Caste rears its ugly head again! This time at IIMC
Students across the country have been affected after the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula a Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and most have been on the edge.
The controversy seems to have divided the campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), India's premier media centre for learning in the national capital.
The Dalit and Adivasi students of the institute are agitated over derogatory remarks posted on social media by a fellow student. The post was on Dalit identity and caste-based reservation in educational institutes.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry ordered a probe into the allegations after an IIMC official brought the matter to its notice.
According to media reports, joint secretary Mihir Kumar Singh will submit a report by 10 February.
A formal complaint has been filed by Prashant Kanojia - a student of English Journalism at the institute - with the National Commission of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
According to Kanojia, the alleged comments have caused "emotional distress" among Dalits and Adivasis. "Dalits were abused in these Facebook posts. And then, there were students who started supporting these abusive posts," The Indian Express quoted him as saying.
The Ministry for Social Justice and Ministry of Tribal Affairs have been apprised of the matter.
On 1 February, the aggrieved students wrote a letter to the Director General of IIMC demanding "sensitisation classes" to promote "amicability and inclusivity"and prevent the spreading of "ill will" on campus. The letter has been signed by 17 Dalit and Adivasi students including Kanojia. One letter was written on 29 January too.
"We do not want any punitive action except a public apology and undertaking against the person writing or spreading such messages," reads this letter. "We would beg to request a slot in the academic timetable to be allocated for the sensitising of all the students by experts in the field of Caste/Tribe reality and affirmative action to promote amicability and inclusivity on campus. This initiative would make us feel human and dignified."
In a separate letter written to the Liaison Officer, SC & ST Cell of the institute, students pointed out that "social media is now flooded with hashtags supporting the perpetrator." The letter alleged that "freedom of speech and expression" was being used to defend the abusive comments.
Appealing for "proactive action" to ensure "harmony and amicability" in the campus, the letter alleged that "comments are being passed around and remarks made aloud when the students pass through the corridors in the college and hostels."
Demanding the "formulation of SC& ST cell in the campus", Kanojia lamented that there was "no effort to examine this incident seriously on part of the administration."
"So, I am being forced to file my complaint with the NCSC & ST," he further added.
The whole controversy started after SC/ST students of IIMC expressed solidarity with the students demanding justice for Rohith Vemula.
This prompted a fellow student to write a Facebook post on 18 January. It had objectionable words with reference to the student movement in support of Vemula as well as affirmative action for Dalit welfare.
Accusing pro-Dalit student activists of politicising the issue, the students blamed them for perpetuating the caste system by taking advantage of reservations.
The student tendered a written apology to the OSD on 2 February. He expressed regret for hurting the sentiment of fellow students but maintained that vested interests were keeping the issue alive.
The matter was further aggravated by a flurry of Facebook posts supporting the remarks made by this particular student.
The Dalit and Adivasi students are now demanding the expulsion of the accused student.
IIMC officials claim that the guilty would only be punished after the completion of the probe. According to OSD Anurag Mishra, steps have been initiated to form SC-ST cell in the campus.
Translated by Deepak Sharma
Edited by Sahil Bhalla
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