“Caste reservation should go…” Head counselor’s casteist remarks trigger row in IIT Bombay

The head counselor of the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Hima Chhatbar Anaredy, had passed casteist remarks against Dalit, Adivasi, and OBC students through a public social media post, questioning the merit of those who avail reservation, students alleged.

Students appealed to replace the head since the existing environment at SWC only favors upper-caste students.

Hima Chhatbar Anaredy’s 2015 post read: “I am signing in because I believe this caste reservation should go. Many people are misusing this reservations. And only general people are suffering. People should get admissions and jobs on credential and not on reservations. If you feel they lack the facilities then the government should provide better education and facilities at their schooling age to make then competent.”

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Students expressed their concern to the authorities because they felt that a person with a casteist history won’t be capable enough to hold the office of head counselor of a center that aims in providing adequate mental support to the students.

“What sort of mental health service can Dalit Bahujan Adivasi students expect from such people with the anti-reservation sentiment. These counselors completely ignore social factors and power hierarchies caste while counseling and blame the individual students for their mental health issues,” read a post by collective Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), IIT Bombay.

“They write reports protecting the admin by using whitewashing structural issues as merely psychological. Everything affecting mental health is blamed on the personal issues of individual students. Harassment is told to be just ‘inside their head’. These counselors are hired just to take care of Savarna students’ needs and blame the Bahujan students in case they raise an issue,” the collective said.

The APPSC said when they raised the issue with the admin and SC-ST cell, there has been no response. “They are protecting these people so that they can use the SWC to downplay the cases of discrimination and harassment as mere psychological problems of individuals and not structural.”

The largest chunk of caste-based harassment students face is due to the anti-reservation sentiment prevalent on the campus, say students. SWC is no longer safe for expressing the concerns and issues of SC/ST/OBC students who constitute a big majority of IIT Bombay, students said.