Dalit student’s death: caste discrimination alleged

Grieving: Palanisamy and Deivayanai, parents of research student Senthilkumar who died in Hyderabad recently.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: P. Goutham

R. Ilangovan

SALEM: With the mysterious death of 25-year-old Senthilkumar, a research student in physics, in the hostel room of Hyderabad Central University, (Andhra Pradesh), the dreams of a poor Dalit family have been buried.

Senthilkumar’s death, said to be a suicide, has, however, sparked an intense row, prompting many Tamil Nadu-based Dalit groups and social activists, to ask the Andhra Pradesh Government for a detailed inquiry into his death and also a bout of allegations that caste-based discrimination against Dalit research scholars and students is widely prevailing in the hallowed precincts of this prestigious institution of higher education.

They alleged that since Senthilkumar was a Dalit, he was harassed even in classrooms. The minimum pass mark for course work examinations would be raised to 55 to 60 for Dalit students so that they should fail and abandon their studies in distress, said S. Thennarasu, a research student, studying in the same university.

Mr. Thennarasu told The Hindu over phone from Hyderabad that discrimination was said to be “very high” in science branches.

These students had to bear bias and prejudices. Getting guides was very tough. No one would come forward to accept them as their wards, he said.

Senthilkumar was the eldest son and a first generation graduate from the poor pig-rearers’ family of Palanichamy and Deivayanai of Jalakandapuram, a weavers’ town, in Salem district. “Our entire family has toiled and funded his studies,” said his father Palanichamy.

His burning passion for education since childhood had forced his younger brother and sister also to work just to fund his studies.

He completed M.Sc physics in Madurai American College and obtained M.Phil from Puducherry University. Later, he wrote the entrance examination to join the Hyderabad University as a research scholar.