Deepa Mohanan, a Dalit PhD scholar who was on a hunger strike at the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, ended her protest on Monday, November 8, after all her demands were met and the director of the centre, Nandakumar Kalarickal, was ousted. Deepa has been observing the protest since October 29, and said that her PhD was delayed due to caste discrimination at the university. She had alleged that the director at the Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN), Nandakumar, stopped her from accessing the lab as well as accessing chemicals and polymers at the lab, denied her seating at the workplace, worked towards blocking her stipend and locked her alone inside the lab once as well.
Speaking to reporters, Deepa said that she was ending her strike as her demands have been accepted by the university and Nandakumar has been removed. â€śAll materials needed for the research will be provided at the right time. Dr EK Radhakrishnan, Dr Sabu Thomas will be the main and second guides. Dr Beena Mathew will also be included. All facilities will be arranged to allow the fellowship, which had been stalled. A monitoring committee will be formed including my mother and brother. 24-03-2020 onwards the research period will be extended for four years,â€ť she said.
She added that there will be no retaliatory action against her in relation to the strike, and that a seat will be arranged at the School of Chemical Science for her. â€śNo fees will be taken for extension of the research period,â€ť she said. â€śIf there is no obstacle, I will finish my research in four years," she added.
She thanked Bhim Army Kerala and other Dalit organisations and political parties for their support. The 36-year-old student has been demanding access to resources needed to complete her PhD, a change in her research guide, and the removal of Nandakumar. For the last ten years, she said her studies had been affected due to the actions of the director of the institute, allegedly because she is a Dalit. According to reports, Nandakumar has decided to approach the court against his removal from the centre.
With inputs from PTI