Raising their voice against caste-based discrimination, mothers of Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula, whose children killed themselves over alleged caste-based bias, moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking its direction to put an end to discriminatory practices on campuses across India.
Abeda Salim Tadvi and Radhika Vemula, mothers of Payal Tadvi and Rohit Vemula respectively, sought a direction for strict compliance of a UGC regulation from 2012, which restricts any kind of discrimination on campus.
Pointing to the rampant caste-based discrimination in higher education institutions, the petition said, "There have been several incidents of caste-based discrimination against members of the SC, ST community, which reflects flagrant non-compliance with the existing norms and regulations. These incidents are violative of the fundamental rights to equality, against discrimination, equal opportunity, abolition of untouchability and right to life."
The petition sought directions to all universities, including deemed ones and higher education institutions (HEIs), to ensure compliance with the UGC Equity Regulations in letter and in spirit.
Directions should be issued to all universities and HEIs to establish Equal Opportunity Cells on the lines of other anti-discrimination internal complaints mechanisms, they said.
Payal Tadvi, belonging to the ST community, was found dead in her hostel at BYL Nair Hospital on May 22. She allegedly faced caste-based harassment from her seniors.
Vemula, a PhD scholar at the Hyderabad Central University, was also found dead in a hostel room on January 17, 2016, after disciplinary action against him by the university. Rohith and other students had been alleging caste discrimination from the administration of the university for weeks before his death by suicide. Radhika has vowed to fight the forces responsible for her son's death.
The mothers of both the students sought directions to universities and HEIs to regularly organise compulsory orientation courses, workshops and trainings for staff, administrators and students to create separate modules for sensitisation on caste.
"The internal complaints mechanism should include members from the SC, ST communities and independent representatives from NGOs or social activists to ensure objectivity and impartiality in the process and any such direction that the court may issue," they said.
The mothers also sought direction to universities and HEIs to bring in public domain, through their websites, practices adopted to address the caste-based discrimination.