University Of Hyderabad `BRAHMIN WELL' IN SPOTLIGHT AGAIN
Close It Down Or Revive It Without Caste Tag, Demand Students
Sitting pretty within the University of Hyderabad (UoH) premises as a distinct symbol of discriminatory politics for over three decades, the 'Brahmin Well' has now become a warring point among students battling for social equality.Their demand: close it for good or strip it of its `upper-caste' tag.
Dug in the late 1980s at the behest of a mathematics professor, V Kannan, the well, until recently, exclusively served the highbrowed Brahmin class. Other `lesser mortals' weren't allowed anywhere close, recall university insiders.
It was only after Kannan's retirement in 2014 (he is currently on extension for two years) that the well, near the professors' quarters, lost its relevance. But it continues to stand where it did all these years, as a grave reminder of hegemonic policies plaguing UoH. Now, after the death of Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula, cries for the eradication of this well have grown louder.
“The UoH has been dogged by caste discrimination all along. Vemula's issue has allowed the oppressed class to raise their voice. We demand that the Brahmin Well, which is a symbol of disgrace, must be closed immediately,“ said Venkatesh Chouhan, coordinator of the UoH Students' Joint Action Committee.
Given that the university, incidentally, is also caught in the midst of an acute water shortage, forcing over 2,000 students and staff to buy water, some suggest an alternative idea revive it to address the crunch.
“It is unfortunate that a well with sufficient water has been lying defunct because of caste issues. In stead of closing it forever, it is better that the administration revives it and connects it to a borewell so as to make the water potable,“ said Stalin, state committee member of Students' Federation of India.
But then, this suggestion comes with an non-negotiable clause. The well must first lose its Brahmin identity.
“I agree with those who feel that the well must be revived to address the water crisis prevailing in the university . But, the revival must happen only after changing its name. It can't be a Brahmin Well. The university must issue strict orders against referring to it by that name,“ said E Venkatesh, professor in the political science department of UoH.
Speaking to TOI on Wednesday, university registrar M Sudhakar, meanwhile, said that he would take steps to close or revive the well provided the students submitted a representation. “The university administration never encourages caste feelings. If they want us to take action regarding the mentioned well, let them submit a representation. We will see whether it should be closed or revived,“ said Sudhakar.
Meat ban in guest house?
In the fight against caste based inequalities, another old practice prevalent in UoH and now being dragged to the fore is the complete ban on consumption of meat inside the university guest house.
“Banning non-vegetarian food in the guest house, where students and professors stay during seminars and academic events, is a blatant imposition of upper caste culture. Students are rightly demanding that the atmosphere within UoH must be liberal and approving of every individual to choose the food they wish to consume,“ said Kancha Ilaiah, academician and activist.
Registrar M Sudhakar, however, feigned complete ignorance. “I didn't know non-vegetarian food is not being served at the guest house.There should not be a ban on food and individuals should get the food of their choice provided they pay for it. In any case, I will look into the matter,“ he said.
Jan 28 2016 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)
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