IIT-M prof who alleged casteism writes letter to Union Min demanding fair probe

Vipin P Veetil had resigned as assistant professor at IIT-M in July alleging he faced caste discrimination at the Humanities and Social Sciences Department.
A black and white image of IIT-M assistant professor Vipin wearing collared shirt in the background of IIT-M
A black and white image of IIT-M assistant professor Vipin wearing collared shirt in the background of IIT-M
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Vipin P Veetil, a 36-year-old assistant professor at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) who resigned alleging caste discrimination in July wrote an open letter to the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday, August 27, demanding that the Head of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences of IIT-M step down from his post for a fair investigation into the issue of caste discrimination. In his letter, Vipin explained that IIT-M has constituted a three-member committee to investigate the issue of caste discrimination after he had reported about it in the grievance committee.

According to his complaint, Jyotirmaya Tripati, the HOD of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, who he has accused of caste discrimination, is allegedly liaising between the investigating committee and the faculty members of the department. Pointing out that it is odd for an accused to facilitate the investigation, Vipin stated that he had sent two letters to the institute asking Tripati to temporarily step down from his position while the investigation is in process, but the IIT-M Director did not respond.

“Mr. Tripati, as the Head of the Department, is in a position to tamper with evidence pertaining to the on-going investigation. But more importantly, the faculty members interviewed by the committee depend on the Head of the Department for promotions, research grants, and access to resources. Mr. Tripati coordinating the investigation sends the ‘wrong’ signals to members of the Department,” he stated in his letter to the Union Minister. He alleged that Tripati continuing to remain in his position would hamper the investigation, making other faculty members wary of speaking out.

Hitting out at IIT-M for not asking the HOD to step down before the probe began, he wrote, “Unfortunately, such oversights are not oversights at all. They are features, not bugs. And these features are merely the superficial manifestations of a far deeper rot: the subjugation of truth, justice, and scholarship by caste. A subjugation which is maintained with administrative structures that reproduce themselves.”

Vipin went on to point out that the only solution to systemic oppression is by implementing affirmative action at the higher levels of administration including the Board of Governors and Heads of Departments. “One positive step in this direction would be for the next Director of IIT Madras to be from the Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes or Other Backward Classes,” stated Vipin in his letter.

He also sought that the three-member grievance committee, which had held interviews with some faculty members, redo these interviews after Tripati steps down. “Furthermore, there should be an inquiry into whether Mr. Tripati interfered in the investigation process either by coaching faculty members before their interview with the grievance committee or by tampering with evidence accessible to the office of the Head of the Department,” he stated.

Vipin, who resigned in July, alleged that he faced caste discrimination at the Humanities and Social Sciences Department from the time he joined in March 2019. While he had joined another institution, he decided to resign due to personal reasons. He is expected to rejoin IIT-M, where the rules state that faculty at Vipin’s position can return within a year of resigning from the institute. Besides IIT-M’s internal grievance committee investigation, the National Commission for Other Backward Classes is also carrying out a probe based on his complaint. Vipin belongs to the Maniyani caste, classified as OBC in Kerala.

Please read the full letter here : https://tinyurl.com/5xy48j89

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