Who is Deepa Mohanan: It has been a long fight to remove caste discrimination from educational campuses for students belonging to marginalised communities. Still, we get to hear and witness caste-based discrimination whether it be at private, state-funded ones or ‘elite’ universities. Deepa Mohanan, a Dalit PhD scholar from Kerala has been in news for the past many days after she raised her voice against the caste discrimination that she has been facing. Mohanan is currently on a hunger strike, taking a stand against the director of Mahatma Gandhi University.
The 36-year-old scholar from MGU, who is building wound-healing scaffolds through nanoparticles in an effort to advance nanomedicine has alleged that the university authorities have deliberately delayed the completion of her degree. In opposition to the discrimination, she has been sitting on a hunger strike since October 29 outside the International and Inter-University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN).
Deepa Mohanan alleged that her progress was constantly interrupted in the last 10 years by Nandakumar Kalarickal, who is the director of the institute because she is a Dalit.
Who is Deepa Mohanan
The scientist joined this university in 2011 to pursue an M. Phil degree. She has done her masters in Medical Microbiology.
Back in 2011, when she joined the institute, Kalarickal was the Joint Director of MGU. She alleged that he caused disruption in her education since the first year of her joining. She also alleged that he stopped her from accessing labs, chemicals and polymers. Not just that, he allegedly denied her seating at the workplace and blocked her stipend as well. In one instance, as reported by The News Minute, he had deliberately locked her inside the lab.
Being the only Dalit in her batch, Mohanan alleged that Kalarickal was abusive towards her and did everything to ensure she does not get her PhD on time, which she should have completed by 2015.
This is not the first time that Mohanan has gone public with her complaints against Kalarickal. She had filed a case of discrimination against him in 2015 too. At the time, an investigative committee confirmed Mohanan’s allegations and asked the university to provide her with facilities regarding research work. Then in 2016, she filed a police complaint against the same person under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Not just complaints, she has even tried to meet the Governor of Kerala with regards to the issue but was detained by the police and kept in custody for two days.
This time, in 2021, Mohanan opted for a hunger strike instead and she has three demands: she wants her research guide to be changed, materials for her research work needs to be provided and Nandakumar Kalarickal should be removed. The university authority has approved the first two only.
It is Day eight of the hunger strike and she stays undeterred as people try to raise signatures in support of her through online campaigns.