Imposter Syndrome Of Students From Reserved Categories:

Looking at the ways the views and conversation surrounding reservation makes students with reservation feel.

There has been a long-standing debate on ‘Reservation’ which is the act of holding a certain percent or number of openings/seats for individuals from certain ‘disadvantaged’ communities. Delhi Univerity has such provisions in the form of its ‘quota’ system that offers some relaxation in cut off percentages and reservation of seats for students from certain communities that are recognised as Scheduled Castes/Tribes, (SC/ST) Other Backward Classes (OBC) and even students from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and Persons with Disabilities. (PwD) While the ‘Anti-reservation’ argument is often hijacked by upper caste, privileged, ‘general category’ individuals who feel that reserved category students are ‘stealing their opportunities’, there hardly seems to be much conversation on how it can affect the individuals belonging to these communities.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Wikipedia defines it as “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” Very simply put, it is a feeling that you don’t belong or don’t deserve your position or success. For a more comprehensive understanding, this TED-Ed video may help you.

What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? – Elizabeth Cox

What does imposter syndrome have to do with reservation?

A lack of quality education in many places forces students who seek higher education to move to cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore or Mumbai. This not only means more competition for local students, but also ends up giving rise to the cut-throat cut-offs that we see across several ‘prestigious’ Universities. In these circumstances, students with reservation are often blamed when local or general category students are unable to gain admission into these Universities.

Students from reserved categories are often subjected to snarky comments or told that that are “lucky” or that they only gained admission into a prestigious College due to their ‘quota.’ While these students may be just as capable as their ‘general’ counterparts, the constant subtle jabs and anti-reservation sentiment makes them question their place or whether they are deserving or not. Many students who hold reservation but come from more privileged or financially sound backgrounds are also faced with guilt for being able to benefit from reservations and become often become pawns in the anti-reservation debate with fingers pointed at them for being ‘undeserving’ of reservation.

How does this affect these students?

The mental toll that all this puts on students can make it more difficult for them to excel. Apart from all the discrimination and ridicule from the ‘anti-reservation’ folk, it can make these students feel out of place, guilty, inferior and make them shy away from opportunities like societies and competitions because they feel that they are not up to the mark. Students who are from reserved categories often feel the need to hide this fact to avoid the treatment that comes along with it. Even when given the opportunity to participate, they feel like they are only been given the platform in a show of ‘diversity’ and not because of their capabilities. Students from more privileged backgrounds who hold reservation are often faced with the dilemma of ‘making use’ of their quotas or not and often miss out on opportunities as a result of this.

The anti-reservation argument and the often negative view attached with it can undermine the very point of reservation and shift the blame on these students for the sky-high cutoffs and competition for seats. This also takes the conversation away from the actual problem, which is the inability of the education system to provide enough quality institutions for students to access quality education in their own home towns and cities and the role that caste still plays today when opportunities and success are taken into consideration. While reservation should not exist in an ideal world, India, today, is far from ideal and the disparity and discrimination still make reservation necessary, whether some may like it or not.

Featured Image Credits: Tashi Dorjay Sherpa for DU Beat.

Tashi Dorjay Sherpa


Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history.Freedom to Express.