‘Caste’ and ‘Gender’ AMONG the corridors of Central Universities in India

By: Rohini Menon

The idea of a University draws in a “farrago” of confusions and illusions nowadays. It was once contested as a terrain of political, academic and strategic exposure wherein the intellectual survival of an identity happens. The concrete idea of a University being the propaganda of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and the ideology behind the inception of a great idea called “University” is not applicable to the present time. It is the ever dominant claim of any University ; “Central” University in particular, that the place itself gives a space for a carefully careless agitation for its students and faculty. Unfortunately, this is not the story line of the present century wherein it is the fascist forces of the country that dominates the air of any Central University and the so called “Moral” Policing exists because certain people do consider that as their unquestionable authority to make others “learn” more about their own “moral” behaviour.

The concept of “Freedom” to ensure equal usage and “experience” of the central university space is not even visible as a metaphor. A country where we had people who raised the slogan that
“Freedom is my birthright and I shall have it” seems to be an u0ltra super tragedy in the University spaces. Living in an era when Gender inequality becomes more fair and lovely; and Caste becomes the final word to make sense of your status and identity, hereby I oppose the motion that we live in a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic.

My constructive being the consideration of a “high” and “low” categorisation in all the intellectual hubs of the nation. The social feeling of being in a stratification and homogenisation which is the so called construction of a particular section of the society is to be blamed at any cost or at anybody’s cost. From Banaras Hindu University to that of Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University to Hyderabad Central University; there are numerous examples to prove it again and again that the so called “Central University” ; which are the public “spheres” as termed by Jurgen Habermas; are not free from the shackles of Gender and Religious stereotypes. .M.N Srinivas has explained the concept of Sanskritisation in his book “Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India” to describe the cultural mobility in the traditional caste structure of Indian society. According to Srinivas, Sanskritisation is a process by which lower caste or tribe or any other group changes it customs, rituals, ideology and way of life in the direction of a higher or more often twice-born caste”. This concept as explained by Srinivas gives much more clarity to the way in which a sort of “Dominant Caste” took its form and shape in India. This is the same manner by which caste becomes connected to that of the period of colonialism and nationalism. Just like the way in which the white man’s burden gave much force to the natives to polish themselves; in the very same manner the so-called sophistication and privilege portrayed by the upper class- caste people attracted the low ones to imitate the actions and to cope up along with it. Situation is not so different in Public Universities where the minority sections are attacked in the name of cup and lip and even enforced to take up the attitude and means of the majority.
Same goes with the “Gender” issues, wherein women are not provided with an equal space and even if they struggle to achieve an equal space, then, the so called people who check out the moral orders of others, tries to dominate them with their words and deeds. The recent sexual abuse case reported in the Jawaharlal Nehru University Campus is not the first of its kind and A.K Johari is not the first man to commit such a characterless act. Right from Banaras Hindu University to JNU, such atrocities have gravitated to a better place in a space which was initiated with the sole purpose of intellectual, academic equality and emancipation. The recent protest led by the women students of Jamia Millia Islamia with the support of Pinjratod made a record in the history of the campus.Though, the women were able to meet up their needs through the protest, but then, they were attacked virtually through cyber spaces’ by posting vulgar videos and comments. This is the story of Incredible India.

This is a country wherein we have a university called SavitriBhai Phule Pune University, which once came up with the decision that Gold Medals will not be awarded to those who are non- vegetarians and further the rule was dissolved due to certain other protests and strikes. It is a pathetic sight to be seen inside the central university hostels, wherein there are people who refuse to have food stuffs, which are prepared by the lower class people. Should I call such things as an enforcement of “morality” which is a “privilege” of certain people alone? Or are we still in the making of an “Undemocratic” space where all are unequal?I still wonder why do we have different hostels for Kashmiris in certain universities of India. ‘Some people are more Equal’ as quoted by George Orwell in his novel Animal Farm. So even though when we believe that there is no such hierarchical structure of caste but still the harsh realities of Ghar Wapse, Caste based politics and Vote banks and even the long struggle for reservation by the Jat and Patel community remind us about the “Idea of Caste”.

A “Space” which is considered as a hub for academic excellence and “academic equality”, even when there are student political bodies, take for example the University of Hyderabad, where there are the Ambedkar Students Association and Dalit Students Union along with the Women Students Forum for the emancipation of women; still there are issues going on in the name of Caste and Gender and moreover the death of Rohith Vemula was not that way back.

These days, Vice-chancellors are appointed not because they are distinguished academicians and reputed scholars, but because of their political connections in the ministry of human resources and development or appropriate political or caste affiliation,” Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor of Nalsar University of Law, wrote in the Deccan Chronicle, last year.When JNU is still in the big protest for the arrest of A.K.Johari, the country itself fails to support the idea that this was a land which once hailed “Yathra Nariasthu Poojanthe Ramande Thathra Daivathaha : Where women are respected it is the abode of god”.

The propaganda behind the spread of fascist forces are very much clear and broad. There are intellects who think themselves to be of a “superior” creed and culture, who wants to metamorphose this land into a hub of “Morally” advanced class wherein the meaning and explanation of Democracy will be challenged.This is a clarion call to all the wings and branches out there, that it’s high time to stop propagating false ideas , false promises , false faith and false methods.

Hail the meaning of Democracy. Hail the spirit of Democracy. Hail the strength of Democracy. Hail the “Nation” itself.
Concluding with the words of A.L.Basham, the author of the book “The Wonder that was India”:
“India was a cheerful land, whose people, each finding a niche in a complex and slowly evolving social system, reached a higher level of kindliness and gentleness in their mutual relationships than any other nation of antiquity”


(This article is written by Rohini Menon, who hails from the state of Kerala, and she is currently pursuing her masters in English Literature at Jamia Millia Islamia Central University, New Delhi.)