IIT Madras professor who warned of 'Nirahara Satyagraha' slammed with eviction notice, asked to vacate campus home by Feb 18

Explaining the issue to Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, DMK's MP DNV Senthil said in Lok Sabha, "Many faculty and students of IIT Madras are targeted because of their caste"
Image for representational purpose only | Pic: EdexLive
Image for representational purpose only | Pic: EdexLive

Professor Vipin Veetil, who resigned from a faculty position at IIT Madras last month after alleged instances of institutional caste discrimination, is facing an eviction notice for the first time in his life. "I do not know what comes next. I do not know if they will now try to break into my house," he said.

Deputy Registrar A Babu has signed the eviction order that was pasted on Veetil's on-campus house, while he (Veetil) was away pleading for a probe into his case with higher officials in Delhi. He has been assured a probe by the officials at the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) and the Ministry of Education.

Veetil was earlier allowed to keep the on-campus house until February 28. He was asked, in the official IIT M order dated February 15, to vacate his home by February 18, "I can only reach there on February 21, I don't know if my belongings will be thrown out by then or if I will be manhandled as I try to enter the campus," Veetil said.

"Administrators who are issuing all these orders will be sitting inside their air conditioned chambers at ease and the security guards who will be manhandling me will also (like me) be from scheduled castes or OBC or from other marginalised communities," he added.

In a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, dated February 16, Veetil said, "I shall enter the campus of IIT Madras to access my residential quarter (on Feb 21). I would like to rightfully retain my residential quarter until the end of February as previously agreed with IIT Madras. I request you to guarantee my safety as Law & Order is a subject of the State not Centre."

While IIT Madras Director Prof V Kamakoti was unavailable, Deputy Registrar A Babu told Edexlive that the eviction procedure will begin on February 19. He was unclear as to what this meant for Veetil. "We will begin the eviction process tomorrow (Feb 19). We have not yet decided the further course of action," Babu said. When asked if the eviction process included breaking into Veetil's house, he said, "We will not do that."

In the earlier letter to the Prime Minister, dated February 3, Veetil had issued a public warning of a Nirahara Satyagraha (fast until death) in front of the IIT M building if the higher authorities in Delhi fail to initiate a probe into his case — and into the case of alleged sabotage, by the institute, of the SC/ST/OBC special recruitment drive.

In the notice issued to Veetil and in conversation with Edexlive, IIT M authorities made it clear that the decision to force him out before the agreed upon date was taken because Veetil was planning a "Dharna". Deputy Registrar Babu said, "His actions are not in line with the code of conduct. He was planning to stage a demonstration in front of the admin building, such things are disturbing the maintenance of peace here. He is acting against the interest (of the institution), acting against the IIT estate rules."

Veetil said that the institute authorities allowed the issue to escalate instead of hearing him out.

In the parliament
DMK MP from Dharmapuri DNV Senthil took Veetil's case to the floor of the Lok Sabha on February 11. Addressing the  Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Senthil said, "Many faculty and students of IIT Madras are targeted because of their caste."

He said that six faculty members of IIT Madras have complained about an attempt by the institute to sabotage the ongoing recruitment of SC, ST and OBC faculty.

Elaborating on the sabotage, Veetil had also written a letter to Pradhan on February 3. Highlighting some points mentioned in the letter, Senthil said that the areas advertised are very narrow and the institute refused to include subjects like Dalit Studies that would attract more candidates from oppressed caste. "In this context, Dr Vipin has resigned from IIT Madras because of mental harassment caused by caste discrimination."

He requested Pradhan to set up a committee to look into the allegations of sabotage as well as the allegations of mental harassment and caste discrimination leveled against the institute by Veetil.

He is hopeful
It is after Senthil brought the case up in the parliament and addressed it to Pradhan that things started progressing, Veetil said. "All credit goes to MP Senthil. Since he has asked this question in the parliament, the Education Minister will have to respond to it and to do so he will send the question to the Ministry of Education. In my meeting with bureaucrats at the ministry, I have appealed to them to set up a probe." His fear now is that the ministry will ask the IIT M authorities to preside on the probe.

But there is hope. He said that the NCBC has started looking into his case more seriously. "Part of the reason why my case did not move forward is simply because the NCBC is understaffed and under-resourced. They simply don't have the capacity to handle thousands of cases that come to them from across the country. Unless you turn up at their door, things happen very slowly.'

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