University teachers protest against govt quota tweak seen as strengthening 'Brahminical hegemony'

New Delhi: The government order mandating department-wise reservation in teaching jobs has set off a movement across universities by socially deprived sections against what they see as a move to buttress "Brahminical hegemony" on education.

Surendra Kumar, assistant professor of history with Delhi University, has been on an indefinite fast since March 8. The Academic Forum for Social Justice, a group representing socially deprived sections, will march from Mandi House to Parliament on March 15.

Teachers and students from the reserved categories have been agitating in JNU, Hyderabad University, Pondicherry University, Tripura University, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the University of Jammu and Karnataka Central University, among others.

Until now, the large number of teaching posts at a university made it easy to earmark 27 per cent of them for the Other Backward Classes, 15 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 7.5 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

But if reservation is implemented independently for a department with, say, five posts, the initial split can only be: four for general candidates and one for an OBC.

A Dalit candidate will be eligible only for the seventh appointment - that is, after two teachers have retired or quit. A tribal candidate will have to wait years, if not decades, for the 13th appointment.

The University Grants Commission issued the latest order last week with the approval of the human resource development ministry. The order is based on a judgment passed last year by Allahabad High Court and upheld by the Supreme Court, but the government is being criticised for not seeking a review.

"We'll meet the vice-chancellor and urge him not to implement department-wise reservation," said Sudhakar Babu, a Dalit professor at Hyderabad University.

Kesav Kumar, who teaches philosophy at Delhi University, said: "The BJP government does not tolerate any assertion by weaker sections. Its target is to sustain the Brahminical hegemony on the education system."

He said many departments had a single professor's post and cited the apex court ruling that reservation would not apply to single posts.

A senior human resource development ministry official said the government was having second thoughts on the revised policy.

"We have sought the law ministry's views again on the matter of seeking a review of the apex court judgment upholding the Allahabad High Court verdict," he said.

An inter-ministerial committee may be formed to examine the possible impact of the revised reservation policy.

Reservation expert P.S. Krishnan said the government should seek a court review or "amend the Constitution to provide for institution-wise, not department-wise, reservation".


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