Memorandum to the management of Indian Institute of Technology – Madras and the Ministry of Human Resources and Development of India on Institutional Murders
Ms. Fathima Lateef, a 19-year-old girl, who was pursuing a master’s degree in the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT-M) in Humanities and Social Sciences department allegedly committed suicide on November 9th, 2019 in her hostel room on the campus. It’s another institutional murder inside so-called upper caste faculty dominated IIT-M. Ms. Fathima left a suicide note that Sudarsan Padmanabhan, an associate professor of Philosophy from the very department is the cause of her death. She also mentioned other professors Milind Brahme and Hemachandran Karah as the cause for her death1.
There should be an institution-level inquiry in IIT-M against all three persons, Sudarsan Padmanabhan, Milind Brahme and Hemachandran Karah named by Ms. Fathima and inquiry committee should consist of at least 50% with people from Other Backward Castes (OBC), Scheduled Castes (SC), and Scheduled Tribes(ST) and Muslims to ensure a fair inquiry. At least there should be one Muslim in the committee.
There are 52 suicides by the students reported in the last 10 years in eight Indian Institute of Technology and IIT-M tops with 14 suicides2. It’s insane to dismiss suicides of such level as the problem of individual students and it should be analyzed and understood as a structural issue. The same department in which Ms. Fathima studied, Humanities and Social Sciences, organizes an annual graduate conference on ‘Rethinking Violence’ on Jan 23 – 25, 2020 and calls for the papers which states that violence penetrates every aspect of life – social, cultural, economic, political and personal – (c)overtly working its way through social relations, cultural practices, language, state mechanisms, and social structures3.
In order to redress the social, cultural, personal and structural discrimination overtly and covertly faced by the students of the marginalized and the minority communities, the student organization Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) inside the campus which represent these students interests and aspirations should be allowed to operate freely and deserves same treatment and support from the IIT-M as enjoyed by Vivekananda Study Circle (VSC) inside the campus. The APSC’s name should be immediately included in IIT-M’s ‘Interest Groups’ web page whereas VSC is listed4. Such recognition will do justice to your conference ‘Rethinking Violence’.
It’s humorous meanwhile felt heavy-hearted about the ignorance of IIT-M while reading the statement from IIT-M about the incident that ‘tarnishing the reputation of one of the finest Institutes in the country’5. To set the record straight, none of the IITs and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and any Indian university finds a place in the top 100 universities in the world. IISc is in the top 250 and IIT-M is in 600!.6
There are ample scientific researches that overwhelmingly conclude that an inclusive environment is the best way to promote healthy competition and to ensure great productivity meanwhile there is not a single shred of evidence which confirms exclusiveness is efficient. It’s a matter of fact that IITs are super represented by the faculties from the so-called upper castes which has made the environment notoriously exclusive and highly unfriendly to the students from the marginalized and minority communities.
Out of 684 faculties in IIT-M 599 are from the so-called upper castes which is 87.5% whereas 66(10%), 16(2%) and 3(0.4%) faculties respectively from OBC, SC and ST category7. The constitutional guarantee of OBC, SC and ST are respectively 27%, 15% and 7.5%. This constitutional violation which ‘tarnishing the reputation of one of the finest Institutes in the country’ and made the public to see IITs as anti-constitutional and anti-national. The same trend in faculty appoint is reflected in other IITs8.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Development (HRD) under the government of India which is responsible to enforce the constitutional guarantee in the faculty appointment in IITs and IISc should ensure the appointment of OBC, SC and ST respectively 27%, 15% and 7.5% in all IITs and IISc in maximum of 2 years period.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment or the Ministry of HRD should constitute a committee to study and report caste and religious discrimination in IITs in a time-bound manner as Thorat committee constituted by National Commission for Scheduled Castes which studied and reported the caste-based discrimination in All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
We can’t bring back the precious lives which have departed and left us in a state of deep sorrow and mourning. But we can stop the structural atrocities operating through the institutes and individuals though structural remedies and personal corrections. We, the people of Indian origin or Indian citizens reside in the United States of America, hope the above four demands will be a starting point for such structural redress in IITs and IISc.
Ambedkar King Study Circle, California has taken an initiative to put an end the caste and religious discrimination in IITs and other higher education institutions by collecting the physical signature for the above demands.
If you are interested in volunteering for this campaign, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Karthik (831-200-3282), Lakshmi (408-307-8913), Cheran (408-656-7536) and Kanak (925-963-2402).
Last day to collect physical signatures: Mon Dec 9th, 2019
(It is a month-long campaign since Ms. Fathima Lateef took her life on Nov 9th, 2019)
Sample Memorandum with signatures: