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വായന

12 July, 2008

Gujarat University V-C accused of caste-based discrimination

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says in a release:

The AHRC has received information from Navsarjan, a human rights organization working on Dalit rigshts in Gujarat, regarding caste discrimination practised by the Vice Chancellor of Gujarat University.

The AHRC strongly condemns this behavior by the Vice-Chancellor, a person who can influence public opinion. The practice of caste based discrimination is a crime and prohibited by law in India. Despite the passage of two months since the incident and a High Court order, police have still not completed the investigation of this case.

CASE DETAILS:
On 3 May 2008, Mr. Parimal Trivedi, the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat University, verbally abused Mr. Pankaj Magan Shrimali, a professor of history at the University calling Mr. Shrimali a "Dheda". The naming of "Dheda" is a derogatory word used against the Scheduled Castes. Trivedi is a Brahmin. Shrimali is a Dalit.

The Vice Chancellor appointed Mr. Pradeep Prajapati, Dean of the faculty of arts, as coordinator for Central Assessment of Examinations. Prajapathi appointed Shrimali an assistant coordinator. The Vice-Chancellor had to confirm the appointment..
Shrimali started working under instructions from the Dean, but the Vice Chancellor refused to confirm the appointment. In fact, he removed Shrimali’s name from the list of appointees. When the Dean asked why Shrimali's name was removed, the Vice Chancellor answered that "Such an important work cannot be assigned to a 'Dheda' like Pankaj Shrimali."

The Dean asked the Vice Chancellor to apologize for the remark. The Vice Chancellor said, "Why should I apologize? He is a Dheda and shall remain so forever."
According to Prof. Shrimali and the Dean, when they met Trivedi in his office on 3 May to seek appropriate explanation for the rejection of the appointment and use of abusive language, instead of giving a reasonable answer he repeated the same words, indicating Prof. Shrimali’s caste seven times.

On the same day, Prof. Shrimali lodged a complaint against Vice Chancellor at the Navarangpura police station, located near the Gujarat University. The First Information Report (FIR, No. ll 3042/08) was filed under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (SC/ST Act), Section 3(1) (x) (Whoever not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine).

Mr. Trivedi, in a petition to the High Court Gujarat (Special Criminal Application No. 913 of 2008) denies the facts of the case and insists that the victim Shrimali and the Dean created a false story to harass him. He has demanded quashing of the police complaint against him.
The High Court gave an oral order on 15 May 2008 in which it asked Trivedi to co-operate with the Investigating agency. It also asked that no coercive action be taken against him.

Justice R. H. Shukla, who passed the order, asked the investigating officer to investigate this case but the police did not record Trivedi’s statement.

On 19 June the High Court rejected Trivedi's plea to quash the complaint against him.
The police still have not recorded the statement of Trivedi. Nor have they taken any action against him.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. N. D. Parmar, claims he is investigating the case.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
This is not the first incident involving the Vice-Chancellor, where he is accused of practicing caste based discrimination at the university. It is reported that on 29 March 2008, the Vice-Chancellor Parimal raised heckles regarding the gang rape incident at the Patan Primary Teacher's Training College. He even said in public that this gang rape incident by the teachers was praiseworthy. For details about this gang-rape case, please see the previous Urgent Appeals, UAC-063-2008 and UAU-030-2008.

Two years ago, the Vice-Chancellor had abused Prof. Shrimali using language with derogatory and caste based undertones. He then sent an appeal letter to the National Human Rights Commission of India but no appropriate action has been taken against Mr. Trivedi. This suggests that the police and education authority allow the Vice-Chancellor to practice caste based discrimination abusing his position of power.
It is also alleged that the Vice-Chancellor uses the University budget for the expenses of the case against him. When the AHRC along with Prof. Shrimali visited the Gujarat University on 3 June 2008, the Vice-Chancellor did not permit taking pictures inside the University.

Government authorities play a significant role in eradicating untouchability and caste based discrimination. Through different government policies, like positive reservation, the government tries to eradicate caste based discrimination in India. However, most of these policies fail to deliver results due to the failure of the implementing agents like the Vice-Chancellor. The education authority is one of the important agencies that could mold a generation without caste based prejudices in India. Due to the fact that teachers have better access to the young, the role of a teacher is more important in eradicating caste based discrimination. A Vice-Chancellor who is the 'highest teacher' in a university in such a context assumes a major role in this exercise.

According to the victim Prof. Shrimali, no one from the Scheduled Castes has ever been appointed in non-reservation seats at Gujarat University. Even some seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in Gujarat still remain empty.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
The mere fact that a government servant is practicing caste based discrimination increases the gravity of crime that violates the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

In the FIR against Mr. Trivedi, Navarangpura police did not mention the Section 3(2)(vii) (being a public servant, commits any offence under this section, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to the punishment provided for that offence), which reduces the responsibility and gravity of the crime when committed by a public servant.

Despite the High Court order, as well as the SC/ST Rules 1995 (Rule 7 (2) investigation on top priority within thirty days), police have yet to finish an investigation into the case or to record a statement from the accused. Under Section 18 of the SC/ST Act anticipatory bail cannot be given to an accused.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
The AHRC has written to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance calling for intervention in this case. It has also appealed to concerned citizens to write to the authorities.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,
INDIA: The conduct of the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat university practicing caste based discrimination must be investigated

Name of the victim: Mr. Pankaj Magan Shrimali, age 39, a professor of history at Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Name of the alleged perpetrator: Mr. Parimal Trivedi, age 47, Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Date of incident: 3 May 2008

Place of incident: Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

I am concerned to know about the conduct of the Vice-Chancellor of the Gujarat University who is reportedly practising caste based discrimination in the university.
The Vice Chancellor Mr. Parimal Trievedi is alleged to have used derogatory language referring to the caste of one his professors concerning the professor's appointment to a post monitoring the examinations of the university. The incident happened over the appointment of Professor Pankaj Magan Shrimali as the assistant coordinator to a university department providing central assessment of examinations. It is reported that Vice-Chancellor Trievedi not only refused to approve the appointment, but also stated in public that the work to be carried out as the coordinator could not be carried out by someone from the Scheduled Caste.

It is reported that the Vice-Chancellor said "Such an important work cannot be assigned to the 'Dheda' like Pankaj Shrimali." Dheda is a derogatory term used by the upper caste against the lower caste to demean the members of the lower caste as low in social hierarchy. I am also informed that this is not the first instance where the Vice-Chancellor has made derogatory remarks against a lower caste in India, justifying the 'superior position' of the upper caste.

In addition, the police have failed to act promptly or to carry out their duties to properly investigate the complaint of the victim. It is reported that the Vice-Chancellor is misusing his authority and his office to deny and further justify his act. The mere fact that the person practicing caste based discrimination is the Vice-Chancellor of a university aggravates the nature of the crime.

I am informed that caste based discrimination is a crime in India. It is prohibited and punishable under the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (SC/ST Act). I am informed that the Vice-Chancellor not only justified his conduct, but also approached the Gujarat High Court seeking the court's assistance to quash the criminal complaint filed by Professor Pankaj Magan Shrimali at the police station.

I am informed that the Court has not only refused to grant any relief to the Vice-Chancellor, but has also directed the police to complete the investigation in the case within the statutory period. However, the police have failed to comply with the order of the court. I am informed that the police have refused to arrest the accused despite the court's order, or even record his statement.

I am informed that India has ratified the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination which is legally-binding and obligates the state to be responsible for removing exclusions based on origin. The government of India must act to eradicate the systematic abuse against a wide section of its society made vulnerable by a system that is one of the most oppressive in the global world.
I urge you to act to immediately investigate this case in accordance with the law and to ensure that the perpetrator is punished.
Yours sincerely,
----------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi
Chief Minister

New Sachivalay
Gandhinagar - 382 010
Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23222101
E-mail: cm@gujaratindia.com

2. Mr. Amit Anilchandra Shah
Home Minister

Block No.2, 3rdFloor, New Sachivalay
Gandhinagar - 382 010
Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23250501
E-mail: pshome@gujarat.gov.in

3. Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of Gujarat

Block No.5, 8th Floor, Sachivalay
Gandhinagar
Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23254817
E-mail: secswd@gujarat.gov.in

4. Director General of Police
Police Bhawan Sector – 18
Gandhinagar
Gujarat 382 009
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23253918

5. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of India

Shastri Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi - 110 001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23384918
E-mail: min-sje@sb.nic.in

6. Minister of Human Resource Development
Department of Higher Education
Government of India

Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi -110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23381355, 23382947
Email: hrm@nic.in

7. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 6521
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

8. Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Castes

5th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhawan
Khan Market
New Delhi 110 003
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2463 2298
E-mail: jointsecretary-ncsc@nic.in or chairman-ncsc@nic.in

Thank you.
Urgent Appeal Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission
(ua@ahrchk.org)

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