AIIMS: A Death Trap for Aspiring Reserved Category Students

Gurinder Singh Azad

[Gurinder Singh Azad, of the Dalit & Adivasi Students' Portal, was involved in the Death of Merit campaign against caste discrimination and suicides of Dalit, Adivasi students in India's premier educational institutions. The tragic death of Anil Kumar Meena, a tribal student from a marginalized background, in AIIMS brings back memories of the suspicious death, which was never fully investigated, of Dr Balmukund Bharti two years ago, also at AIIMS. Balmukund's death (please watch the testimonies of Dr Bharti's family on the circumstances, engineered in AIIMS, that brought about his death) had come three years after the Thorat Committee, appointed expressly to look into caste discimination in AIIMS had submitted its report. If the powers that be had bothered to seriously look into what the report said and worked on its recommendations Dr Bharti's death could have been avoided (please read what the Death of Merit campaign had discovered about 'Who killed Dr Balmukund Bharti in AIIMS?') and so could Anil Kumar Meena's death, perhaps.

The Prof Thorat Committee Report on Caste Discrimination in AIIMS unveiled clearly the nature and extent of caste discrimination in AIIMS. It also drew a representative picture of the horrifying conditions existing in other premier higher educational institutions in the country, of the 'difficult time', as Gurinder says, that Dalit, Adivasi students have to face in those institutions at the hands of the administrators, faculties and their peers. Of the difficult time that Dr Jaspreet Singh of Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh had to face, that Manish Kumar of IIT, Roorkee, had to face,  that Senthil Kumar of Hyderabad Central University had to face half a decade ago, that Chunni Kotiyal of Vidyasagar University had to face around two decades ago. Of the difficult time all these 18 students who had died in the last 4-5 years itself had to face. Of the difficult time that all the unknown, unnamed students whose deaths or near deaths were never noticed, questioned or documented, faced in other institutions of 'learning'-- Round Table India]     

I will be wrong if I say it is a difficult time for our students now as Indian education system has remained in the strong stranglehold of caste hindus. Times have always been difficult there. The problems of reserved category students have their genesis in the superiority complex of caste hindus who cannot see our students getting high profile education. This sole reason provides enough evidence to support the argument as to why discrimination prevails in full swing in Indian premiere institutes!

This time, Anil Kumar Meena, a farmer's son has hanged himself in his room of hostel number 6 (in AIIMS). Two years ago, exactly on the same day i.e. 3rd March, Bal Mukund Bharti of Tikamgarh had hanged himself in the same campus and even the FIR relating to his death has not been lodged until now. Bal Mukund's parents' allegation against AIIMS went unnoticed and unheard. No inquiry....nothing!

Anil, a brilliant student from Baran district in Rajasthan and from a tribal community, again faced the same intentionally deficient support system for our students. Many a time our students cannot articulate and prove much apparent discrimination. The same thing might have happened with Anil.

Anil was failed in all the three subjects in the first year exam and was not allowed to sit for the next semester. This was not the case earlier. Students normally had a chance to clear his/her exam along with next semester exams.

Moreover, his roll number was not allotted in the wake of short attendances. In fact, the Supreme Court's order on 75% lectures was never implemented at AIIMS and was always taken loosely. This time, suddenly, with no notice to students they tried to show strictness and enforce the guidelines. However, when they saw that even general category students were unable to meet the requisite number of lectures the administration gave them grace attendance and themselves cut short the minimum attendance to 50%. This way students were trapped in AIIMS' own kind of law.

According to the new rules designed overnight, Anil was supposed to sit in his junior batch and had to start afresh from the first semester whereas he had already cleared the mid-semester exams which were of no use as per the new rules.

Anil did try to meet the Director and Dean in this connection but that proved to be of no use. Even a clerk in AIIMS passed caste-based derogatory comment on him.

A few months ago, I met with a faculty member of AIIMS who was saying that even though Thorat Recommendations were not implemented there has been a lot of positive change in AIIMS administration's attitude towards the reserved category students. But yesterday, when I met with students, they revealed alarming facts.

They said:

* Ragging is still prevalent in AIIMS and it is only general category students who do this. And when they rag reserved category students they do it very disrespectfully.

* General category students very confidently and daringly make proxy of other students.

* Rules are manipulated and made keeping general category students' convenience in view, and are intentionally designed to keep reserved category students busy in fighting with new situations.

* The conditions revealed by the Thorat Committee fact finding report on caste discrimation in AIIMs are still thriving in the AIIMS campus.

AIIMS' casteist ambience and administration system have to be dented now.

I remember Senthil Kumar, a PhD (Physics) student in Hyderabad Central University. He was from a pig rearing community and was receiving a JRF scholarship. HCU stopped his scholarship with a sudden self-made rule of not allotting him scholarship till he cleared his previous exams. He was not informed before regarding this. Adding to this tyranny, he was not allotted any guide for the whole first year. Coming from an extremely poor family, he was supporting his family with the scholarship amount. This brilliant student committed suicide in his hostel room. But salute to the reserved category students' movement there who fought back and made the adiministration form the Pavarala Committee to look into the issue and to reveal many faulty things happening in HCU. HCU had to give 5 lakh compensation to Senthil's family which proves that he was discriminated against and lost his life due to HCU administration's casteist apporach.

Our community cannot afford the deaths of more Bal Mukunds, Senthils and Anils and to FIGHT back is the only option left with us.

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