Speech made at the protest organised by United OBC Forum and BAPSA on 9th June, 2016 against the discriminatory Anti-OBC Reservation circular of UGC/MHRD which denies OBC reservations in Faculty Recruitments and Promotions.
Jai Bhim Friends,
I will only take a few minutes of your time. Speakers before me have placed their important points on the issues of OBC reservation in Higher Education and Faculty Recruitment and spoken about the new Anti-OBC Reservation circular by UGC/MHRD. I will specifically talk about the condition of SC/ST/OBC women’s representation in academic spaces, be it as students or as professors. Friends, few days back I was reading an article titled ‘Dalit Feminist Standpoint’ and when I read the author’s name I found that the author was a Brahman woman! So you can see for yourself the condition of SC/ST/OBC women.
What is the reason that a Dalit woman is not allowed to write about her own standpoint in the academic spaces and that standpoint is written by upper-caste or Brahman women? Friends, I see many upper-castes writing papers and thesis on ‘Dalit patriarchy’ but someone needs to tell them that Dalit patriarchy is a matter concerning Dalit women and you should leave it to them, Dalit women have been fighting against it since ages. You should talk about your own patriarchy and casteism which you practise against SC/ST/OBC women to keep them out of the academic sphere. I want to question the Savarna women feminists from this platform, you speak of ‘sisterhood’, you speak of ‘gender equality’, you speak of ‘gender justice’, you speak of 33% Women’s Reservation Bill, but I want to know why you are silent on the issue of ‘reservation within reservation’ in the Women’s Reservation Bill? I wish to know when will SC/ST/OBC women get representation within the demand of 33% Women’s Reservation Bill? Many friends have spoken before me about the reservation for OBC candidates, but let us not forget to include women in this. SC/ST/OBC women must have 50% representation within the SC/ST/OBC reservation.
Friends, the thing is that the upper-castes have written papers and dissertations on our experiences and our lives, but now when we, SC/ST/OBCs, are talking about ourselves they are feeling challenged. Now, that we are writing about ourselves in academia, they mark us with the label of ‘Not Found Suitable’ and keep us out of the academic spaces. We SC/ST/OBC students condemn this category of ‘Not Found Suitable’ from this platform. Recently, a professor said that he supports OBC Reservation in Faculty Recruitments, but he personally believes that there should be some ‘academic markers’ for selection of OBC candidates. I want to know what are these “academic markers”? Friends, the argument of ‘academic markers’ is not any different from the argument of ‘merit’ which is thrown at SC/ST/OBC students and candidates all the time. The truth is, they want to find one or the other reason, to label us with the ‘Not Found Suitable’ category.
The UGC has already set certain guidelines for applying to the post of Assistant Professors/Lecturers. The UGC demands that the candidate should have two articles published in academic journals, the candidate should have cleared National Eligibility Test (NET) and the candidate should hold M.Phil or Ph.D degree (whichever applicable). When the SC/ST/OBC candidates come for the interview for faculty recruitment with these conditions fulfilled, then what extra ‘academic markers’ do you wish to set for them? How many times should we give these ‘agni-parikshas’ for you? First we have to pass your agni-pariksha and prove ourselves to you, that Sir/Madam, we are capable of studying in your prestigious and progressive universities. When we complete our studies and we have a Ph.D. degree in our hands, we again have to prove ourselves, that Sir/Madam, we have the knowledge but we are also capable of teaching. I don’t understand why the SC/ST/OBC candidates are made to prove themselves time and again? What ‘academic markers’ are you talking about? I have not seen any such ‘special markers’ in any upper caste/feminists/women academicians because of which you give them entry into these academic spaces, other than their caste background, their social capital and their cultural capital.
Friends, the question is where are the SC/ST/OBC women who have completed their Ph.Ds, their M.Phils and their M.As? These are learned women from our communities, so why are they not in the academia? Where do they go after taking their Ph.D degrees? Who is responsible for their disappearance? Friends, you can go and find out whose hegemony is there in all the Women Studies Departments and all the Gender Studies departments across the country. First of all, there are no SC/ST/OBC women in these departments, in case there are any they are either on the basic post of a Lecturer or in non-permanent posts. There is only upper-caste women’s hegemony in academia under the name ‘women’. Till today, I have studied in three progressive colleges and universities, but why is it that I have never studied under any Dalit woman Professor, any Adivasi/Tribal woman Professor or any OBC woman Professor? Where are the women from these three categories? Why are you suppressing them? Why are you quashing them?
Friends, I want to remind these Brahmanical and casteist academicians that in 1850s itself Savitribai Phule had powerfully taken her right to study and to teach, she had taken her rights by slapping the regressive Brahmin males of Pune. We, SC/ST/OBC women have the blood of Savitribai Phule in our veins and we also know how to take our rights. I would like to end by saying that, the Subaltern Can Speak and the Subaltern Can also Revolt…Whether you like it or you don’t like it, we don’t care.
Jai Savitri!!! Jai Bhim!!!
[This text was also published in SAVARI]
Prachi Patil is a Bahujan woman, pursuing her Ph.D. at the Centre for Study of Social Systems in JNU.