“Right from the day one, I was made to reveal my caste on some pretext or the other. My fellow teachers would try to ask my caste in a ‘friendly’ way. I never understood why there was so much fixation over it,” Anil Pushker, a Hindi department scholar at Kolkata’s prestigious Presidency University.
Pushker is one of the two probationary lecturers who was dismissed from his services on April 21 because of ‘unsatisfactory performance’. But they are alleging that it was all done with a malicious intent by their own department who have been discriminating them for their caste.
Pushker, a Dalit and Satyadeo Prasad, an OBC from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) & Delhi University (DU) respectively joined Presidency in May 2016. Since Presidency is one of the oldest and the most reputed institutions of India, they thought a tenure there would be a badge of honour for them.
However, things, they claim, quite differently from what they expected.
Ragging or Discrimination ?
“When we joined, some professors raised objections to the appointment of me, Prasad and Munni Gupta (another Hindi teacher). They said that we were unqualified for the post. But the university official contested their claims and our appointment was reinstated. But we never knew that this would kick-start a bitter journey ahead,” Pushker said.
He claims he was subject to “distasteful” comments all the time. “I was told that despite being from a reserved category, I am so qualified and intelligent. Isn’t it highly ridiculous?” he questioned.
He also claimed that he was humiliated during seminars in front of students. “They would introduce me like ‘Here is Anil Pushker from JNU. We are told that he is a great scholar’. After I presented my views, they would all gang up to attack me with their counterarguments in an extremely distasteful manner,” he said.
Pushker was accused of leaking question paper as well as not being able to complete his course. “Our Dean, Tanuja Majumdar used to ask students to lodge a written complaint against me. When the students didn’t agree, she threatened to fail them,” he said.
“Since I was on a probation period, I treated all this as some sort of ragging. I didn’t want all this to jeopardise students’ education as they really loved me. Presidency was an utter shock for me as I never faced any sort of caste-based discrimination during the ten years of my life at JNU ,” he added.
“Let’s see if Presidency can keep you or not”
Satyadeo Prasad maintained that he faced nothing in comparison to what his colleague faced. But he added that “Brahmanical discrimination” was very much prevalent in Presidency University.
He says on the very first day, he was welcomed with a snarky remark by Rishi Bhushan Choubay, a fellow teacher. “Let us see if Presidency is able to keep you or not. This is what I was told rather than being welcomed,” he said.
“During the entire tenure, they haven’t ever invited me for a cup of tea at their place. This is the best proof .What more can I say?”
Prasad says that he was also targeted because he had an unconventional way of teaching which was loved by his students. “I made a WhatsApp group with students so that they can ask queries anytime. But that was misinterpreted and I guess they made it a case of harassment.”
He says he wasn’t served any show-cause notice by the administration. “I was wrongly dismissed because the other faculty members were jealous of me,” he said.
What do students have to say ?
A student who wished to remain unnamed said that Pushker was very good at his job.”We never had any issue with his teaching style, but the dean always interfered in his class. She often asked the students to file a written complaint against him because she felt that he wasn’t good. But when the students refused, she threatened us by saying that she won’t give us marks in the examination.
The duo is now fighting against their dismissal by the department. “We have been appealing to the V-C, Registrar, Governor as well as the Chief Minister of Bengal. We want justice restored,” Dr Prasad said.
Dr Tanuja Majumdar did not reply to our emails and phone calls despite repeated attempts.