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IIT-Madras Teacher Writes to PM, To Go on Strike Alleging Caste Discrimination

Vipin P Veetil also wrote to Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and the National Commission for Backward Classes.

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An IIT-Madras faculty member, Vipin P Veetil, has said that he will go on a hunger strike starting 24 February, if the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) does not independently investigate the caste discrimination he had allegedly faced in the institution.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Veetil wrote that the NCBC should also investigate "the sabotage of the ongoing special recruitment drive for SC/ST/OBC faculty at IIT Madras."

Veetil's letter to the PM further accused IIT-Madras' "brahmin faculty members and predominantly brahmin administration" of caste "discrimination and harassment." Veetil, who is an assistant professor at IIT-M's Humanities and Social Sciences Department, belongs to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

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'Harassed After Complaint'

In the letter addressed to the PM, Veetil further wrote that he has been harassed ever since he lodged a complaint with the NCBC in 2021, over the harassment that he had faced at the institute.

While NCBC asked IIT-Madras to conduct an inquiry, the faculty member has been facing "relentless" harassment ever since the institute concluded the probe in October 2021, his letter alleged.

The letter alleged, "Since the conclusion of the inquiry in October 2021, the then-director of IIT-Madras and the Head of the Department of the Humanities and Social Sciences have relentlessly harassed me."

Veetil has had to resign, the letter alleged, because, "the casteist-hegemons at the institute will not let a person of a 'low caste' live in peace, let alone work with dignity."

The letter stated that he has exhausted all grievance redressal mechanisms. "I am left with no option but to call upon the conscience of the people of our republic."

'Three Stages of Caste Discrimination': Complaint to NCBC

Veetil had quit IIT-Madras in June 2021, accusing fellow faculty members of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences of caste discrimination.

Back then, in an email to the institute's community, Veetil had alleged, "One of the curious phenomena I have observed here is that the Bayesian prior among many is that caste discrimination is a rare occurrence. My own experience, and conservation with members of SC and OBC communities, suggests that the prior is far from true [sic]."

On 5 August 2021, Veetil, who, by then, had rejoined IIT-Madras after a brief stint in another institute, wrote to NCBC, asking the body to investigate the instances of caste discrimination he had faced at the institute.

He wrote in his petition, "This letter does not capture all of the discrimination I have faced at the department or the caste dynamics which regulates and shapes our lives at the institute. These will hopefully come up in the course of our interaction during the investigation [sic]." In 2015, a section of the institute's students had accused the management of caste discrimination when the latter de-recognised the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC). The APSC now functions as an independent student body in IIT-Madras.

Along with his letter to the Prime Minister, Veetil has also written to the NCBC with a complaint, which details the "three stages" of caste discrimination he had undergone in the institute.

In the letter addressed to Bhagwan Lal Sahni, chairperson of the commission, Veetil expressed his dissatisfaction at the findings of a committee, which was set up to investigate a complaint against caste discrimination he had filed with IIT-M's internal grievance committee. The committee was set up by IIT-Madras.

"I must add that I am writing to you after having been at the receiving end of months of administrative caste violence, all of which has had a considerable impact on my personal wellbeing and scientific work," Veetil's complaint to the NCBC read.

According to Veetil, at first, he had faced "passive support of the administration to a clique of casteist individuals." The administration, after an investigation into his complaint then, "absolved the accused and exhausted the aggrieved." Then, he was "targeted for having pursued a formal complaint" against caste discrimination, he wrote to NCBC.

Veetil has also written to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Neither Veetil nor IIT-Madras authorities were available for comment when The Quint reached out. The report will be updated when they respond.

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