Sunday, December 10, 2023

“Because I am a Dalit”: A teacher’s battle against caste bias

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Dr Ritu Singh, who holds a doctoral degree in Psychology from Delhi University, was an ad-hoc teacher at Daulat Ram College before she was ‘terminated without any notice’.

“Because I am a Dalit’, she says.

It’s been more than two weeks since the Dalit educator is protesting against caste discrimination outside the Arts Faculty of Delhi University. She has been on the streets on strike demanding the removal of Daulat Ram College’s Principal Dr Savita Roy, who she accuses, “discriminated me based on my caste”.

In August 2019, Singh was appointed as an Assistant Professor at Daulat Ram College as she was selected for a post through a procedure for a temporary vacancy reserved for the Scheduled Caste category.

However, after a year, she was terminated from the post in August 2020.

She alleges that her termination came as a result of her caste identity and the college principal Savita Roy discriminated against her because she is a Dalit. During her stay at Daulat Ram College, she “faced severe caste-based discrimination by the principal.”

Soon after her termination in 2020, Singh stonewalled by the academic decision, resorted to protest for ten days outside the college but had to discontinue due to the widespread pandemic, Covid-19.

However, she continued the legal battle and the matter reached the court.

During the investigation and legal procedure, in her defence, the school principal Savita Roy came up with a letter in the court that stated that the students Dr. Ritu taught were ‘dissatisfied and she disrupted’ the classes. 35 students signed that letter.

The investigation revealed that Dr Singh never taught the 35 students who signed the letter. In fact, these students were not even part of the college and were not found on the campus.

Ritu says, “When the investigating officer probed the matter, it was found that those 35 students, supposedly taught by me, were nowhere to be found in the entire college. Consequently, a charge sheet was filed in this case.”

The matter further reached the High Court and SC Commission.

After much struggle, a case was registered against Roy on a complaint made by Singh under several serious sections including the SC/ST Act. A charge sheet has been submitted.

Despite presenting forged documents in the Court, to frame Singh, no action has been taken against the principal, by the court, college administration, or the SC commission so far.

All this while Roy was promoted and appointed General Secretary of the Principal’s Association. She was neither arrested nor removed from the post of the Principal.

Singh told Maktoob, “We have witnessed institutional murderers happening on campuses such as Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula, and it is continuing. It should be a shame for the country that boasts so much about being a democracy, that students and teachers are being killed due to unending existing caste discrimination and systematic oppression based on caste.”

“I was illegally terminated and was wrongfully treated on campus. I will protest until I will get it just because I don’t have any other option. During Covid, the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s guidelines maintained that any ad-hoc or contract-based teachers should not be terminated, replaced, or denied their salaries, despite that I was terminated without any proper justification”, she added.

Since the last three years, her fight to demand justice never halted, “Getting justice is not easy for us, despite the constitution was given by a Dalit but I have faith in the constitution written by Baba Saheb Ambedkar and my fight to pursue justice will continue in its light. It took me a year to file a case under the SC/ST Act”, she said.

“I urge my community to join me in my battle against caste discrimination if they don’t want to see my picture along with Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi, who are the victims of the same caste discrimination I am facing and many are facing” Singh asserted.

In Ritu’s case, filing the FIR itself was a great challenge. “The police are conducting the investigation under pressure. The court has made very stern remarks about the investigating officer”, said Singh.

She also informed Maktoob that two IOs (Investigation officers) have been changed so far, one on court orders, and the third is also trying to protect the accused. 

However, no one from the administration or the college itself has approached Dr. Singh but her relentless protest has garnered a lot of support.

Fraternity Movement National General Secretary Lubaib Basheer along with the Fraternity Delhi University leaders visited Dr. Singh and extended solidarity to the protest led by her and demanded the suspension of the principal of Daulat Ram College Dr Savita Roy.

Basheer told Maktoob, “As we witness grave atrocities against the Bahujan/Dalit community, we will be at the forefront to resist them legally and politically.”

“As Muslims, we are also systematically oppressed and excluded. It is the need of the hour to collectively fight against such caste-based discrimination”, he added.

Rajendra Pal Gautam, former social welfare minister in Delhi government has also extended his support to Dr. Singh in demanding the suspension of principal Savita Roy.

He said, “We are with her until she gets justice.”

Maktoob visited Principal Savita Roy’s office to learn about the allegations against her but she was not present there. Repeated calls also went unanswered. The report will be updated as soon as we receive her response.

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