Tuesday 11 April 2006

The comment wars continue

Dr. T. Jayaraman responds to my comment on Abi's blog, this time with a minor personal attack. Such fun. Once more, I reproduce my rejoinder in full here:

I would like to reiterate my point. If my comment was read carefully, you'd have noticed I've not expressed my views about reservations or Dalit oppression. My only grouse is with the statement that alleges "dirty looks".

In between the posting of my previous comment and this one, I spoke to a lot of my friends (who happen to be both "upper caste" and "not-so-upper caste", and hey, what do you know, even non-Hindu).

All of them said the same thing - in college, the students do not care about caste. It ceases to be an issue after the entry point. Nobody says "Oh look, that guy's struggling to clear his papers. He must've got in through reservations, and now cant keep up." What's usually said is "Poor guy, he's struggling." and IT STOPS THERE, if anything is said at all, because, frankly, one has enough worries about one's own self in college.

In fact, Mr. T. Jayaraman's reply only serves to reinforce my point that students left to themselves do not care about caste. Using SFI data? Sure, trust a political organization to give out unbiased, neutral information.

SFI will care because it is a political, not student, organization. In fact, SFI seems to concentrate on inflating the caste issue in colleges. Keep the SFI away from students, and see magically how caste never surfaces as an issue.

You cannot simply extrapolate a Dalit's position in society to his/her's in an engineering college. Completely different place. The classroom != society.

Once again, please note that I am NOT saying anything about Dalits position in society - only taking exception to the "dirty looks" remark. I am also

Please, Abi, don't be condescending. I am not talking about my own college alone (a private engineering college in suburban Chennai), but about a LOT of colleges in Chennai and Mumbai, at least, because I have friends who have studied there, as opposed to hearsay from politically affiliated units.

Once again, like I said in my earlier comment, I do not know how old Mr. Jayaraman is, and I'm once again guessing that he has no idea of the college atmosphere in these times. One cannot walk into a campus, and immediately pass judgement on it. The college environment is NOT a mirror of the state of society, and vice versa.

Engineering college is different. No, I'm not claiming it is the ideal world - all I'm saying is that it doesn't work the same way as society does. Please do not do college students a disservice by accusing them of indulging in caste politics. I beg you to ask people who have studied in top-notch colleges, and seek any of this "dirty look giving".

Abi, your students? Surely you could ask them?

No amount of disparaging remarks about "shouting in uppercase" will change anything. And why is the burden of proof on the accused, instead of the one making the accusation?

No, it is most definitely NOT logical to conclude that the discriminatory attitudes
continue inside the institute also. Please do not bring logic into this mix, for the very article that makes the "dirty looks" allegation is completely devoid of it. (Different coloured papers? Oh please.) And also, please do not bring African-Americans into this. Different kettle of fish altogether.

In your first comment, you want to "pause to consider whether indeed the allegation
is true" and in general state that you only agree with the sentiment expressed in the allegation, without being too sure about it's veracity.

And suddenly, in the 2nd comment, you supply anecdotal evidence from your long-standing associations with various groups (SFI, Dalit students). Did the memory of these associations not strike you, in the first post, where you were, in your own admission, only assuming it might be true?

I wonder how you managed to conclude that I have "picked up little sensitivity..."

I never mentioned in my post that discrimination is not a problem. I never said
oppression is not a problem. I never said Dalits enjoy equal status. I also never said reservation should be abolished.

I am very well aware of the social problems plaguing my country, thank you very much. I just choose not to believe every single thing I come across that would happen to be in line with my opinions. I do not assume anything would be "fairly common in a large number of engineering institutions across the country" unless I had first hand information, from unbiased sources.

Maybe it's still not clear, so I'll say it again (I would say it in caps for emphasis, not shouting, but it doesn't seem very popular): I understand the situation in India. This comment is NOT about the situation in India. It is about how engineering college life cannot be equated with society.

And sensitivity to issues does not mean agreeing to your opinions on them.

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