A Dalit woman, who has worked hard through her life to achieve a PhD, has been blocked from pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship, allegedly because the Vice-Chancellor of a University wanted to take revenge. She has now filed a case against the Vice-Chancellor, and an FIR has been booked against him under provisions of the SC/ST Act.
Thirty-six-year-old Srilakshmi Prabha, a Dalit woman, got accepted to a UGC post-doctoral fellowship in June this year. Srilakshmi, who finished her PhD in biotechnology from Bharathiar University in Coimbatore in 2011. She got accepted in June, and had to send in her documents – verified by her University – before July 31.
However, the University is yet to give her these documents, because of which she has lost her fellowship. This has forced Srilakshmi to drag the University and its Vice-Chancellor, A Ganapathi, to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. According to the scholar, Ganapathi tried to spoil her chances intentionally because of a grudge: Srilakshmi had filed a case against him back in 2016 for giving a job reserved for women, to a man.
The case over posting
It all started in 2016, when Srilakshmi applied for the post of an assistant professor in the biotechnology department of the Bharathiar University.
“I had applied for a job as the assistant professor for biotechnology in 2016. They gave a job reserved for women to a man. I filed a case in the Madras High Court against the Vice Chancellor,” Srilakshmi tells TNM.
The University had responded to the case claiming Srilakshmi was an unsuccessful candidate for the post, and the case was dismissed as withdrawn on March 27, 2017.
However, Srilakshmi says that the Vice Chancellor has not forgotten the incident, and was taking revenge on her by blocking her postdoctoral fellowship.
“This is why they have held the documents,” she alleges.
‘Fellowship blocked deliberately’
Srilakshmi says that the University had promised to provide her facilities and gave her the permission to apply for the fellowship. Once she got selected, the University was supposed to verify her mark sheets and send it to the UGC, but she alleges that they still have not done so.
“Because of that, I was not able to join the fellowship. This was a five-year fellowship, and they were providing Rs 45,000 per month as stipend,” she says.
“Whenever I went to the University to check the status, they would say that ‘we have already sent’, but they refused to give me the candidate copy (counterfoil),” she alleges.
It was post this that she filed a complaint with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. “They conducted an inquiry and asked the Vice-Chancellor and Registrar to send the documents, but they ignored even their directions,” she tells TNM.
‘My husband targetted’
The scholar also says that the Vice Chancellor Ganapathi has made casteist remarks against her. “Once he asked my husband, who is from a backward caste, why he married a woman from a Scheduled Caste,” she says.
Her husband, G Kanagraj, used to work as a driver in the same University. However, he was fired in February, after the administration claimed that he turned up to work drunk.
“The university claimed that they removed him from work because he turned up inebriated to work many times. But then, he has worked as a driver for the University for more than 20 years. Why didn’t they remove him from his work before?” she asks.
Tired of this, she filed a complaint with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, and also filed a complaint with the police. On Tuesday, the Vadavalli police filed an FIR against the Vice-Chancellor under several provisions of the SC/ST Act.
Ganapathi has been booked for preventing Srilakshmi from practicing a profession of her choice, for intentionally insulting her in public view and for knowingly committing an offence against a person from an SC/ST community, reported The Hindu.
“They have not let me access a public institute, and are not allowing my husband to work at the university. Only people who are suffering would like to go to court because they need justice. Otherwise, who would like to make rounds of the court?” she asks.
TNM tried contacting the Vice-Chancellor of the University, but he was unavailable for comment.