In 2009, I visited Hungary and worked as a volunteer at Dr Ambedkar School in Hungary. At that time, there were protests were going against the separate Roma/Gypsy schools and international organisations were putting pressure on the Hungarian government to abolish all those separate schools for the Roma/Gypsy community. Finally, Hungarian government had to back down and take the necessary steps to end separate schools.
8 years later, according to the report from Hindustan Times, Telangana government is planning for the Dalits only University, India’s first university only for Dalits and might come up in Hyderabad by 2018. By the next academic session, an exclusive university for Dalits could start in Hyderabad as part of the Telangana government’s policy of free education to students from weaker sections.
While it is seen among many Dalits a good move but here is why I think it is a bad move and I oppose the idea of setting up separate Dalits only universities.
Before we as Dalits start the celebration, we need to look into the schemes already in place for Dalits’ welfare. What is the condition of Dalit students’ hostels? Does government provide proper funds and maintain these institutions properly? We all know the answers.
Who will run it, how will it run?
I believe setting up separate university might reduce discrimination to some extent, caste discrimination that Dalit students face at each every step of their university life. But all this would again depend on who is running that university, what is the caste of administration of the university and which caste is funding the university? If the answer to these questions is not Dalits then would it make any difference?
I would support any such Dalits only university if the full control is in the hands of Dalits, otherwise, I don’t think the Dalits only university would be any different from any other university.
Why do people go to universities? To learn, get open their mind, and to become aware of the situation they are living in. (Leave aside financial motives for the moment, though these might have become the main reasons though they are not the intended reasons.) So, if people after attending universities are not able to set aside their prejudices against so-called lower castes, what are the chances that after there is Dalits only university it would help these so-called upper castes? It would give them another reason to hate so-called lower castes (which by the way, I am not really concerned, they hate Dalits anyways!).
Another reason why I think setting up a separate university for Dalits is a bad idea is that it might deprive so-called upper caste students to learn caste realities. When students are studying together with the different background they share stories and can help each other understand the realities of caste. It’s the so-called upper caste students who need to learn the caste realities, don’t deprive them.
Don’t Create Educational Ghetto
Blacks in America fought for the right to learn in the same schools where whites could go. Roma/Gypsies in Hungary are fighting the same battle. What makes Indian different to think that setting up exclusive Dalit universities would do any good for the Dalit community and Dalit movement? It would not help in the annihilation of caste, or would it? I highly doubt it.
After almost 70 years of caste discrimination and segregation based on caste was declared unconstitutional, setting up Dalits the only university is a slap on the face of all those who believe in equal opportunities and equal rights. The problem faced by Dalits in India are endless but would be setting up separate Dalits only university be the solution?
While around the world governments are trying to integrate and involve different communities, it is highly shameful to segregate and put Dalits in some concentration camps and deprive them of the opportunities to learn with others. Universities all of over the world are trying hard to bring diversity to the classroom and workplaces, it is a bad idea to set separate university for Dalits. Diversity improves the learning experience and productivity has been proved by many studies.
When you want to build an Inclusive Society for a strong nation, such moves as setting up Dalits only university are not going to help.
According to a 2014 study conducted by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in the USA,
Schools with overwhelmingly black and Hispanic student populations usually have fewer resources and attract less experienced teachers, have higher teacher turnover, and have higher dropout rates, putting students of color at a disadvantage. Students in segregated schools also tend to make smaller gains in reading.
I understand there is a difference in university and schools and I also understand well that situation is not much different in India and it would not become better with separate Dalits only schools or universities.
A few comments from the users on social media –
A plan of Telangana government to start a separate university for Scheduled caste students is absolutely against the interests of Scheduled Castes. Governments have to ensure that the Scheduled Castes students get admissions in top schools, colleges and universities, both public and private. Having separate university is a retrograde move of Telangana government. – Jayant Pathri
Separate university for Dalits. It doesn’t sound good to me. Instead, installing checks and balances and punishing the guilty severely may be a good idea. Minorities set up their own universities, not governments setting up separate universities for them. Dalits can set up their own universities. But, setting up such universities by governments is not good. – Benjamin P Kaila
Though segregation in Hungary is still prevalent, attempts are made to bring communities together not like in India where separate Dalit only university or schools are set up. If India has to progress, it needs to bring communities together in the real sense not separate them.