Indian campuses are witnessing unusual caste flare-ups, highlighted by the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad. The Hindu examines how caste fault lines are muddying higher education, and the government’s ill-crafted budget cuts and erratic decision-making are adding to the grievances of a generation. This is the third in a series. Read the first and second parts here.
On January 3, Dalit students of Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, celebrated their own version of Teachers’ Day to coincide with the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule, a prominent social reformer who founded a girls’ school in Pune in the mid-19th century.
The students are members of the Dr. Ambedkar Students’ Front of India (DASFI), headed by Sanjay Bauddh, a student of Chinese language in the university, and the programme had discussions by Professors and Dalit thinkers. The organisation has its presence in universities in Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
For these students, September 5, the birth anniversary of India’s second President, S. Radhakrishnan, is not Teachers’ Day, as others everywhere celebrate.
Dalit student politics is making its presence felt in many Indian universities. With the alleged suicide of a Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad, this movement is suddenly in the news. And Dalit student politics has its own language and beliefs.Many of their outfits celebrate the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar and Jyoti Rao Phule, holding discussions on their lives. Campuses across India have multiple Dalit organisations, some contesting in polls and some staying off them.
The DASFI believes all-pass for students until Class 8 is working against Dalits, as their children in government schools are not learning enough to compete with private-school students, many from the so-called upper castes. The organisation feels commercialisation of education poses a threat to reservation. “Often, mainstream organisations are wary of Dalit outfits. We deprive them of a supply of Dalit foot-soldiers even where we are not in the fray,” said Arvind Kumar, who has been active in the United Dalit Students’ Forum (UDSF) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Continue reading “Dalit activism is now a reality across campuses in India”