Published: 08th October 2019
Could the first Dalit professor in line to be Hindi HOD at Delhi University in 70 years be overlooked?
On October 7, students and teachers from the Hindi Department at Delhi University took out a march to protest against the delay in the appointment of a Head of Department.
In the last 70 years of its existence, the Hindi department at Delhi University has never had a Dalit professor as its Head of Department. Today, there was a chance that that spell could be broken for the first time but even now, 70 years later, caste discrimination could yet be the reason why that streak may continue.
Prof Sheoraj Singh Bechain was all set to become the HOD of the Hindi department on September 16, four days after the previous HOD's term came to an end. But he received no letter confirming his post, despite having the requisite seniority. He met with the authorities every single day to find out what was causing the delay. But no one was able to tell him exactly why. He later found out that KN Tiwari, a colleague who had joined eight months after him, had made a representation to the authorities to take up the post of HOD. "Every single day I kept asking them what was delaying the process, then I was told to stop visiting because and that they themselves would call me. Then I was told by the previous HOD that somebody else had also applied for the post and they were discussing it," Singh said.
According to the University ordinance, Singh said that the senior-most professor is supposed to get the seat of the HOD but Tiwari had only become a professor at the department eight months after Singh had joined. "On September 12, I was invited to go through all the formalities, the former HOD was also with me during that time. So far I have been attending meetings in place of the HOD if he's busy, I also took up his duties when he was absent. I am even part of the screening committee as the 'future Head', I was given a lot of responsibility since I was the 'future head' but now suddenly they are considering making my junior a HOD," Singh said. Prior to joining DU, Tiwari had been a research scientist at UGC. Singh completed his PhD and MPhil from Rohilkhand University in 1995 and 1987 respectively.
Singh says he is convinced that the whole issue has a caste angle because otherwise, the authorities would not take so much time to decide. "It should automatically go to me, so what is taking so long?" he asks. The professor also accused the junior professor of spreading lies about his caste, "I'm sure there is some pressure that the authorities are feeling, that's why they are keeping quiet. This professor also accuses me of being a Brahmin from Benaras and says I haven't done enough academic work to demand this post and they are making it difficult for me, a Dalit to secure a post that should be coming to me," he explained.
The previous HOD has assured Singh that a fair procedure would be conducted, but Singh is not sure what will happen. "He said I haven't done enough work but I've even brought out a book called My Childhood on My Shoulders and even written the impact of Ambedkar's journalism on the Dalit community plus I continue to write columns in many newspapers. These rumors about me are completely wrong," he added.
On October 7, students and teachers from the Hindi Department at Delhi University took out a march to protest against the delay in the appointment of a Head of Department. They also supported Singh and claim he is not being given his seat because of caste discrimination against him, "I've had maximum support from students and teachers because they know that I've been doing all the work during the HOD's absence and it was expected that I would become the HOD because of my seniority. That's why they are coming out in my support," he said.
The previous HOD's term has been extended till October 21 in order for the issue to be sorted out, so for now, Singh can only wait. "I got a job at the department based on my merit. This other professor has not done any of the HOD duties even for one day and now rumours are being passed around about me. But I hope that the issue is resolved soon," he said.