Higher educational institutes in India have been questioned time and again for maintaining caste-based hierarchies and being spaces of manifestations of caste-based discrimination against students and teachers coming from marginalized caste communities.
Recently, an email was shared on public platforms in which Vipin P Veetil, an assistant professor of economics from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Madras said that he has resigned from the institute mentioning in detail the rampant caste discrimination in IIT Madras and will take the matter further. Dr. Veetil mentioned in the email that he has been at the receiving end of caste discrimination since he joined the institute in 2019.
‘The discrimination came from individuals in positions of power irrespective of their claimed political affiliations and gender’
Dr. Veetil who comes from an OBC community in Kerala further wrote, ‘One of the curious phenomena I have observed here is that the Bayesian prior among many is that caste discrimination is a rare occurrence. My own experience, and conversation with members of SC and OBC communities, suggests that the prior is far from true.’
‘There were multiple specific instances of discrimination and I shall be pursuing appropriate action to address it,’ the email which became public on July 1 read.
The email brought to light that there are no functioning ST/SC and OBC cells in the institute for grievances to be addressed.
The professor asked the administration at IIT Madras to constitute a committee with members of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) commission, OBC commission, and psychologists to look into the experiences of SC and OBC faculty members of the institute. In the mail, he has also encouraged those from marginalized caste communities to reach out to the grievance committee at the institute with complaints when they face caste discrimination.
ChintaBar, an independent Students group recognised by IIT Madras, has released a statement asking the administration to take note of the incident and carry out a time-bound inquiry for the same.
The statement also mentioned that there has been a persistent violation of reservation norms in Ph.D. admissions and faculty recruitment and urged the academic fraternity to come together to make academic spaces inclusive.
The e-mail that was widely circulated on social media was also retweeted by the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, an initiative of the IIT-M students, The Wire reported.
This is not the first instance where an individual associated with the institute has pointed towards the discriminatory practices existent there. In 2019, Fathima Lateef, a 19 years old humanities student’s institutional murder, and her note about the islamophobic harassment she had to face at the hand of the faculty had raised questions about the disturbing academic environment at the institute.