This is where construed hierarchies brood, masculinity takes new shapes in ragging and the oppressed becomes the oppressor with new students coming in here. National Academy for Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) is an aesthetically beautiful academic space that is situated in the land of many important civil movements in the country – Telangana.

NALSAR is one of the top law schools in India where one witnesses no diversity in student population, where the minority always does not have a voice and their experiences have been systematically ignored. This may sound illusory, but only victims know the nature of the place.

The campus poses as liberal, posh and democratic. But one has to question one’s own politics whilst asserting themselves as open-minded, forward and welcoming. One has to interrogate their own circle to check how inclusive and welcoming they really are. NALSAR is the brand for legal education in the country.

Like all that glitters is not gold, the aesthetic campus may trick you into thinking that it can be a life settling experience. But the question is, does this place render the same experience to ALL? Absolutely not. Testimonies of students prove NALSAR to be insensitive to many profound issues that need to be in daily discourse.

Discussion is completely absent and no one pays heed to the issues of caste, class, gender, and sexuality. These issues have no place on this colourful campus. Though some of the students have established a Gender and Sexuality Forum (NALSAR Gender and Sexuality Forum), there is a need for a more inclusive platform to not just study gender and sexuality on the surface but to delve into their intersections. NALSAR accommodates various forms of discrimination based on gender, skin colour, walking style, dressing style, caste and class.

Class intertwined with caste, gender and sexuality is an understanding of the complexities and intersectionality of oppression and this has no place in popular feminist discussions because there is ignorance and privilege at every level in this campus. The garbage spilt on the ground is to be cleaned by Dalit manual workers. Here, the scavengers are Dalits.

We entered the campus with a lot of vanity and necessary proudness that was gifted to us from the struggles of our ancestors, mothers and friends. We knew we had to fight again. Fight all our lives. We had to fight the education system, we had to fight within families, we had to fight morality, we had to fight caste, class, gender. After all, we are born not free, but with these identities and we had to eventually take the fight to the university.

Like all that glitters is not gold, the aesthetic campus may trick you into thinking that it can be a life settling experience.

Caste, though complex, is clear in its form and action. Academic spaces are hoarded by General Category students – it was inevitably hard for a collective platform to be built to let our voices out, despite bombarded debates rooted in discrimination. The first instance is of our castes popping up in our merit list of entrance exams unlike those for General Category students.

Calling them ‘general’ students made me think, are reserved category students not students at all, in general? I could not digest my caste hanging beside my name on the merit list. It is not because that I do not want to be recognized as such, but why ONLY US?

I strongly believe that the university allotment list with its merit hierarchy reinforces the power structures and reaffirms caste privilege and power. I don’t mean to be against reservations based on caste, but ranks and category names next to the name of a person reinforce the power structures. Caste is subtly, but strongly playing its role here. Institutionalized casteism in action.

One instance that made me uncongenial to the feminism on campus was when one of our batchmates, a dark-skinned Adivasi boy, from a working-class background, whose walking style doesn’t fit into notions of ‘decency’ was elucidating his experience. When it comes to feminism, he thinks it must question caste discrimination. The so-called staunch feminists of the campus paid no attention to this.

Their dhabas, mess gossips, Facebook memes excluded the ‘other’ experience and ignored the caste question and its place in feminism. I could not understand then. I questioned and started to think. At some point, I refused to call them feminists and had no interest in engaging in their feminist politics and discussions.

Feminism that ignores the experience of a rural person and rejects caste discrimination is not feminism at all. The idea of feminism that excludes ‘other’ struggles cannot be the same anymore. It is just hypocrisy.

Also Read: The Vicious Response To Protesting Women Students At BHU

I am privileged when it comes to class and can afford to buy clothes that fit into principles of  ‘classy’ – So I was heard but denied completely. I see feminists giggling at a Dalit woman’s body hair. I see feminists gossiping about a Muslim student’s hijab. I see feminists glaringly denying ‘our’ experience.

The problem in understanding feminism and its real interests is lacking in academic spaces. Martha (name changed), a Dalit woman student says, “One of our batchmates, a Brahmin upper-class woman has cleaned her bed with sprinkling water after I sat on her bed”. She’s a part of the group photo of NALSAR Gender and Sexuality Forum which says, “We are what feminists look like”. If this is what they call feminism, there is a need to deconstruct and redefine it.

Feminism in the campus has been reduced to selectively fighting sexual harassment. Fighting other forms of sexual harassment has no place in it. When a male senior points out a queer person’s attire to a bunch of his friends, it is sexual harassment in broad daylight in the mess. The question is, when senior men students enjoy the hierarchy of seniority, consciously pass comments about queer juniors, does the latter have an agency to put the issue forward? NO.

The structures of power hierarchies internalize silence and further normalize systematic violence. This is a common phenomenon in every academic space. It works subtly and strongly. The ambience that the campus has created is absolutely not queer-friendly or feminist-friendly, though a lot of people’s assignments would be based on gender equality and LBGTQ rights. Hypocrisy is in every corner of academic discourse.

Feminism on campus is just an assertive identity but it is not a performance. The action is utterly dead and works in favour of the privileged. I have witnessed very staunch self-proclaimed feminists gazing at my way of dressing and gossiping about my sexuality. As an indigenous-Dalit middle-class woman student puts it, “I’ve been constantly and consciously reminded to shave my hair on legs with toxic gazes of woman students itself”. The way they impose their feminism someone different than them is very troublesome and patriarchal – everyday normal life on campus.

This normalizing attitude and culture speak a lot about their own hidden filth. One of the students of NALSAR, Kumarjeet Ray says,

“Yes, there is obviously a certain and definite class consciousness that runs deep into the social spheres and in almost all societal interactions in NALSAR. Besides the usual and obvious bias based on where a person is from, there is also a bias on how well one is equipped in English, both linguistically and culturally. The first set of friendship always happens based on how Western or non-Western you are. Every year, the juniors form a group of what is commonly called the “yo” gang. Where its mainly English-speaking people, who maintain a Western lifestyle.”

At the freshers, the Hindi-speaking seniors naturally interact more with the Hindi-speaking juniors, the “yo” seniors with their “yo” juniors, and so on and so forth. Thus, as a result, interaction is limited to people from the same social background doing the same things. Thus, class consciousness in NALSAR comes from a linguistic level and how Western you are, which would mean that students from big cities are perceived to be more Western as opposed to the rest.

Feminism that ignores the experience of a rural person and rejects caste discrimination is not feminism at all.

The administration is not an exception when it comes to perpetuating sexism. Surprisingly, the code of conduct in the academic block still has a provision to dress up properly. To cover up to the knees – exclusively for girls.

One of the students gives an instance where a Dalit woman worker in the campus allegedly ”stole” food from one of the student’s fridges in the girls’ hostel. The girl, who is a self-proclaimed feminist, confronted the worker, but the worker refused to accept the allegations in a stern voice. Then the girl complained to the VC and got her suspended.

One can understand how the hierarchy of class works towards exclusion. It is a daily routine where the workers dread coming to hostels for cleaning. I saw a woman worker terrified after a Ten Rupee note flew beside her from one of the rooms in the boys’ hostel. No one complained this time, but the way this campus has created this undertone of terror for workers (most of them are Dalit Woman) is tremendously disgruntling and I wonder what feminism are these privileged students talking and writing about.

If their feminism excludes a lower class Dalit worker, then one has to question the whole understanding of feminism that they propagate. It is quite evident that feminism in the campus is formed out of different exclusions at different levels. As one of our students put it, one who can’t speak English is inevitably excluded from peer zones.

I’ve seen students mocking an Adivasi boy’s broken English and he is never taken seriously. If their politics don’t flag out privilege, there cannot be a place for equality and justice. There is silence because this is a huge place for privilege. NALSAR is rotting in the guise of fragrances.

Feminism cannot be separated from caste and class. Feminism must address class consciousness and casteism in academic spaces and feminist informal groups in universities. Caste that operates in every corner of different blocks and streams of campuses, is dyed with the toxic “due process” and systematic justice dispensation.

A beautiful place with a colourful congregation of plants has its roots in blood. Some minds are colonized, but some stubborn minds are destroyed as is the aim of caste. The campus has classist, casteist and misogynist cacophonies veiled with a mask of modernity. When shall I and my people hear the sweet music of liberation? When?

Also Read: Dear Bahujan Students, You Are Not Alone In This Agrahara


Featured Image Credit: Law School 101

26 COMMENTS

  1. I wish to say that this article is a complete narration of experiences. NALSAR means not just the administration. This is a narration of various experiences from various sources. I am shocked to see calling it untrue. My experience is included in this narration and I personally know the experiences narrated in this article. This a complete experience sharing in NALSAR. For the narration of my experience by Sanjeev, put very academically and profoundly. Thanks a lot. THIS IS VERY MUCH TRUE. #MYEXPERIENCEISTRUE. Kindly do acknowledge it. I want NALSAR to be better and inclusive.

  2. Ma’am, Sir, instead of completely disregarding the alleged experiences, there should be an attempt to deal with these incidents even if the administration perceives it to be isolated.

  3. Look, the points about intersectional feminism are well taken. But some of the anecdotes mentioned here are simply factually incorrect.

    For instance, we’ve never had a Muslim student who wears a hijab on campus atleast for the last three years, and considering you’re a first year here, I don’t see how that could have happened. Which facebook memes are you referring to? No such memes exist, on the public domain.

    Similarly the point on “yo gangs” and “Hindi gangs” is just a question of people socialising, as opposed to being some casteist conspiracy. People interact and make friends with folks who have mutual likes, dislikes and interests and if there are people (I’m sure there are) who use someone’s caste as a yardstick to decide whether or not to interact with them, they are the sad exception and not the norm at Nalsar, contrary to what you seem to be pointing out.

    That being said, you’ve pointed out a few isolated instances and seemed to portray some kind of institutional casteism. Even assuming they are all true, how does it establish institutional casteism? They only point towards, if true, the culpability of some individuals.

    The Nalsar GSF cannot take responsibility for the actions of everyone who has attended their sessions at any point of time. While the forum is far from blameless in other respects (a lack of engagement being a chief concern), the allegation that it is not inclusive on caste grounds is simply not true.

    Lastly, highlighting issues with anecdotes and flowery rhetoric can only take you so far. Please suggest concretely what can be done, in your opinion.

    • To clarify you on hijab wearing muslim student would be mysoginist. And this sums up how insensitive we are in the campus. And You just made justification for every problem that we are facing. So I dont want to discuss on this comment. Thank You !

      • What is misogynist? What am I jusfifying? What is insensitive? Dude, what are you even saying?

        It’s very easy to say you don’t want to discuss something, but after making such serious allegations, I really don’t think shying away from a discussion is wise. Takes a lot of credibility away from what you’ve said

    • Hi Mx No Sense,

      I was reading through your response and what I see is that instead of acknowledging that there may be a problem (although you might think it’s allegedly unfounded or isolated) you simply seek to deny it. What you are doing is no different than the republicans in the US Congress ! I may understand that the problem may be not be institutionalised but to staunchly defend the system rather than acknowledging that these elements pointed out by the writer need to be addressed, is really sad. Equally infuriating is asking the writer to suggest solutions rather than taking advantage of your superior position and helping ppl out, even if you may not agree. Your response exemplifies what the writer seeks to illustrate.

      And lastly, I was at Nalsar too and I can affirm that all of your democracy or principles apply only to the LLB batch. You guys do, as an institution and as a community, exclude other people, who may not be as great you are. And this may well hold true for the writer in the future.

      • Hi Shree,

        I do believe that once you highlight a problem, the burden of suggesting a solution is also on you, lest your credibility be damaged. I’m not asking for implementation, just a suggestion would be great. Especially considering that I have contested the existence of half the said problems, and believe they are highly exaggerated.

        This post has nothing to do with feuds between LLBs and LLMs. The issue being raised here is very specific to caste based discrimination. Let’s keep the conversation germane to the question at hand, shall we?

  4. As a student of NALSAR, I completely disagree to your assertions.(Discussion is completely absent…..,Their dhabas, mess gossips, Facebook memes excluded the ‘other’….,I am privileged when it comes to class and can afford to buy clothes…..) There may have been handful of instances where someone from under-privileged background had to face discrimination at interpersonal level (and there are adequate means provided by the university to remedy and redress such grievances) but framing the entire university as a casteist is nothing more than gross exaggeration.

    It is completely preposterous to suggest that discussion on caste, class, gender and sexuality is completely absent. Class discussions, course outline, guest lectures and various forums organised by student body ensure that students get sensitized and become aware on the topic

  5. I believe “Acknowledgement is the first step to change “and make our home-away-home, NALSAR, a better place.
    This article has surely highlighted the issues which are prevailing in NALSAR.
    ‘Administration Team’ is in complete denial-mode to even acknowledge these ‘ILL-isms’, which is quite worrisome.

  6. I have personally witnessed condescending treatment meted out to the LLMs, who were also referred to as lolomos in a derogatory manner to remind constantly how fancy proficient english make different and superior breed altogether. So this is not just about choosing your friends according to their linguistic proficiency because we can’t also forget at the same time that it is also mostly the upper class elites who go to schools that have instructions and teaching done in english and hence their proficiency. I have also observed how ragging was rampant there as I was put in the same hostel with the freshers of BALLB. Humiliation, physical and mental abuse were so conspicuously hidden inside the walls behind the glitzy facade with ignorance on the part of authorities. I personally didn’t suffer because this ragging thing I have seen was restricted to only BALLB students. I was there with hopes of an extreme liberal atmosphere at the city of Justice only to be disillusioned immediately when I was reminded of my place there. It was most conspicuous during last sports festival I attended there when I was reminded again that I will be jobless when the course is over by other students. But I also have lots of happy memories of that place as I made some really great friends who have been equally nice to me and was also taught by some really good teachers taught me to have confidence in life. But we surely can’t deny that elitism does exist at NALSAR. So, I think it can be an even better institution only by being more inclusive and welcoming of people from diverse socio-economic, caste, religious and academic backgrounds. There’s always a lot more to learn by being a little more self-evaluative.

  7. Bogus article. A number of these statements put forward by the writer are FALSE and without any backing (not even referring to the ‘lived experiences’). Conflating one issue with the other on many accounts. As a Dalit student on campus, it is very disappointing to see from the Gumpenapalli siblings this attempt to slander the name of NALSAR. I am not denying that there are certain subtleties within the setup which have to be done away with, but that is definitely not specific to college and to imply that it is backed by the institution is preposterous.

  8. I agree that there is a need to address the concerns raised in this article. I will possibly disagree with the way in which they have been raised (but i do not dispute the truth of the facts that may have been stated).

    The title is somewhat misleading – the instances raised are those of private individuals who have made transgressions that should certainly be punished/ questioned. In this sense, this article can be applied to any setting which is shared by people of different castes. There is no claim of casteist behaviour made against the administration, or against policies made by the same. Neither is an allegation made that these specific transgressions you have mentioned have been overlooked (possibly, had an attempt to raise these incidents been made at any time, further steps could have been taken by the institution). If now you admit that these transgressions are happening in closed private spaces, wherein the administration has no control or oversight over, there should be an attempt to bring to the eye of the administration these specific incidents, so that they can be questioned or punished. The article seems to place fault on NALSAR as an institution, rather that specifically the individuals who are at fault. I, as all other members of the Exec absolutely condemn the singular instances such as that faced by ‘Martha’. However, this then raises a duty to report and inform such transgressions, rather than silently bear or shift blame onto an institution. To what level does NALSAR control the actions of these transgressors?

    i would be appreciate of any advice or steps you recommend that can be taken to strengthen the SC/ST Cell and how individuals can be educated, and individual transgressions can be reported. A blog does little, rather than possibly trivialise the events mentioned herein – “She’s a part of the group photo of NALSAR Gender and Sexuality Forum”. This does nothing to address the problems you are attempting to identify.

    As for your issues on the merit lists, the argument again extends beyond the scope of NALSAR.

    I disagree with those who have called these incidents lies, or have brushed them aside, i merely feel there are definitely better ways of actually addressing these issues. There is also a need to shift the conversation away from NALSAR, to Individual duties that we all have against our peers. One cannot let transgressors escape personal responsibility for their acts by merely having voices being directed at NALSAR for such actions.

  9. I am the fifth year who allegedly did the sprinkling of water against ‘Martha’, who was then my roommate. This is what had happened. When I was out of the room, she had invited her friends over to the room and all of them were sitting on both beds. When I got back from the library at 1 am, I wanted to sleep and asked them to atleast vacate my bed. They left after sometime but not before littering the entire room with chips packets, biscuits and cold drinks. My roommate thought me asking them to leave was me being casteist as she thought I did not want to associate with them. I poured some water on my bedsheet to clean the drinks they had spilled and it had nothing to do with her caste. I am not from India and I was very surprised when she started shouting at me that I had sprinkled water because of her caste. I don’t know about the other facts mentioned but Martha’s incident is absolutely untrue.

  10. The above comment is not mine. Someone else has used my name, I have nothing to with this, thank you.

  11. With due respect to the faculty and students who have commented before me:

    While it is true that some of the issues pointed out in this article are, unfortunately, prevelant everywhere in the country and not limited to India (like those related to Dalit workers and hostel staff), I think it is laudable that the author has identified it earlier rather than later, even if his understanding is limited to the University space. I know it took me longer to recognize the pervasiveness of casteism in India.

    Wouldn’t it be better if the university created a safe environment to address these and other issues rather than shutting down student voices just because they may not be as nuanced as that of the professors or older students? This includes the fact that most top educational institutions in India are indeed elitist, at least to a degree. I know there was group branding and other kinds of othering in my student years, and this extended to other institutions. While a lot of it was rooted in ignorant callousness, it can still be damaging for young minds.

    For instance while Martha’s roommate may not have intended to insult her, Martha’s indignation may still be legitimate as a remnant of past traumas. This is something non-Dalit students may not have been exposed to and therefore may disregard easily.

    I hope this author continues to speak up and explore insidious issues, such as caste and elitism, without being othered or ostracized. I’m sure he will come to understand the difference between isolated instances, institutional issues and national problems over time. I know that I took time to grapple with and understand these complex realities.

  12. Seems like the problems mentioned here are issues brought along by the students themselves, why drag Nalsar’s name into the dirt? Consequently, this feels like a angry rant rather than a reasonable blog about how young students need to be more sensitive towards the less fortunate. I’ve never seen any mentioned issues in my limited time in Nalsar, but I can tell you that it’s not an incubation chamber for discrimination. THAT if at all present, would be an Individual issue. Lighting a fire to chase imaginary/perceived demons isn’t what an educated person should do, this immature, unprofessional writeup smacks of prejudice itself and is disturbing in its attempt to malign Nalsar. Freedom of speech doesn’t imply that people have to quietly accept your perspective, skewed as it is. Have you written to Nalsar admin about this? I imagine they don’t have the time to waste on this sad pseudo-outrage.

  13. The comment by the name P Vikram Singh is not mine. Someone else used my name to comment. I have nothing to do with the comment

  14. Discrimination in NALSAR should be fought systematically and be dissected through the institutions. The voices that are rearly heard and often silenced are coming to public platforms to speak up. Let the unheard speak. Silencing the voices will only hinder Democracy.

  15. Institutions of higher learning of NALSAR variety have problems of INCLUSION and EXCLUSION( Inclding NALSAR). It is well known and being reported often for nearly past one decade . Class,Caste,Gender and other marginalities based on Identities and their intersections are being discussed with varied degrees of transparency ,frequency and pitch for the past few years at NALSAR.

    NALSAR to my knowledge is still evolving and trying to grapple with these issues with some degree of success . There are efforts and there must be more efforts to make it a campus with more robust inclusive values and practices. Administration has to be informed time and again about aberrations which may be deemed as violence by those which might have faced them. Dubbing the entire institutional space as Illiberal dose not auger well.

    Said this much the author might have considered re reading, re presenting his thoughts . To me it shows the kind of anger which is a normal trade mark of of a post teen radical, learning to express his displeasure. Immaturity and emotion associated with age which is converted in to a rage is visible in the write up. Such overtaking of passion is has to tempered down with the faculty of self editing thinking. I strongly suggest the author to be more though full and more nuanced and even hint some probable ways out to deal with various acts of malice on campus. Otherwise these kinds of writing go down in to history as specimens of militancy without a cause.

    Hope the young writer will season his skill of observation, analysis,and presentation in coming years.

  16. Tradition cannot be interpreted as fields and boundaries fixed. They are not traceable through history of ideas.There cannot be any conformity to the timeless norms because norms by their inspiration with reference to a certain context are always historical and everything historical is finally transient.

    All this need not go to deny the very history of certain ‘usages’ that certainly continued over centuries. However they continued reflexively by verifying their presence in a new functional context every time.

    A traditional society is not one ‘conditioned’ to being a mere prisoner of its own past. The most comprehensive and tantalizingly conscious component of a(ny) tradition,myth,is itself a social charter,with a strong political function and therefore capable of radical transformation as it came to validate changing social structures or practices.

    Traditionalism takes many forms of defence, whereas tradition can silently witness its new possibilities of function and it can even be ready to take a ‘grand leave’, inspiring a history of memory. A system may,without altering its outward forms ,perform new functions and have new aims. Then it is a system and not yet a tradition. There is also a form of traditionalism in which traditions are twisted to give meaning to new rationalities as new realities while we know that the real as the only rational is finally oppressive and rational as the only real is from the beginning suppressive.

    Traditionalism can be revived as a weapon in the service of the ends that are more generally than not opposite to tradition. Traditions can be occasionally self-reflexive through religions and revolts ; they are not self-created even then.They are consciously chosen, although arbitrarily defined,described and deployed when emphasized as ‘chosen’. Between choosing traditions and emphasizing a choosing of them there can pass centuries of time.

    Past is then a present presented by distortion and represented through its models rather than portions. We tend to choose that which serves our present needs, and we must.

  17. I deny making the statement under my name.- Jayavardhan Josyula

    Anybody using fake ids and making comments are suggested to refrain from trivialising concerns or making a mockery of what appears to be an expression of opinion/experience. Thanks.

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