NHRC, 12 Dalit students (11 SC and one ST) were terminated by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, citing their 'low academic performance'. Eleven of these students were from the first two years of their undergraduate courses. “After receiving the termination letter, some of these students filed a petition in the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes (NCSC), alleging caste-based harassment in IIT Delhi and demanded annulment of their terminations.”
He said, “According to the students, many IIT Delhi faculty members harbour deep prejudices against students admitted through reservations and they receive very poor grading despite performing well in the exams. The NCSC immediately summoned the Director of IIT Delhi, and asked him to investigate these allegations and also to review the terminations.Later, in July first week, the IIT administration submitted a one-page report to the NCSC stating that, it has decided to revoke the expulsion of two Dalit students by giving some relaxations in their grade requirements."
He added, "It also informed the NCSC, about the IIT review committee, constituted in response to the summon issued by the NCSC, to inquire about the prevalence of caste based discrimination. The report further stated that 'no case of caste discrimination was brought out by the students in their meeting with the Review Committee'. The last paragraph of the report reiterated that, 'IIT Delhi is very sensitive to the special needs of SC/ST students and faculty members spare no efforts in helping them, and indeed all weak students, to come up to our higher academic standards'.”
Parmar put forward following demands
1. Make a special investigation team of NHRC by suo motto action.
2. Government should (State Government and Central govt.) immediately conduct a departmentally inquiry in all cases.
3. Provide Rs. 10 lakh to all family members of student as a compensation.
4. Provide rehabilitation package to all family members of students.

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