<SiteLock

Presidency University engages with Dr. Ambedkar


Ekalavya Ravidas

The historic Hindu College of Calcutta, later named as Presidency College and currently known as Presidency University, has conventionally been an academic space almost exclusively occupied by the upper caste Hindus. The minorities of India, particularly those who are now known as SCs, STs, and OBCs and those who constitute 85% of India’s population, had a tough time entering, establishing, and asserting themselves in this so-called liberal educational space. This explains why almost all the big names associated with Presidency College are either Brahmins or upper caste Hindus. Even the historic Bengal Renaissance, which some famous Presidencians were a part of, quite systematically excluded the question of caste-based marginalization in Bengal.

Meghnad Saha, the legendary physicist who hailed from a Sudra background, faced discrimination related to interdining in Presidency’s Eden Hindu Hostel as he faced restrictions on social intermixing at the then Presidency College. The untouchables of India, now known as the Scheduled Castes, were, however, not allowed to cross the threshold of this predominantly Hindu institution for over a century and a half. Arguably, the greatest damage to Bengal was done by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who ruled the state for 34 years. The CPIM had a stronghold over Presidency College and the stakeholders at Presidency continued promoting an urban Brahminical ideology masqueraded as progressive leftism. The CPIM leaders and Presidency ideologues completely ignored the caste question, violently resisted caste-based reservation, and ensured that nobody could use the vocabulary of caste discrimination in their protests against institutional oppression. Issues concerning gender, religion, and class received some attention but nobody debated caste within the premises of Presidency. This implies that almost all political movements organized by the students or alumni of Presidency College were inevitably trapped in a Brahminical consciousness. They simply failed to see the world with the eyes of a caste-subaltern.

presidency university

A historic change occurred in the life of the 200-year old institution in 2010 when Presidency College was converted into Presidency University. By virtue of being a University that had to strictly follow the UGC rules regarding caste-based reservation in academic recruitment as well as with the decline and fall of Communist rule in Bengal, Presidency, in its new avatar, came as a boon for the caste-subalterns. Every academic department had to recruit teachers and students following the constitutional policy of equity and democratic representation in public universities. Presidency was filled, thus, with a fair number of recruits from the traditionally excluded SC, ST, and OBC communities. It is no wonder the conversion of a College into a University was strongly condemned by the so-called well-wishers of Presidency (all of whom hailed from an upper caste background). These self-declared Brahminical guardians of Presidency lamented the decline of Presidency’s standard due to such recruits. What they actually feared, however, was the destruction of Presidency’s educational space colonized by Brahmins for two centuries. In the name of merit, a discourse which is not rare at today’s Presidency either, these guardians made the new recruits feel completely undeserving.

The truth, however, was the opposite. Each of the so-called reserved category recruits had an excellent academic graph that indicated their incredible struggles and achievements. Even though they were initially humiliated on a daily basis by a Brahminical academic community at Presidency, many of them fought back and demonstrated that they were some of the best minds of contemporary Bengal. To a great extent, thanks to their commitment to their community, caste issues started being discussed and debated at Presidency. Seminars, conferences, and talks started being organized on a regular basis and all these contributed to an ongoing caste-sensitization in the Presidency campus. It seems that the interests of 85% of India’s population, the SCs, STs, and OBCs, are now a matter of concern for some of Presidency’s stakeholders. A true democratic spirit is set to pervade the campus, at least theoretically.

The latest development in this effort of building a caste-sensitive campus at Presidency is All About Ambedkar (www.allaboutambedkaronline.com) – a webzine dedicated to closely reading the works of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The website has been built by the students of the Department of English, Presidency University, under the close supervision of Dr. Mahitosh Mandal, an Assistant Professor of English of the same University. Some of his colleagues including Professor Priyanka Das and Professor Rajat Ray have extended their full support for the project. In the introduction to the webzine, Dr. Mandal, its founder and editor, writes, “This project is based on a simple premise: Ambedkar deserves to be read. … From being suppressed and not published for decades to being ignored in the academic space, Ambedkar’s books have not reached us. But times are changing. Ambedkar is no longer considered to be just a ‘reservation leader’ but, as many argue, as ‘the father of modern India.’ For us, Ambedkar is primarily a thinker – perhaps, the most original, rigorous, and provocative thinker India has produced.”

all about ambedkar webzineAlthough focused on Ambedkar’s works, the webzine broadly aims at creating electronic resources for the advancement of Caste Studies. The articles published and sought for publication are wide ranging and include close overviews of Ambedkar’s texts, reviews of books on Ambedkar and Caste, discussions on caste-related violence, exploration of the theme of caste in film and literature, and analysis of the issue of caste in contemporary Indian politics. The webzine is a valuable digital archive also because it, under the banner of “Similar Projects,” provides links to almost all the leading anti-caste news portals and archives available online.

All About Ambedkar thus promises to be a significant platform in initiating open discussions and debates regarding the caste question so far neglected by the academia at Presidency in particular and in West Bengal in general.

~~~

 

Other Related Articles

A Tribute to a liberated AdiDravida Christian
Tuesday, 19 October 2021
 D. Albert, S.J. [JC Anthony was born in colonial India into an impoverished AdiDravida family. His father was a cook in the British cantonment. He worked in the Indian Air Force of independent... Read More...
Rosa Parks: How It all Started
Monday, 18 October 2021
  Rosa Parks & Jim Haskins (Excerpt from the book 'Rosa Parks: My Story')  One evening in early December 1955 I was sitting in the front seat of the colored section of a bus in... Read More...
Buddha and caste system
Wednesday, 13 October 2021
  Bhikku U. Dhammaratana There are some writers who try to depict the Buddha, the Enlightened One, as the teacher of Nibbana who had nothing to do with the affairs of the contemporary society.... Read More...
How mainstream feminism has failed Dalit women
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
  Anamika Kumari As long as there is casteism in this country, no other '-ism' would ever stand a chance to flourish. This country follows the rule of 'brahminism' and thus follows every other... Read More...
The many shades of Saheb Kanshiram
Saturday, 09 October 2021
  Gurinder Azad Once Kanshi Ram Saheb was going somewhere with his colleagues in a car. His health was a bit bad. A colleague, probably wanting to please Saheb, asked 'Saheb, tell me, what do... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Casteism in City Colleges and Classrooms
Saturday, 29 May 2021
Aarushi Punia It is a common myth perpetrated by upper caste faculty, students, politicians, and media that caste superiority and casteism is exercised amongst uneducated people in the villages, and... Read More...
Govt. of India should send One Lakh SC ST youths abroad for Higher Education
Monday, 21 June 2021
  Anshul Kumar Men sitting on the pinnacle of the palace "So, I went one day to Linlithgow and said, concerning the expense of education, "If you will not get angry, I want to ask a question. I... Read More...
Conceiving a New Public: Ambedkar on Universities
Saturday, 26 June 2021
Asha Singh & Nidhin Donald Dr. B.R. Ambedkar conceptualizes education as a ‘vital need’ which helps us fight notions of ‘inescapable fate’ or ‘ascriptions of caste or religion’. He... Read More...
Outlook magazine's duplicity
Saturday, 22 May 2021
JS Vinay Recently, there was a controversy when the Outlook magazine released an issue with a cover story on “50 Dalits remaking India”. [1] Many anti-caste activists raised questions about the... Read More...
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar - From Denunciation of the Vedas to the Negation of Karl Marx and Surrender to Nāstika Buddhism
Sunday, 16 May 2021
Dr Aniruddha Babar “Buddha would never allow violence, but the communists do. No doubt the communists get quick results because when you adopt the means of annihilating a man, they do not remain to... Read More...