Published: 08th February 2024
All you need to know about former DU ad-hoc teacher Dr Ritu Singh's protest against casteism
Since September 2023, the former teacher has been protesting continuously outside the Arts Faculty of Delhi University against the caste-based discrimination she faced
Today, Thursday, February 8 was the 165th day of Dr Ritu Singh’s struggle against caste-based discrimination at Delhi University (DU).
Professor Dr Ritu Singh was an ad-hoc teacher in the Psychology department of Delhi University’s Daulat Ram College (DRC) before she was removed from her position without any notice in August 2020.
Now, since September 2023, the former teacher has been protesting continuously outside the Arts Faculty of Delhi University demanding the removal of Daulat Ram College’s Principal Dr Savita Roy.
“Caste Discrimination is very common in Delhi University. I do not know why more people do not come out and speak about this. If my generation stays silent about discrimination, then there is no use for this education. We can write all the books we want, but now is the time that we come together and solve the problem,” Dr Ritu Singh said in a conversation with EdexLive.
Experiences of caste discrimination
“On August 10, 2020, I was removed from my ad-hoc faculty position in the Psychology department of Daulat Ram College (DRC). However, I had started noticing Principal Savita Roy’s biased attitude and casteist behaviour towards me right after I joined DRC in August 2019,” Dr Singh recalled.
Speaking about her first negative encounter with Principal Savita Roy, Dr Ritu recalled that it was in November 2019, when Roy used casteist slurs against her in the presence of her colleagues during her PhD convocation.
“I was told by my colleagues that the principal does not like me criticising the government, or criticising the anti Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribes (ST) policies by the government. Even at that time, I was a popular face in the Dalit community. I was always very vocal on Twitter (now X) and with the media, I used to be a part of several protests to save what's enshrined by our Constitution. But instead of confronting me about these issues, I was being targeted indirectly,” shared Singh.
In 2020, in the midst of COVID-19, Dr Ritu Singh was terminated from her position despite the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s guidelines maintaining that any ad-hoc or contract-based teachers should not be terminated.
“There were five ad-hoc teachers in the Psychology department and 117 ad-hocs in total. All of these people received their renewals except me, even though the teacher in-charge of my department had already signed my joining. I was even given a timetable of 18 classes per week for the coming semester. But the principal wanted to silence me and threaten me instead,” Dr Ritu added. Upon confronting the principal about her termination, Dr Singh alleged that she was subjected to threats and slurs again.
The legal battle
Dr Ritu approached the court in November 2020, when her former teaching post in DRC was advertised, for which, she had been selected through a procedure for a temporary vacancy reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) category.
Later on, the matter also reached the Delhi High Court and the SC Commission.
To account for why Dr Ritu was terminated during the legal procedure, Principal Savita Roy presented a letter signed by 35 students of DRC stating that they were dissatisfied with Dr Ritu’s teaching experience.
“I was shocked when I found out about this letter because before leaving I had asked all my students to give feedback and they had all shared positive and supportive remarks. I questioned the letter and it was later revealed that these 35 students were not my students. In fact, there was no record of these students in the entire college,” shared Singh.
Following this, a case was registered against Roy on a complaint made by Singh under several serious sections including the SC/ST Act and a charge sheet was also filed for presenting forged documents in the court.
However, despite this, the principal has neither been arrested nor removed from her position in the Daulat Ram College.
“Delhi Police responded in the court that since she is the principal of a renowned college, she hasn’t been arrested. Today is the 165th day of my protest and I will continue my protest till the accused has been arrested,” the professor said.
The former professor added that Savita Roy has faced similar allegations of meting out caste-based discrimination in the past as well. During her teaching tenure in DU’s Kalindi College, where she was Teacher In-charge of Physics department, there were complaints regaring her casteist behaviour towards SC/ST teachers, Dr Ritu added.
Demands, future of protest
On Tuesday, February 6, the Delhi Police detained Dr Ritu along with hundreds of protestors and supporters present at Gate No 4 of the Arts Faculty. Dr Ritu alleged that several female protestors and students were even manhandled by the security personnel.
“I realised that I have to stand up and fight or else the future generations after me will have to suffer. It is my duty. They are offering me a job, I can quit the fight and be silenced. But I chose to fight. I categorically told them that I don’t want a job, I want justice. I am capable enough that I can teach anywhere and earn bread for myself,” added Singh.
After Dr Ritu Singh’s agitation against casteism caught the public eye last month, DU Vice- Chancellor Yogesh Singh met with the protestors on January 19, 2024. During the meeting, a list of demands was given to the university urging immediate suspension of Registrar Dr Vikas Gupta and DRC Principal Dr Savita Roy.
They further urged the VC to clarify the reason for not advertising backlogs for marginalised communities in teaching faculty.
It was also demanded that a special recruitment drive for filling up backlog positions of SC/ST for Assistant Professors be carried out and an inquiry be conducted against appointments done of teaching faculty on the basis of fake documents.
Discrimination in ongoing faculty displacement?
It is important to note that a large number of students and faculty members of Delhi University have alleged ‘caste and politically-driven’ motives in the ongoing en-masse ad-hoc faculty displacement at the university.
When asked about this, Dr Ritu alleged, “Caste, and political beliefs have to play a big role in the ongoing ad-hoc displacement. Teachers have been hired on permanent positions who do not have any qualifications but belong to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS cadre). Teachers who have been teaching for over 20-25 years are being displaced. They are not able to teach because they do not know how to. The posts have been filled with their own ineligible cadres, some of whom do not even have basic qualifications like PhD or NET.”