On 19 March 2021, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked for how many generations would reservations in jobs and education continue.
Just two weeks back, one of my batchmates, who was an SC, left IIT Gandhinagar because he felt discriminated against on various levels. The exclusionary and discriminatory system forced him to leave the college and impacted his mental health. And this incident has left me angry, irritated, depressed and anxious.
This is true for almost every institution in India. On a daily basis, students from SC, ST, and OBC communities face discrimination in these educational places on various levels. The caste and class hegemony in the educational, political, social, and economical spaces by the upper-caste is prominent across the country. Even after controlling most of the spaces and resources of the country, this Supreme Court statement about reservation is quite funny and ironical.
From an undergraduate student in Delhi University to a Masters student at IIT Gandhinagar, my experience has taught me that these educational spaces are casteist and elitist, and are controlled by upper castes. These places are more casteist than my village in Bihar.
SC, ST, OBC data from educational institutions
Even 12 years after the implementation of OBC reservation for faculty members, there is not a single professor from the community in most of the 40 central universities in India.
According to data presented by Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in the Rajya Sabha, in Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru, only 2.1 per cent candidates admitted to the PhD programmes were from the ST category, 9 per cent were from SC and 8 per cent from OBC categories from 2016-2020. And it was the same for integrated PhD programmes: 9 per cent of the total admitted candidates were from SC category, 1.2 per cent from ST and 5 per cent from OBC categories.
In the 17 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), 1.7 per cent of total PhD candidates were from ST category, 9 per cent from SC and 27.4 per cent from OBC. These trends are similar or even worse in other institutes like NITs and IISERs.
Even after getting admission, it is challenging for students from the reserved category to continue the course. If you see the dropout trends from these premium educational institutions, the majority of the students will be from SC/ST/OBC categories.
In 2019, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, in a written reply to the Parliament, said that 48 per cent of students dropping out of the IITs and over 62.6 per cent from IIMs are from the SC, ST and OBC categories.
If we look at faculty data in these institutions from reserved categories, the representation is minuscule. According to data by the education ministry, presented in 2019 in Lok Sabha, out of 6,043 faculty members at the 23 IITs, 149 were SCs and 21 were STs — they made up less than 3 per cent of the total number of faculty members.
Most of the IITs do not have a single professor from the SC/ST community.
The educational system is captured by the upper caste in such a way that it is very difficult for people from reserved categories to invade and make their space.
Nexus of upper-caste domination and hierarchy
Editors and series editors of reputed journals and big publishing houses, professors, vice-chancellors, director, deans, non-teaching staff — the gatekeepers of the caste system are everywhere to stop the growth of SCs, STs and OBCs.
The exclusionary policies in these educational spaces lead the reserved category students to drop out of the educational institutes. The discrimination is so systemic and institutionalised that it is tough for students from reserved categories to survive and continue their academic passion.
As Vivek Kumar, professor of sociology at the Centre for the Study of Social System, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, pointed out in an article, upper caste networks dominate and sustain a hegemony in the discipline of sociology in India.
He analysed the domination of upper caste in this discipline in universities, institutions and colleges, and as producers of knowledge by authors of books.
A similar analysis can be made for other disciplines like history, anthropology, literature
and many more.
For instance, if look at subaltern studies, most of the academicians who have made a niche for themselves are upper caste.
If we analyse these things through the lens of Edward W. Said’s seminal book Orientalism, we can understand more about the discourse relating to upper caste vs the other caste in India, just like the debate of elite vs non-elite and occidentals vs orients.
Rahul Kumar is a student of IIT Gandhinagar, Gujarat