“For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights” – Dr. Ambedkar
Social justice is a crucial and necessary subject for a society where discrimination on the basis of caste, gender, class, religion, and varna is entrenched at every level. Such discrimination enables the continuation of social, economic and cultural advantages to a smaller proportion of society that is upper class, upper caste, male-dominated but at the same time ensures that a major section of the society that is working class and poor remains oppressed. We can also find this reflected in our university, Ambedkar University. The attempt of the Progressive and Democratic Student Collective (PDSC) through its efforts and ground level work is to bring out the nature and various forms of this discrimination, injustice and oppression and to enable discussion around them so as to collectivise in our resistance against them.
Last semester we attempted to highlight how problems in basic English language skills have roots in class, gender and caste locations of the students. Our survey report brought out how upper classes and upper castes dominate the academic classroom and seminars etc in this campus. Similarly, through this statement our effort is to reach out to the student community with the necessary information which highlights the fact that our university has actually been controlled by dominant caste and class groups over the years and their dominance continues to hold even now. Having this information and understanding its implications are extremely important to advance the struggles of students from marginalised caste and class backgrounds, so that the PDSC’s efforts to advance the struggle for social justice can gain momentum.
The responsibility of running a university lies with the academic and teaching staff as well as the students. In our university as well many important decisions relating to academic matters are taken by the Academic Council but the question is do we as students know about the academic structures of our university? Caste and class are discussed intensively in our classrooms through Dr. Ambedkar’s and Marx’s works, but isn’t it important to look at the caste-based nature of the academic structures of our university? There are some fundamental and important steps that all government institutions need to take up according to our Indian Constitution like Reservations- whether our university has been able to fulfill such measures? In order to develop an understanding of these issues, and to bring this information to students from marginalised caste and class backgrounds as well as democractic-progressive students, the PDSC has collected information through an RTI, which is being shared here.
In our university, a total of 110 people are employed in permanent academic positions. Of these 110, 19 are professors, 18 are associate professors and 73 are assistant professors. It is a cruel irony that none of the professor and associate professor positions are occupied by Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis. These facts bring out the casteist character of a university that is not only functioning in the name of Babasaheb but also claims to follow the constitutional principles formulated by him. On the other hand, it is a significant and shocking fact that the Academic Council consists of five professors nominated by the Vice Chancellor and the Deans of all the Schools. There is only one representative nominated by the Vice Chancellor for the assistant and associate professor categories each. Thus it is clear that the Academic Council is almost entirely dominated by savarna academic employees.
There is no provision for student representatives in the Academic Council either. The council for taking decisions on academic matters does not have any representation from students, especially from poor, Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students. As a result, issues faced by students from poverty-ridden, Dalit and socially marginalised backgrounds remain silenced, whether these have to do with resisting the dominance of any one language, or that of protesting high fees that denies them access to college education, or be it of raising questions about the nature of subjects and the kind of schools required in the university.
If we now look at the number of assistant professors employed by the university, merely 9 out of 73 are Dalit (SC) which comes to a mere 12.3%. This is even lower than the minimum reservation requirement of 15 % seats for Dalits stipulated by the Government of India as well as the Delhi government. The number of assistant professors from the Adivasi (ST) category is 6, i.e. 8.2% (government reservation is 7.5%). The most deplorable fact is that no OBC has been appointed in the teaching posts. (The language survey report had brought out that basic English skills remained a problem for all (100%) the OBC students educated in schools charging minimal fees between Rs.0-2000).
Among the non-academic staff, a mere 11 are permanent employees and further all 11 are upper caste as there are no Dalit, OBCs or Adivasi employees in this group. But when we look at the temporary non-academic staff, we find that out of a total of 109 there are 13 Dalits and 12 from OBC but there are no Adivasis.
The complete absence of OBCs in the assistant professor posts raises questions about the appointment procedures of the university. Is it that appointments are taking place entirely in the general category? The question becomes even more complex when we look at the figures for ad-hoc teachers- out of 44 ad-hoc teachers only 2 are Dalit and 2 belong to OBC. Questions then arise about these procedures of appointment where either the minimum reservations for Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis are not being met or they are completely absent. We also need to investigate how many ad-hoc teaching positions have been advertised in the past 2-3 years? What are the provisions for reservations in this process?
We believe that the operations of this university are ridden with class and caste discrimination. Reservations are not being implemented properly. And if appointments to these positions continue in this manner which reinforces the dominance of powerful sections of society, then can those of us coming from marginalised social sections, and still facing marginalisation on account of poverty and long histories of social oppression ever imagine a future in the academic and non-academic positions of this university? Will we ever be able to share our thoughts, our ideas, the needs of our social groups and their cultures through this university? Why is it that, even after the independence of 1947, certain social groups continue to exert their dominance in the face of teachers? Why is it that all renowned intellectuals emerge from the same social class and upper caste groups? Why are the rest missing?
It is on raising these issues and associated questions that 11 students of Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) were recently suspended by the administration because they wanted to take up these concerns with the Academic Council. The PDSC stands with them in this struggle for social justice. We also remain committed to intensifying the struggle for social justice within AUD. In light of the facts obtained through the RTI, we make the following demands of the university administration:
1. To ensure the voice of Dalit, OBC and Adivasi groups in the Academic Council
2. To appoint student representatives in the Academic Council
3. To ensure the proper implementation of reservations in appointments to all permanent and temporary positions in the university
4. To ensure the proper implementation of OBC reservations
Source: Facebook note by Garima KNC, a student activist affiliated to Progressive and Democratic Student Community, AUD