Saturday, May 26, 2007

On being a Dalit student at AIIMS

I had been to school at the Navodaya Vidyalaya for seven years, and I knew about casteism from my experience there, but it was nothing compared to AIIMS. In school, I used to think I wouldn’t have to go through the same humiliations if I were at a big institution. I came to the biggest of them all, but in vain. At least we would eat together at Navodaya.

That's from Ajay Kumar Singh's deeply moving piece in the latest issue of Tehelka. [Hat tip: Shivam Vij].


  1. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    It's a disgusting state of affairs and shows how hollow the upper-caste protests about reservation and "merit" are. No doubt the AIIMS students learned such attitudes from their parents, but a reputable institute should have a management that quashes, rather than supports, such behaviour.

  2. ggop said...

    This reads straight out of Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance"

    Hanging my head in shame, India shining indeed.

  3. Pratik Ray said...

    Moving indeed. I wonder in how many institutes such practices goes on. At least the institutes I have been to, NIT and IIT, such practices seems absent. Nor do we hear so much from other engg and sci institutes.

    I recall though that a comment from a blogger in your earlier post on this issue that such problems also existed in some of the other medical colleges. Wonder whether this is specific to the medical colleges only.

    Whatever the case though, these problems are shameful and cant be wished away.

  4. Pratik Ray said...

    The worst part is that the authorities dont seem to make a serious effort to stem this rot. This is as bad as the politics of divide and rule followed by the politicians.

  5. Anonymous said...

    The positive part is towards the end when Ajay says that his efforts have now resulted in other Dalit students becoming more assertive. That's good. It won't be surprising if we find that the idiot "general" students don't take kindly to such assertiveness. (Indeed, the article documents how Ajay's assertiveness resulted in attempts to intimidate him.) In the short run, we are therefore likely to hear more such incidents as the "general" students (and the incredibly stupid authorities) realise that they can no longer run roughshod over the Dalits.

    It is bizarre in a way to read Ajay's experiences optimistically, but that is the way I see it. I read it as showing that Dalits are increasingly confident to challenge the status quo...We need to realise that Ajay's experiences are by no means new...they have always been there at all our "premier" institutions but while an earlier generation of Dalits may have quietly accepted the humiliations as a "price" for studying at "prestigious" institutions, Ajay's generation is no longer going to accept this - I think this is great but I do wish Ajay and others did not have to go through such traumatic experiences.

    I can only say: Go Ajay! more power to you.


  6. Anonymous said...

    IIT Madras has a tradition of calling out loudly the students who had qualified through the Reserved Category as SC-1, SC-2 during the first day of the counselling program. This is done in front of a crowd of all qualified candidates who would have assmebled along with their parents & siblings. The admission authorities could have as well called them by their sub caste titles to make the occasion even more repulsive. The damage done the self esteem is incalculable.This is the other side of brahminical behaviour as clearly written by Kosambi in his many essays. I remember the words in 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' by Harper Lee - To see through the eyes of the Negro - you have to be a Negro- To understand the damage to the self esteem of these students you need to be one of them. It is my firm belief that this question of reservation will be settled violently once the groups acquire the power. I think we would be foolish to ignore Mayawati rise to power as well as the recent news of more than 1 lakh tribals converting to Buddhism. Meanwhile we can all be blogging happily like the blind newscasters/pollsters of Television media.

  7. barbarindian said...

    On the other hand this aggravation was perfectly avoidable. The Dalit rankings in IIT clearly suggests these would comfortably go to regional or local Engineering colleges sans quota. Up to a quarter of SCs would make it even in IITs, but with lower ranks. But they opt for the quota so that they get a better "branch".

    The political rhetorics hide reality.

  8. Unknown said...

    Dear friends it is indeed a great feeling to hear from you such words of courage.Many times i was depressed and wanted to quit but the support of my juniors colleagues and all friends like you all have encouraged me to keep moving.Though the battle is tough I have promised to my self that I won't give up and the day will come when I will win this battle and make changes which could lower down these sort of atrocities.