Thursday, July 13, 2006

Surnames are now out at IIT Kanpur

hat-tip Atlanta IIT

OBC students too in 'Bharat' family

Lucknow, July 9: There are no Guptas, Sharmas, Pandeys, Tiwaris, Tripathis, Shuklas, Singhs, Agarwals, Dixits and Hussains left on the campus. The surnames that denote caste have been dropped like leaves in the autumn, and all that remains is a feeling of oneness.

In what is possibly a unique form of protest against reservations, a group of nearly 200 students at IIT Kanpur have dropped their parental surnames,and adopted a common surname - "Bharat". Chandra Shekhar Sharma is now Chandra Shekhar Bharat, Rahul Gupta is Rahul Bharat, Dujendra Pandey is Dujendra Bharat, Nutan Gautam is Nutan Bharat and even Akhlaq Hussain is Akhlaq Bharat.

"We are now members of one family that has the surname Bharat, and no one can differentiate (between) us on the basis of caste and creed," says a member of the "Bharat" family, rather proudly. "When Mandal II came up, we knew we had to protest because the reservation issue goes against the concept of equality for all. We also realised that caste politics - and not the intention to benefit the backward sections - was the intention behind reservations, so we decided to do away with
surnames that denote our castes and adopted a common surname 'Bharat'.

We are against the reservation policy because it makes some more equal than others," says Chandra Shekhar 'Bharat', a Ph.D. student who is a member of the group that is spearheading the anti-reservation programme on the campus. "When we took this decision, most of the students were away on vacation. Now we are planning to persuade other students and the new entrants to follow suit. We have also formed a committee to study and work out the legal aspects of changing our names so that we can transform our intentions into reality. We have informed our parents and there is no resistance from their side," says the student.

The movement against reservations began in IIT Kanpur with the FIR - the Forum of Indians against Reservation - which has now merged into the "Youth for Equality", which has become the national forum on the issue.

"The idea of dropping our surnames has been widely appreciated at the Bangalore meeting of Youth for Equality last month, and we plan to persuade our counterparts in other IITs and IIMs to adopt the practice which has the potential of demolishing caste barriers in society," says Chandra Shekhar 'Bharat'.

Interestingly, the students' decision to change their surnames to "Bharat" has won them the support of teachers on the campus. "Nearly 125 teachers on the campus have sent a memorandum to the President and the Prime Minister,urging them not to impose reservations at the cost of merit in premier institutions,
" he adds. Significantly, even the OBC students on the campus are supporting the agitation against reservations, and some have even adopted the "Bharat" surname.

"It is because these students understand the importance of merit. They have worked their way to up here and would certainly not want that someone gets admission merely because they belong to a certain caste. We have Muslims students like Akhlaq Hussain, who have taken on the 'Bharat' surname and the alumni are supporting our efforts too," says Chandra Shekhar. The IIT Kanpur students now plan to intensify their anti-reservation stir from July 28 when the institution reopens after the summer break.

"We are contacting other IITs and we may start an integrated campaign on the issue. We plan to boycott classes indefinitely," he says. The students are also contacting schools and organising debates to expose the "evils" of reservation. "If in six decades of Independence, reservations have not helped the backward classes in realising their dreams, then there is something drastically wrong with the policy. The average backward caste student is not getting the benefit, whereas some elite sections are taking multi-layered benefits. We demand a review of the reservation policy by a committee that has no politician as its member," the students say


anuja said...

I read your (as always) very well written post. Alike you, i do admire the IITians for dropping their surnames. I do understand that caste in india has come to connote "difference" which is not a progressive heterogenity, but a regressive denotation of economic, social and cultural difference between people. and over decades, it has also become the platform and reason for inequaities within the society. But thinking more about this action of dropping surnames, i cannot help but wonder if this is not actually a very regressive step in the fight against reservation because for me by dropping our surnames, are we not conceeding to a homogeneity which erases the cultural differences? isnt the point of fighting against reservation that we are all different (india is a land of diversity afterall!) and each has to be accepted as part of the society with his or her differences from the other intact? hasnt this been the ideology of the right wing hindutava or jehadis that we need to erase anything "different" from us? I think this same intolerance even defines the whole reservation issue. and thus what i feel it is very important that we fight against the floating symbolism of caste in our society. we need to reconceptualise and affirm that a surname only suggests a cultural difference and demand to be accepted with it, not minus it.

Vivek Gupta said...

A very well argued point indeed. It is true that India
is a land of diversity, it will be failure on the part of
Indian scoiety if we fail to embrace all its sections without regard
to cultural, social or economic differences. As such, I think that actions
of IIT K students are not an answer to problems because of these differences. It is
not desirable or even practical to implemet such a "solution". I would like to
believe that dropping of their surnames is a form of protest against caste-politics.
By adopting a common surname 'Bharat', the students have emphasized the point that they are
all part of one giant family, called India, regardless of their castes or creed.
You are right in stating that India's heterogenity defines it. Our differences should be
a reason for celebration not a cause of concern.

mynameisnobody said...

The surnames were dropped because of fear of reprisal not because of suddenly discovered notion of unity .

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