If I start talking about how marginalized students find prestigious universities like Delhi University equal to Agraharas, you will assume me to be another Dalit from “reserved category” who is most certainly “non-meritorious”. But believe me, I am not ashamed of my identity (and no matter how hard you try to make me feel otherwise, you will never succeed). My only purpose in writing this piece is to address my fellow Dalit Bahujan Adivasi students struggling in these university spaces and tell them loud and clear that they are not alone in their fight.
Like many of you, I have also stepped out of my home, my city and my state for the first time. Like you, I too feel alienated and left-out here. I too struggle to speak in English with fluency. I too find it difficult to be a part of those “groups”. I hesitate to become a member of any society in my college. But believe me, there’s no fault of yours in this. These elite institutes are structurally designed in such a way to exclude and marginalize students coming from the most vulnerable sections of our society. You will slowly realize this. For now, what you need to understand is, you are not the only one who is going through this phase. We all experience it. So there’s nothing to worry about. We, the first or second generation learners, have got this golden opportunity to study that was denied to us for centuries. Utilize this space to do something better for yourself and for our community.
These elite institutes are structurally designed in such a way to exclude and marginalize students coming from the most vulnerable sections of our society.
I do not wish to romanticize our struggle. Rather, I would like to encourage you to fight against these exclusionary spaces. Yes, we have come here to study but we are not here just to study. We are here to fight for our dignity and rights. This is also a space where you will have to learn to speak for yourself. You will have to learn to assert your identity in the strongest way possible because you will be humiliated for who you are at every step. You will be made to feel lesser, “non-meritorious” and “undeserving”. The taunts of reservation and merit will always cross your path. But don’t let all these things make you feel ashamed of your identity and history for your history is one of oppression and not shame.
Come together, dear fellow strugglers. We have to support each other in this battle. To share my personal experience, when I came to this city I didn’t know a single person here. But as I interacted with fellow Ambedkarites from this university and from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), I got the confidence that even I can survive in this Brahminical space. They are now like my family to me who inspire me each time I feel like giving up. I don’t know what I would have done if they were not there. So my advice to you is, form our own organizations where our experiences, problems and thoughts will be discussed.
In this dark times where we are losing our bright stars like Rohith and Anitha, I know it is difficult to not lose hope. But remember how much Babasaheb struggled in his entire life. He had no one by his side. Today we have his great legacy along with that of Savitri Mai, Fatima Sheikh, Birsa Munda, Mahatma Phule, Periyar and many others to inspire and guide us.
There is other group that does not share our struggle but will try to show their sympathies and will tell you that they “represent” us. They want to raise “our” issues. Do not believe in them for we are capable of raising our own voices. Speak for yourself, for your fellow Bahujan students even if you don’t know how to speak and even if your broken words don’t make any sense. Speak! Lead your own struggle. As Babasaheb said, “We must shape our course ourselves and by ourselves”.
Speak for yourself, for your fellow Bahujan students
You are not alone in these academic Agraharas. We are with you to fight till the end. So don’t give up this battle. You have to study and study hard. For those majority of people from our community for whom the doors of these educational institutions are still closed. You represent their hopes and aspirations. You cannot afford to lose. You don’t have that privilege. Fight!
May these last words of our Babasaheb — Educate, Agitate and Organise — always motivate you.
Love and rage from a fellow struggler.
Jai Savitri, Jai Bhim!
Tejaswini is a budding Ambedkarite and a first year Economics Honors student at Miranda House, Delhi University.
This article was originally published in Students’ Voice magazine of Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Study Circle, a reading group of AISA in DU and has been republished here with permission.
Featured Image Credit: Shyamsundar