“Hey, you speak simple English you should try next time”, this was the suggestion given to Muthhukrishnan during his Viva Voce in JNU. Muthhukrishnan , a brilliant Dalit Research scholar and a historian hailing from Tamil Nadu who had to appear for JNU entrance exams thrice for MA and twice for Mphil. He finally got through JNU the so called epitome of “progressiveness” but the tragedy of life-long caste based discrimination and humiliation for him didn’t stop here. The institutional discrimination he faced in the campus eventually took his life. Institutional discrimination starts right from the time you enter the Viva voce room during the JNU entrance exam where the Professors sitting inside keenly analyse your social location, surnames, linguistic competence before validating your “Eligibility” to be able to enrol in a particular course. Terms such as NFS (Not found suitable ) and “Zero Wala” are very often used to refer to students coming from marginalized backgrounds in this space. These are not some statements made out of thin air, there are ample amount of committee reports, recommendations and findings which substantiate the rampant discrimination that has been happening against students coming from SC, ST and rural backgrounds during Viva Voce. Once the student gets inside this space, there are multiplicities of discrimination that one has to face. From getting one signature, one recommendation letter, belittling in classrooms due to unsophisticated English, isolation in classroom interactions, delays in fellowships, mistreatment from the supervisors during research to exclusions of marginalized history and narratives in pedagogy are the various forms in which institutional discrimination manifests in this university space . As much as the centres and schools within JNU are institutions so is the JNU administration which is supposed to provide conducive ambiance for the students coming from the most marginalized sections. For the last two years after the inception of RSS man M. Jagadesh Kumar as the vice chancellor this space has become even more difficult for marginalized students. There has been serious procedural violations from the administration side especially regarding the appointments of deans, proctors, rectors, chairpersons and other important posts in the university to push forward their anti student agendas.
In this background the UGC gazette notifications were passed resulting into massive seat cuts, changing the format of the exams and tampering with deprivation points available for marginalized students. Keeping in mind this grave crisis and urgency of the situation many student activists coming from marginalized backgrounds from organizations like United OBC forum, DSU, AISF, SIO, YFDA as well as students not affiliated to any organization went on for a head-on fight with the administration through different modes of protests and blockades for around three months starting from January 2017 to March 2017. Nine student activists coming from marginalized backgrounds were suspended and some of us got inquiries and police complaints. This was my last semester of MA but the massive seat cuts preventing our students coming to this university space hit me hard to fully involve myself in these months of struggles along with my organization BAPSA. The university administration quite shamelessly asked me to appear for the inquiries during the middle of my semester exams in the first week of may. The inquiry process had been quite harassing and so did I write a letter expressing my deep concerns regarding that. I have given my depositions on time and have also scored pretty good grades in my end semester exam (telling this lest people ask about the “merit” of this Dalit student for getting my degree). It’s already been four months and I have been waiting for the result of the inquiry to take my degrees and transcript. During these months I have been running around from one office of the administration to another, writing multiple letters, registering complaint in equal opportunity cell to writing letter to the vice Chancellor regarding the denial of my basic right. In the meanwhile, I have lost opportunities of employments, studying abroad and most importantly my one year of higher studies .The way the entire administration has been handling my case reflects a strong sense of caste discrimination and disinterest despite me having cited my marginalized socioeconomic conditions, financial constraints and mental exhaustion that I have been going through. Mine is not an isolated incident of caste based institutional discrimination, there are many others who are confronting these forms of discrimination starting from their centres . Due to immense pressure many of them are compelled to keep silent while some of them are getting dropped out from their own centres . These enforced dropouts of marginalized students happen like some underground business without much noise about it while the trumpet sounds and chest thumping of “Progressiveness” continues to overpower these narratives coming from the marginalized students getting inside these renowned educational spaces. While many would be uncomfortable when I talk about caste but when this enforced caste identity deprives, dehumanizes and discriminates us constantly I have no other option but to strive to dismantle it for my existence.