“I will not give up until my demands are met. Right now, I understand why my dear brother Rohit Vemula committed suicide. I have to win for my community who lost before me”.
The binary between touchable and untouchable is becoming more severe these days. Being a Dalit is a crime in the twenty first century India. We are moulded in a way that egalitarians have the license to oppress the Dalits. Hence, they created several rules to embellish the art of oppression. When Dalits resist to inherit the silence and shame of their ancestors, it becomes a transgression. We exist in a nation that failed to teach the oppressors to stop oppression but would love to advise the oppressed how to mark their protest effectively. Survival is becoming a struggle for Dalits in India. It’s time for a moral assessment on our responsibilities. Rohit Vemula, Fatima Lateif, Muthukrishnan, and Payal Tadvi are some victims of institutional harassment in the name of caste and religion in modern India. Majority of the Dalits are facing severe humiliation, bullying, discrimination and abuse because of the caste they belong to. Even civil service toppers and the Indian President have faced caste discrimination in liberal India. The recent case of Deepa Mohan, a Dalit research scholar from Kerala, portrays the different types of indirect and direct institutional casteism prevalent in our society.
Deepa P Mohanan is a research student at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, who was subjected to institutional casteism. She has filed a complaint against her research guide for caste discrimination. But it never went fruitful. Deepa’s supervisor, Dr. Nandakumar Kalarikkal, intentionally delayed her research submission and became a barrier for completing the same. He stigmatized Deepa as inefficient and stopped supporting her also by means of not providing the fellowship. After a decade of caste- harassment and abuses she decided to report this to the Governor. But she was arrested and denied the chance to meet him. Deepa questioned her supervisor and the discriminators but nothing has changed. Hence, she decided to go for a hunger strike. Deepa demanded three things in her strike. Her research supervisor should be changed, she should get the materials to complete her research like all other PhD students and Dr. Kalarickal should be removed from the institute. The university agreed to her first two demands and neglected her main demand. Hence, Deepa decided to continue her strike. Deepa quoted that, “I will not give up until my demands are met. Right now, I understand why my dear brother Rohit Vemula committed suicide. I have to win for my community who lost before me”.
Deepa’s issue didn’t get much attention like any other caste related issue in India. Majority of the progressive liberal champions of south India are silent on this issue. Casteism is institutionalized in the education system and the respected authorities are ignoring the subtle and brutal form of caste discrimination. In reality the deaths of these Dalit students are institutional murders or homicides. They were subjected to different ways of discrimination like abuses, direct opposition to the reservation seats, psychological and physical harassments and so on.
Deepa also faced such ill-treatment from the society and institution. If we can raise our collective voices against discrimination at this very moment and support her, it will give confidence to all the socially disadvantaged groups. But it is heartbreaking to say that still there is a group who believes there is no casteism in India and we don’t need reservation. And this privileged group is bullying them directly and indirectly. They have several traditional, occupational, social, political, racial and evolutionary theories to justify their acts. We don’t have any kind of divine power to oppress others and stereotype them. Majority of the privileged group is practicing some form of untouchability. Falling in love with a lower-caste person is a criminal offense in India. Stereotyping Dalits as criminals, illiterate, useless and treacherous is a general trend. The systematic oppression of Dalit woman is also not a new thing in India.
As a Dalit woman, Deepa is triply marginalized here. She needs our support to fight against the feudal autocrats. The authorities are not concerned about her mental and physical health. The resistance to support Deepa and other Dalits shows that knowingly or unknowingly you are also supporting casteism. This liberal democratic nation is afraid of Dalits. Deepa’s honest and fearless fight deserves great applause. These continuous Dalit issues compel me to ask where is the equality guaranteed by the Constitution of India? We have to strengthen laws and help them to ensure justice. It’s time to protest against the unfair practices in educational institutions. It’s high time to fight against institutional casteism.