Published: 14th January 2020
MGU Dalit scholar, detained during Governor's visit, claims she is a victim of caste discrimination
Deepa Mohanan was recently arrested when the governor had visited the university. She says that she's been facing bias since 2011
An MPhil degree, a PhD and then a good academic career — Deepa P Mohanan tells us that these were her aspirations when she joined Kerala's Mahatma Gandhi University as an MPhil student in 2011. Deepa's was the first MPhil batch in the university's Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. However, 9 years down the line, this Dalit scholar alleges that the university administration hasn't allowed her to complete her research — and she claims that it's a case of caste discrimination.
On January 3, Deepa made it to the news when she was arrested and kept in preventive custody by the police when Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan visited the university. "Meeting the governor and complaining to him about my plight seemed like the only possible way for me to continue my research. He was supposed to meet the scholars of my department. But I was first asked to go out of the campus and was later arrested and kept under preventive custody," says Deepa. "But I haven't given up. I'll definitely meet the governor soon and raise these issues with him," she adds.
Until now, she has filed two police cases against the institute's Director, Dr Nandakumar Kalarikkal and one against the university's current Vice-Chancellor Dr Sabu Thomas. She says that she has also filed complaints against the duo with the State SC/ST Commission and the university.
Taking us back in time, Deepa talks about how she was subject to a lot of caste-based discrimination in the university and how it had almost sabotaged her research career. "They have created a lot of delays in my project. They haven't let me go to the lab and do my research since October 2019. They do not want Dalit students to research in this department and have made it clear directly and covertly many times," she says. "Many times, I was told that Dalit students aren't competent and responsible enough to pursue research. I was accused of theft and was told that students like us usually steal. They even told another faculty once that Dalit students' presence affects the institute's reputation," she says.
Deepa also recalls incidents from the past that paint a rather painful picture. "I was once locked inside the laboratory. I wasn't allotted funds to buy materials to conduct my research. I was sent out of the laboratory and the institute many times. Another time, these faculty wrongly attributed my experiment results to another student, to let him publish a paper in an international journal," she says.
She also alleged that the ruling CPM favours the faculty and this has made things even more difficult for her. "During the Rohit h Vemula incident in 2016, I'd penned a Facebook post about how left organisations who are raising their voice against the Sangh Parivar's casteism in other places are turning a blind eye to the incidents here," she says. This got a lot of traction. Following this, Kalarikkal was shifted from his position as the head of the department. "But soon after this, the CPM won the elections in Kerala. Later, Kalarikkal's position was reinstated. Even the FIR against him was quashed, despite having enough proof," she says.
Kalarikkal and Thomas, on the other hand, denied all of Deepa's claims. "I deny all these allegations. MG University is secular and has no space for discrimination. I'm happy to have such students with me. I really want her to finish her research at the earliest," says Thomas. "How can she finish her work without doing any experiment? I've also asked other students to help her out," he says.
Kalarikkal says that he's been a victim of torture and was targeted by Deepa for a long time. "She's been continuously taking my name and making baseless allegations. We've been extending all our support but why is she not doing any of her work?" he asks. "Irrespective of caste and creed, everyone must do their work. She just wants to establish that MG University is casteist. Deepa is also not a Dalit student. Only her mother is a Dalit. It looks like she has a hidden agenda," he adds.