New Delhi, Feb. 17: A Dalit student of chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, has approached the Supreme Court accusing the IIT of victimising him for leading a protest against caste bias at the institute.
The student has filed a writ petition in the apex court seeking “justice” after the IIT expelled him for the second time in two years.
The 23-year-old boy — who requested anonymity at this stage — has alleged that the IIT was targeting him because he led a group of 14 Scheduled Caste students in the protest against discrimination. IIT Kharagpur has denied to The Telegraph the allegations made by the student.
Institute director Damodar Acharya said the boy was asked to leave because he could not secure the minimum scores required to remain at the institute.
The IIT, Acharya said, gave the boy adequate opportunities to improve his performance. “I am confident that no caste-based discrimination could have occurred at the IIT.”
But the student’s appeal to the Supreme Court raises uncomfortable questions about the confidence of Dalit students in the implementation of India’s reservation policy, especially at premier institutions like the IITs.
Any validation of the boy’s allegations by the Supreme Court will be embarrassing for the IIT to explain.
Allegations of caste discrimination at the IITs are not new. But never before has a student from IIT Kharagpur approached the apex court alleging not just caste bias but victimisation for raising his voice against the discrimination.
The Kharagpur institute in 2007 expelled 14 students for poor performance, including the boy who filed the writ petition yesterday. Students are required to maintain a minimum cumulative performance to continue at the IIT.
The student who filed the case with the apex court had led the others who were expelled to meet human resource development minister Arjun Singh.
The students — all 14 — were re-admitted after Arjun’s intervention last year, the boy has claimed.
But in his writ petition, the student has identified top administration officials who harassed and even taunted him for having approached the HRD minister.
The student has accused an assistant professor of humanities of expelling him from his class after he returned to the institute after Arjun’s intervention.
The teacher, he has alleged, said aloud in class: “Who is this Arjun Singh to intervene in IIT matters?” and ordered the boy to leave the class.
Director Acharya, the student has alleged, told him he would not be able “to complete the BTech programme now”.
The student has alleged that he was deliberately failed in all three courses he was advised to take after he was re-admitted — in one of the courses, he was the only one to fail.
In mid-2008, the student — who entered the institute after clearing the Joint Entrance Examination in 2006 — was asked to leave again. In failing in all papers he took after re-admission, the boy had once again not succeeded in meeting the minimum standards required.
Acharya, formerly the chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education, refuted the charge that he had threatened the boy.
He had set up an inquiry into the allegations made by the boy against the faculty members, but the investigating team did not corroborate the allegations, Acharya said.
The director said he had personally met the boy’s family members “at least thrice” to try and explain to them that their ward needed to improve his academic performance, a claim that the petitioner denies.
“The director has met my brother only once, and on that occasion, the issues surrounding my expulsion were never discussed,” he said.
Apart from petitioning the Supreme Court, the boy has also appealed to the HRD ministry to intervene and also written to Dalit members of Parliament for assistance.
CHARU SUDAN KASTURI, The Telegraph, February 18 , 2009