The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is in soup again over an alleged case of caste discrimination. Dr Shobhana Nerlikar, a Dalit faculty in department of journalism and mass communication has registered a complaint at Varanasi’s Lanka police station on Saturday against Kumar Pankaj, the head of the Arts faculty for threatening her life.
This case comes after BHU topped the University Grants Commission (UGC) list of central universities that witnessed caste-based discrimination against Dalits in 2015-16.
Following the complaint, the police registered a first information report against Pankaj under Section 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (1) d of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 for criminal intimidation and insulting an SC/ST citizen. Deputy Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Singh has been appointed as the investigating officer on the case.
“On July 6, around 2 pm, Professor Kumar Pankaj called me for a meeting. As soon as I entered his office, he said, “For past 14 years, you have created a filthy environment in the department.” I objected and said, “Sir, please don’t use such words.”
“He looked enraged and started shouting casteist and dirty slang against me. I never expected this kind of behaviour from a senior faculty member. It has caused me a mental and emotional shock,” Nerlikar told Newslaundry.
“Pankaj further said that I should be in my limits if I wished to live. He didn’t stop abusing me though faculty members including Gyan Prakash Mishra, Swarn Suman and Amita, who were present at the meeting, objected to his behaviour and told him that he should not be using such language against a female professor,” Nerlikar added.
However, Pankaj denied all the allegations and said that the faculty is trying to defame him. “I don’t want to give any statement on the issue. Her complaint is false,” said Pankaj.
Discrimination on grounds of gender and caste is a big issue in BHU. According to the UGC list on caste-based discrimination against Dalits in universities, BHU registered 19 such cases in 2015-16.
Apart from the inefficiency of internal mechanisms to address gender and caste discrimination, the occupancy of all major administration posts including dean, director and administration by the upper caste people has been seen a reason for this repeated cases,” says Vikas Singh, a research scholar and former general secretary of BHU’s students’ council.
In light of a recent report made by National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to varsity officials directing them to implement the reservation policy in BHU. The last date to respond to the apex court’s directive is July 28.