1st Edition

Caste Discrimination and Exclusion in Indian Universities A Critical Reflection

By N. Sukumar Copyright 2023
    214 Pages
    by Routledge India

    214 Pages
    by Routledge India

    This book studies the exclusion and discrimination that is meted out to Scheduled Caste (SC) students in the Indian Higher Education system, and the psychosocial consequences of such practices. It foregrounds the conceptual debates around caste, exclusion, and reservations in Indian academia, discussing the social dominance and the roots of prejudices in the university spaces.

    The volume reflects upon the fragile social world in which students from the margins struggle for survival in the academic space. It reveals that these students navigate the various facets of academia – like classrooms, pedagogy, scholarships, hostels, peer groups, and teachers – only to find the academic space a dystopian universe. The book also sheds light on suicide cases committed by the marginalized groups as a testimony of protest.

    Based on in-depth ethnographic research, this book will be of interest to teachers, students and researchers of education, sociology, political science, psychology, and exclusion studies. It will also be useful for policymakers, social activists, NGOs, research centers, and those working in higher education, reservations, public policy, caste, and exclusion studies.

    1. Caste and the Academia 2. Dalits and Higher Education in India: A Fact Sheet 3. Unequal Spaces: Mapping Caste Discrimination in Indian Universities 4. A Social History of Indian Academia 5. ‘My Birth is my Fatal Accident’: Social Semantics of Dalit Students’ Suicides 6. Social Cosmology of Merit and Pervasive Injustices. Appendix: RTI Table.


    N. Sukumar teaches Political Science at Delhi University, India. His area of interest includes Indian Political Thought, Ambedkar and Dalit Bahujan Studies, Human Rights and Social Exclusion. Currently, he is engaged on Dalit Citizenship and Anti-Caste Utopias. He is also member/advisor for many professional bodies in many Central Universities and other institutions. He has published widely in research journals, blogs etc. and has been involved in both national and international research studies on poverty and public institutions, caste-based atrocities, and discrimination. Apart from the classroom, he is also actively involved in grassroots peoples’ struggles.

    "A philosophically, theoretically and empirically well organized book which traces the untold narratives of sufferings of students of castes located at the lowest ebb of the hierarchically structured Indian society from an evolutionary perspective. Methodologically, it substantiates its findings with the collection of comprehensive primary and secondary data about representation of various social groups in the India university system. On the one hand, the book successfully deconstructs the myth of merit prevailing in the Indian academia. On the other hand, it reveals the creativity and reflexivity of the students belonging to ‘lower castes’ with new metaphors. On the whole the book takes us to new horizons of imagination about India’s higher education and reminds us about Frere’s prophetic word, ‘pedagogy of the oppressed will be written by the oppressed which will emancipate the oppressor and the oppressed both’. I am confident it will be welcomed with open arms by both generalists and specialists."

    Vivek Kumar, Chairperson, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York, USA


    "Rigorously researched and persuasively argued, ‘Caste Discrimination and Exclusion in Indian Universities: A Critical Reflection’ by Narayana Sukumar opens us for scrutiny the legacies of injustice that pervade our institutions of higher learning. Narayana Sukumar unravels the ‘university’ as a system of non-discriminatory public access to education to reveal the continuing pervasion of caste-hierarchies in the institutional and social space of the university. Taking recourse to empirical data pertaining to enrolment and employment of Dalit students and teachers in universities, and personal narratives of ‘betrayal’ and incremental ‘exclusions’, Narayana Sukumar, weaves together a scathing critique of what he calls the social cosmology of ‘merit’ and the pervasiveness of structural inequalities. While the merit discourse has assumed various forms, the pandemic has exacerbated the fault-lines along which caste, class, and gender have played out shaping Dalit experiences. Indeed, structural inequalities have become manifest in quotidian experiences of humiliation and often also in spectacles of ‘death’ – social and material. Policies, including those of affirmative action and grievance redressal in universities, and participatory channels in universities, e.g., in the recruitment process, become symbolic and not emphatic. This is an important and relevant book – an indispensable reading for anyone who wants to make sense of the social, political and material basis of universities in India."

    Ujjwal Kumar Singh, Professor of Political Science, Delhi University, India