A Dalit student in his second-year at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Hyderabad, has accused a faculty member of caste-based discrimination. The student, Prabakaran said that he was disqualified from contesting student council elections by a lecturer because he had spoken out against his alleged casteist remarks earlier.
Belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, Prabakaran was among the students who went on a hunger strike in July to protest against the TISS administration for seeking a fee of Rs 54,650 upfront from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students who rely on the Government of India Post Matric Scholarship (GoIPMS) for pursuing their education. During the protest, Prabakaran alleged that the chairperson of the student affairs, Bibhu Prasad Nayak, made a casteist comment against the SC, ST students. âBibhu Prasad said that the GOIPMS students have âa bike and girlfriend, why canât they afford to pay the fee?â This insensitive comment outraged all students and we confronted him,â he told TNM.
Following this, Prabakaran alleged that Bibhu Prasad deliberately disqualified him from the Executive Committee of the Studentsâ Council for confronting him during the protest.
Prabakaran had applied for the post of Returning Officer, along with 11 other students, for the upcoming studentsâ election in the college. However, he later learned that he was disqualified from the elections after Bibhu Prasad allegedly interfered and wrote to TISS Mumbai against his selection.
According to Prabakaran, he had cleared the interview for the Returning Officer post. However, as there was a delay in announcing the results, he spoke to a lecturer who claimed that he was selected. Subsequently, as the results were delayed, he approached Student Affairs chairperson, Bibhu Prasad, who allegedly told him, âYour name wonât be there in the list.â
Charging Bibhu Prasad of caste-based discrimination, Prabakaran alleged, âHis remark felt like a Dalit student was not eligible for such a post.â He claimed that the chairperson could have held a grudge against him for confronting him earlier for his alleged casteist remarks. âWhen I confronted him earlier, he must have thought, how could a Dalit student question him, and held that grudge against me.â
Numerous attempts to reach out to Bibhu Prasad were unsuccessful.
However, a professor from the administration told TNM that Prabakaran was disqualified from the post as he was served a show-cause notice for protesting in the campus, after which TISS Hyderabad was shut down for a brief period. Along with Prabakaran, 29 other students and their parents received the notice, accusing them of indiscipline.
However, Prabakaran contends that a show-cause notice doesnât mean that he is already âguiltyâ, and without a fair inquiry, charging him guilty and ruining his opportunity to become the Returning Officer is against the principles of justice.
The students who received the show-cause notices accuse the administration of taking vindictive action against them. A case is ongoing in the Telangana High Court with regard to the campus charging an exorbitant fee, and recently the court had slammed the administration for issuing notices to the protesting students.
Meanwhile, Prabakaran has written to the SC/ST students' welfare cells of both TISS Mumbai and Hyderabad seeking their intervention in the issue.