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Seeking a more inclusive approach, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay’s SC/ST cell announced plans to introduce a mandatory course on caste awareness, reported the Indian Express on July 4, 2021.
According to the report, the cell conducted a few surveys with students to learn about caste-based divisions and difficulties. Observations in the surveys recommended such courses caste and racial discrimination, much like the mandatory gender sensitisation course introduced last year.
The nature and content of the caste awareness course will be discussed by the cell that includes Computer Science and Engineering department Professor and Convener Bharat Adsul and Electrical Engineering Professor and Co-Convener Madhu N Belur.
On June 29, the cell organised its first open house wherein students talked about the different ways in which different people experience caste. The discrimination varies from simple taunts regarding reservation to inducing self-doubt among students for being “killers of merit”.
Aside from the course, the cell also suggested a mentorship programme that brings senior students in close interaction with junior SC/ST students. Such measures may be long overdue in IIT colleges where there have been multiple cases of alleged caste-crimes in recent years.
In IIT-Bombay itself, a student Aniket Ambhore was subjected to taunts relating to his caste until finally his body was found below the six-storey hostel building on September 4, 2014. Similarly, on January 17, 2018, there were reports of the college asking residents to use separate plates for non-vegetarian food.
Other IIT colleges reported similar instances of even more outright forms of caste-based discrimination. In November 2019, IIT-Madras student Fatima Lateef died by suicide. She had alleged that one of the professors was the “the cause of death”.
In April 2021, IIT-Kharagpur’s Associate Professor Seema Singh, during an online preparatory English course for SC/ST and disabled students screamed at and verbally abused students. Singh challenged students to lodge a complaint against her, stating that no harm will come to her.
Two months later, on July 2, a charred body of a 22-year-old engineer was found inside the IIT-Madras campus. This happened after one of its professors resigned for alleged caste-based discrimination.
Incidents like these indicate that while students do require sensitization programmes, the same should also be extended to the professors and administrative officials considering persevering complaints by faculty.
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