Casteism has been lurking in our systems as a product of historical grievances. From condemning the actions to being the perpetrator, is this deep rooted caste bias finding new ways to make itself comfortable?

Yet in another turn of events, a student from scheduled caste, hailing from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), had to face the atrocities of casteism. The victim, Sagar Kumar, was subjected to physical brutality over refusal to copy the assignment of the alleged attacker, Shubham Kumar. In a conversation with Dalit Desk, Sagar explained what he faced.

On 28 November, at night 11, I was studying in my room while Shubham came in and asked me to do his assignment to which I refused and told him the teacher can fail me for this. Several times he insisted but I refused. Thereafter he hurled Casteist slurs at me and started abusing me and beat me. Adding, I am mentally traumatized after this incident; strict action must be taken against him.

-Sagar Kumar told Dalit Desk.

According to the report by Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA), JNU, Shubham Kumar has been abusing Sagar Kumar for the past one year. This has put the latter through a great deal of purgatory and physical trauma. This incident is a reminder of the prevailing status quo arising out of casteism. BAPSA found Sagar Kumar with a high blood pressure. He was shivering in fear for his life while his voice was cracking. A complaint of the aforementioned incident has been lodged at National Commission for Scheduled Caste, Vasant Kunj Police Station, Equal Opportunity Cell (JNU) and Chief Proctor of JNU. The creamiest brains putting it out at the most premier institutions of the country makes me wonder, if we are too invested in literacy that educating the consciousness has taken a back seat.

The shameless shout out for impunity by Shubham Kumar only exposes the fault lines of the self-proclaimed island that JNU is.


The irony of the entire situation is the fact that we condemn the very actions that we see being perpetuated around us by our own people. From using the casteist slurs to mocking the minority in the name of comedy, we are witnessing a degree that is pulling us towards the breaking point. Institutional casteism is on the rise and this incident comes as no shock. A recent study suggests the lofty prevalence of casteism in higher educational institutions but the constancy of this sitch is quite overwhelming. What irks me is the smell of normalcy around it. Unless the blood oozes out of the situation, the discriminatory and defamatory acts are subjected to negligence. How can these deprecatory and belittling instances thrusted aside while condemning them?

The very existence of the grievances cell for the marginalised section in the educational establishments proves the existence of these preferential and unjust acts. Creation of these cells to seek redressal has pulled curtains over the actuality of the situation. This has made it easier to achieve those estranged dreams in the crippling shadows of the same. Meddling with casteism does question the political agenda and its pernicious relationship with it. A peculiar pattern can be observed in the same regard, even at the places of education. Meenakshi Yadav, the representative of Student Federation of India (SFI) from Lady Shri Ram College spoke to DU Beat. She questions the standing of this circle which instigates casteism while fulfilling their political dream.

Brahmans portray themselves that they are in-charge, they are in power. They feel a sense of superiority due to the presence of the current governing body.

-Meenakshi Yadav, SFI representative, LSR

It is a simple monopoly of strength to establish dominance of a caste by the ones in power. Showing the monochromatic nature of elitism, it pulls the reins of casteism. It aligns the political inclinations and caste-based notions, producing a class of inherent elitism. This is an establishment which teaches equality and the next minute pulls the card of ‘winner-winner, political dinner’.

Koi gujjar hai toh batado, humko dosti karni hai par sirf apne cast walo se.
-A first year student as quoted by Meenakshi Yadav, SFI representative, LSR

Delhi University has long been known as a place where tensions arising from casteism have been lit. Not long ago, it had displayed a reservation of their thoughts when the writings of two dalit writers, Bama and Sukhartharini, have been removed and replaced by the work of an upper caste writer, Ramabai. This altercation of syllabus poses a sheer threat to the sovereignty of the institute and questions the autonomy of the academic space. How can we account for the pillars of democracy with a prejudiced and biased eye? Is this discriminatory influence above the education imparted by the most premier institutions?

A student from Delhi University told DU Beat on anonymity, “It is quite usual for me to go about
my day and hear people using a language that might not be welcomed by any marginalised group. Even if we retaliate, all that comes out is a small laugh and the words are expected to be forgiven the next minute. It is quite normal to see the usage of such a language, be it in college or my neighbourhood. It is the same story spinning everywhere.”

Our civilizational past shows us the derogatory history of this section of the society. The pain inflicted on people like Sagar Kumar is told in pursuit of the lost self-respect and in anticipation to put an end to such infamous incidents. It is veracious to say that we are experiencing an infamous facade of cruel reality. The blatant act of turning a blind eye to the prolific iniquity by the prestigious establishments makes me question the due justice. Will a fair play swing by the wronged eyes or will it continue to serve exoneration to the offenders?

Featured Image Credits: ‘Skyscape’ by Rajyashri Goody via India Today

Ankita Baidya

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Three years on, the suicide that sparked a rebellion is still being remembered with the wounds of inequality and misuse of administrative power, still fresh and burning.

Just two years ago on this day, Rohith Vemula passed away, his life ending with a noose. This was not just a plain suicide of an Ambedkar Student Association (ASA) student facing discrimination because of his Dalit identity but, as many described it was more of an ‘institutional murder.’ What drove Vemula to suicide or was his death already planned and then made to look like a suicide? Such questions and speculations dominate debates since his death in 2016.

However, what can’t be ignored is that Vemula’s death along with the powerful letter he left behind, surely created a new age of rebellion amongst the youth against caste-based discrimination and University administration.

Commemorating his third death anniversary, a series of talks and marches embraced the University of Delhi’s North Campus.

It started with Youth for Social Justice organising a remembrance meeting for Rohith Vemula followed by a Young India Padyatra from Arts Faculty to Vishwavidyalya Metro Station. It was concluded with a candlelight march at 6 pm from Vishwavidyalya to Arts Faculty.

In the afternoon hours of 17th January, a remembrance meeting for Rohith Vemula was held by Youth For Social Justice at Arts Faculty. Speakers and professors from all over the colleges of the University of Delhi were invited to speak on Rohith Vemula’s suicide which happened three years ago at University of Hyderabad. The Chief Guests of the event were Rajendra Pal Gautam, Minister of Social Welfare, Government of Delhi and Professor Manoj Kumar Jha, Member of Parliament and Department of Social Work, DU. At the meeting, the speakers spoke extensively about the institutional discrimination and systematic oppression Dalits face in central universities and the lack of SC, ST, and OBC teachers in reputed institutes of the country. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Savitribai Phule were remembered and slogans of ‘Jai Bhim’ were raised by the crowd present there. Rohith’s last letter was also quoted a couple of times by the speakers highlighting casteism and elitism in a university space.    

Image Credits: Niharika Dabral for DU Beat
Image Credits: Niharika Dabral for DU Beat

As the evening hours set in, a candlelight march was held by Students’ Federation India (SFI). The participants first walked from the metro station to the Vivekananda statue in the Arts Faculty complex. They stood with candles in their hands while a few volunteers stood in front of the statue, honouring Vemula’s legacy.

Image Credits: Niharika Dabral for DU beat
Image Credits: Niharika Dabral for DU beat


However, it is ironical that in Hyderabad, Vemula shifted from the SFI to the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) as he found the former to be a body showing some amount of classism, something which Vemula was strictly against. However, this can be heard as speculation too as different sources have been building different narratives since his death.

“Yes, he had his own issues with SFI back then and SFI itself has had issues with the ASA.” Akhil, an SFI-affiliated student from Zakir Husain Delhi College, remarked. He continued by saying, “However, what we need to appreciate is how his institutional murder led all the fronts to change for the upliftment of lesser communities to come together. His death was unfortunate for this country, but it strengthened us and will keep on driving this revolution. In fact, a few months after he passed away, SFI and ASA came together as a coalition and won the Hyderabad University elections.”

After a few moments of silence, the marchers walked back to the Arts Faculty gate and planted their burning candles to the ground. Gathering in a circle, they shouted slogans invoking the immortality of Rohith Vemula, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, and several other pioneers of this movement.

Whatever outcome comes out of this current political scenario with caste-based discrimination still prevailing, notions of patriarchy being challenged, and reservation still being a heated theme in our Parliament, Vemula and the many others who died in this struggle, their legacy will continue to impact the youth.

‘People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars and know about the other worlds…’

-Rohit Vemula in his death note



Feature Image Credits: Niharika Dabral for DU Beat

Shaurya Singh Thapa
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Disha Saxena
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Feminism has been the buzzword for a while now and rightly so. However, today’s feminist movement seems to be in danger as time and again it refuses to integrate intersectional feminism. It’s time that upper-class and upper caste women check their privilege.

Average Dalit Woman Dies 14.6 Years Younger than Women from Higher Castes, reported The Hindu on February 19, 2018. According to another report from UN Women, titled Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Dalit women face more unjust or prejudicial treatment as compared to higher caste women in India. They have less or no access to safe drinking water and healthcare. They have low mortality rates due to poor sanitation facilities. This report astonished me. My first question was, ‘What does mortality rate have to do anything with caste?’ I know this question of mine reeks of ignorance and elitism. I have been raised this way, with my parents never talking to me about caste. They made me believe that caste is a ‘non-issue’. However, they have judged people on the basis of their caste, whenever they ask someone’s last name. I have judged my fellow classmates and friends. I always thought, especially when I was in high school that they have had it easy. They wouldn’t have to worry about admissions and scholarships and jobs for they had reservations. This isn’t just me. Every fairly educated, upper or middle-class Indian thinks this way.

A lot of upper and middle-class parents wish to raise their kids away from the ugliness of caste system. As a result, they end up raising kids who are caste blind. They raise a whole generation of casteist, privileged kids who have no idea about what’s happening around them. Textbooks in schools also teach them that caste doesn’t exist anymore. Right from the childhood, kids like me, have been caste blind-folded. Same goes for religion too. Like they say. the first step of solving any problem is acknowledging that there is a problem. Refusing to cognize caste is an ostrich policy, not progressivism.

Consequently, another question popped into my head. Does my feminism talk about the women who face far more discrimination than me because of their caste, ethnicity, and religion? I think for a while now, my feminism has been about what you call ‘mainstream feminism’. With it being trans-exclusionary and caste/class-blind, it has been non-intersectional. I have been preaching about feminism without taking into account the experiences of women whose caste, religion, race, and social identities have stopped them from enjoying equal rights and opportunities like me. These forms of discrimination further marginalise women which leads to larger inequalities. I am privileged, for my life has not been affected by my social identity (i.e. caste, class, religion) in any way.

I may never be able to understand how much it hurts trans people to know that they’re not being seen as who they are. I may not be able to understand how caste dictates one’s everyday life. I might never be able to know the terror under which minorities live. All I can be is an ally. I can give spaces which I am occupying to them to speak for their rights. I should not speak for them. I need to recognize my privilege and learn from them. We need more trans women, Dalit women, women from the lower classes in leadership roles. It’s time for feminism to become more inclusive. We need to uplift women who are disadvantaged socially, politically and economically. Intersectionality matters and its time we listen to the less-privileged women for they are the ones who will be the pacesetters of women’s rights all over the world.


Feature Image Credits: Salmon Design

Disha Saxena 

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“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of stardust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”


This is what Rohith Vemula, PhD scholar in Hyderabad Central University wrote in his last letter after which he took his own life. His fault was that he was Dalit, a Dalit who dared to stand up for himself. Systematically, culturally, economically and socially oppressed since his birth which he refers to as his ‘fatal accident’

Education has been denied to Dalits from as long as time permits us to remember. India’s recovery from colonialism paralleled Dalits, adivasis and backward castes reclaiming their human dignity and social prestige. Decades later, the Brahmin-Savarna forces still plunder and pillage their dignity outrightly and with pride.

When Smriti Irani says the incident is not a matter of lower caste vs upper caste she remarkably forgets to what extent basic human rights are refused to lower caste people, especially Dalits. If it’s not driving a scholar to suicide then it’s banning Dalit unions, beating a lower caste student for going to school, to the point where Dalits are not even allowed entry in religious places, a grim reminder that we have not taken a step towards progress.


Why do we continue to vilify and degrade lower caste people whilst believing without moral apprehension that they do not even deserve reservation? Who is to say that caste has been a historical, now removed concept? It is ahistorical, demeaning and a blatant lie to say that caste does not matter anymore, even in the most liberal areas in the country.

If caste does not matter then why is manual scavenging still practiced along the lengths and breadths of the country, overwhelmingly by Dalits? Does it matter when a former Prime Minister is exposed as accomplice in Dalit massacres? Does it matter when nearly all marriages in the country are within the caste? If caste does not matter, then why are we all aware from a young age, what caste and creed we belong to?

From a skewed, near-sighted urban lens, of course caste matters. It matters when a Dalit student scores a few marks lesser than you, and gets into a good institution. However, no one bats an eyelid when Dalit students die asking for their rights. Very obvious and visible oppression is overlooked, seen disguised as victim complexes, “pseudo-secular” wreckage and what not.

How much has India failed its religious and caste minorities? Inspite of the depressing history of caste oppression, our curriculum barely touches upon caste. We are taught the Varna system in past tense, as if the whole country is not still practicing and perpetuating it by choice. We are taught how Ambedkar made our constitution, and how untouchability was made a criminal offence. When were we taught that Ambedkar called for annihilation of caste, and not uniting castes which organizations like RSS wholeheartedly believe in? The same RSS that Rohith refused to align with.


“May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.”


Rest in power, Rohith.


Kartikeya Bhatotia

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