Police stop NSUI activists protesting outside HRD minister Smriti Irani's residence in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, May 29: Other than the question of space for dissent, the IIT Madras controversy has also brought back to the fore the way socially weaker sections say they are treated in celebrated institutions.
"During our time we had no such group (the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle that has been derecognised in IIT Madras). But now, discrimination has increased so much that it was needed," IIT Madras alumnus E. Muralidharan told The Telegraph.
The biomedical engineering scholar has filed cases against alleged irregularities in the appointments of directors of the institute.
Despite experience in American and Japanese varsities, he added, his application for a teaching position at IIT Madras was summarily rejected 13 times between 1995 and 2014. The institute has around 500 faculty members but less than 30 are from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, he claimed.
Naren Bedide, the contributing editor to India Roundtable, an Ambedkarite website, said about 93 per cent of teachers in IIT Madras were Brahmins. "The action of IIT Madras to ban the students' group was out of over-enthusiasm after getting a letter from the HRD ministry," he said.
A committee led by Rajya Sabha MP and former Mumbai University vice-chancellor Bhalchandra Mungekar found that Dalit students were deliberately harassed in Delhi's Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College.
The committee found that Dalits were identified by specifically assigned roll numbers and were denied promotion to the next year, between 2011 and 2014. The institute has rejected the report.
The Dalit students in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences were subjected to harassment when the OBC quota was introduced in 2006. The government set up a panel under the then UGC chairperson, Sukhadeo Thorat, who recommended a SC/ST cell to be set up. This is yet to happen.
Allegations had also surfaced that IITs and several central educational institutions had been flouting reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs in the recruitment of faculty.
For instance, out of the 52 assistant professors recruited by IIT Bhubaneswar between 2010 and 2014, three are OBC candidates and one a Scheduled Caste candidate.
The centrally funded institutions are supposed to implement reservation of 27 per cent for OBCs, 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs in recruitment. This means, IIT Bhubaneswar should have recruited 14 teachers belonging to OBCs, eight from SCs and four from STs.
In New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, the editors of a journal called Forward Press are facing trial for allegedly inciting violence by publishing an article eulogising Mahishasura as a tribal ruler who, according to adivasi folklore, was seduced and murdered in order to conquer his lands. The journal was circulated during the celebration of Mahishasura Diwas on the campus in October 2014.
The fest, organised annually by the All India Backward Students Federation after Durga Puja, was opposed by the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. This led to an altercation, following which ABVP supporters filed a case against the editors, Pramod Ranjan and Ivan Kostka.