Saturday, June 09, 2007

Alumni response to allegations of discrimination against Dalits at AIIMS

An anonymous commenter points us to this post on a blog run by AIIMS graduates (they call themselves AIIMSonians). It's a long post (in which the author reproduces what several other alumni have written elsewhere about these allegations), so you will have to go there and read all of it. I just want to excerpt a part that makes a lot of sense:

If these incidents have not occurred, it is high time a defamation suit was filed against the committee and the media that carry these reports, because continued repetition makes people believe it is the truth. Let the people who make such sweeping allegations do so under oath in court of law then and face the music.

If there have been any such incidents and if these have been correctly interpreted, it is condemnable and shameful. Then the question arises whether it was individuals (and we know that we do have diverse opinions and actions on anything within the student community at aiims) or whether it was institutional and all pervasive.

If the former, then the chips have to fall where they fall and individuals cannot tarnish everyone else, and should bear responsibility as individuals for their actions. An acknowledgement and a sincere apology would go some way, perhaps.If the latter, as the media is portraying, then some deep introspection and corrective measures are needed. Denial is not an option. (On this count, I personally find that difficult to believe, since I was in aiims till late 2004, and I didn’t hear of such incidents, but if I was ignorant let others enlighten us).

I am not jumping to conclusions or casting aspersions, but the deafening silence is sort of self-indicting in the face of the repeated reports like this. Either take the falsehoods by the horn with a comprehensive defamation suit, and clear replies to the media, or if true, then hold individuals or groups to account, whoever they are and remedy the situation. Report after report in the same vein will certainly make outsiders believe them and tarnish our institute's name, whatever the truth in the reports. Call the bluff or punish the wrongdoers, but don’t just be silent.

The thing about the allegations in the Thorat Committee report and in Ajit Kumar Singh's piece is this: given that we are talking about a bunch of late teens and young adults, it should not be surprising that some of them indulged in acts of covert and overt discrimination. It also appears that some of the more egregious incidents happened around the time the OBC reservation issue broke -- when AIIMS lawns were the hotbed of anti-reservation protests. Thus, it's possible that a lot of things were said and done in the heat of the moment. We don't have to condone the acts of young adults when we say, "youth do what they are known to do: indulge in a lot of inappropriate ways." But what is really deplorable is the way AIIMS administrators (and to some extent, its Faculty Association) have responded to the allegations.

A comparison with ragging -- hazing -- is useful here. That ragging happens, and that some really nasty things are said and done in its name are not news. Some good folks are fighting this menace, and they find that when allegations of atrocities arise, administrators' immediate -- and often only -- response is to seek ways to hush things up. They do this usually in the name of protecting the institutions' "good name" and "reputation". In other words, they choose 'denial' over other possible -- and more constructive -- responses. In doing so, they send a signal to the perpetrators that their bad behaviour is unlikely to be punished. This is a bad signal, indeed.

[The recent Supreme Court verdict -- based on the report of a committee headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan -- makes it mandatory that they should report all ragging incidents. This is a welcome development, though it doesn't go far enough.]

I would be happy to be proved wrong on this one, but much of what we know about the response of AIIMS administrators indicates that they too have chosen denial over other responses (such as establishing a code of acceptable conduct, and a clear articulation of penalty for hateful speech and acts). As the AIIMS alumnus said above, "Denial is not an option." It should not be.


  1. Pratik Ray said...

    agree wholeheartedly!
    Silence, in this case, is anything but bliss.

  2. Iva said...

    thanks for the link :)