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Ashoka University Students Push for Caste Census and Anti-Discrimination Measures

The campaign underscores the importance of acknowledging caste realities within the institute.
Ashoka university

New Delhi: In a bid to promote inclusivity and awareness, students at Ashoka University in Sonipat have urged the university administration to conduct a comprehensive caste census encompassing both students and employees.  

The initiative, led by the Social Justice Forum (SJF), representing marginalised communities including Scheduled Castes, Muslims, Scheduled Tribes, Kashmiri Muslims, and other ethnic minorities, emphasises the urgency of establishing an Anti-Discrimination Cell or Equal Opportunity Cell. 

The students say that this proposed Cell should operate independently, ensuring fairness in addressing and acting upon discriminatory acts faced by marginalised students on campus.  The forum had earlier demanded an independent anti-discrimination cell to address discrimination on campus.  

On November 7, the SJF sent a letter with 200 signatories to Vice Chancellor Somak Raychaudhury, the Indian Express reported. The letter said, “Over the years, we have witnessed various instances where people belonging to marginalized identities have faced discriminatory behaviour and acts. Regrettably, these incidents often go unaccounted for and unaddressed due to the absence of a formal reporting body….”  

The Forum argued that the lack of a formal body to tackle such issues not only represents institutional failure but also violates established regulations. Citing the University Grants Commission (UGC) directives, they underlined the need for higher education institutions to appoint liaison officers and establish grievance redressal bodies to address discrimination concerns, according to the news report.  

Concerned about potential delays in establishing a formal redressal cell, the Forum urged the administration to form an interim body promptly to record discriminatory incidents. They stressed the importance of ensuring adequate student representation in both interim and permanent bodies to maintain transparency. 

With a 14-day ultimatum set for the Vice Chancellor to respond, the administration's initial response, while acknowledging the demands, fell short of expectations. The VC proposed the establishment of a Students Grievances Redressal Cell (SGRC) and an Equal Opportunities Cell but projected operational delays, citing official preparations, and declined the demand for a representative interim body, as per reports 

In the subsequent response on November 17, the VC pledged to include "elected student representatives" in the composition of these committees. However, this move triggered debates among students who deemed it a token gesture, emphasising that an elected body alone does not adequately address the diverse needs of various groups.  

Students critiqued the grievance registering mechanism led by the nodal officer, citing instances where discriminatory incidents were inadequately addressed. The Social Justice Forum stressed that an equitable and representative foundation for these cells is vital for genuine inclusivity. 

The Forum's second letter to the VC on November 30 reiterated the call for a comprehensive caste census. Signed by around 200 individuals including students, staff, and alumni, the letter seeks to uncover and publicise data regarding the representation of marginalised communities within Ashoka University.  

The campaign is supported by individuals within the university community, originated from the Young India Fellowship (YIF) batch of 2023. Its primary objective is to advocate for marginalised students and staff while initiating constructive dialogues on caste, class, religion, ethnic minorities, tribes, and gender issues within the campus. 

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