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25 Alumni of IIT Bombay Write to IIT Kharagpur Director Over Seema Singh’s Remarks

25 Alumni of IIT Bombay Write to IIT Kharagpur Director Over Seema Singh’s Remarks

From LiveWire‘s report on April 26:

An associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, has purportedly been caught on camera calling a student a “bloody bastard” for allegedly not standing up for national anthem and not saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ during an online class. In a video doing the rounds online in several student circles, Dr Seema Singh can be seen shouting at the student, telling him to leave the class and threatening to cut his marks.

In response to this incident, 25 women alumni of IIT Bombay have written to the director of IIT Kharagpur asking him to intervene in the matter. The alumni’s letter is reproduced below in full, followed by the names of the signatories.


Prof Virendra Kumar Tewari,
The Director,
IIT Kharagpur.

Dear Prof Virendra Kumar Tewari,

We write to you with urgency on a matter that has been brought to our notice through social media platforms. (A video shows IIT Kharagpur professor ‘abusing’ students, row over discrimination). This is about the behaviour of Prof Seema Singh with the students in her online classroom. We are appalled at this behaviour of a teacher with her students and urge you to take serious note of this and act promptly in the matter.

We are women alumni of IIT Bombay, who studied there in the 1970s and the 1980s. We were students at a time when the gender ratio in IITB was less than 5%. As minority students on campus we have experienced many sexist comments from teachers and recognise today how their actions and statements made an adverse impact on our learning environment. We hence speak from some personal experience of discrimination in IIT campuses. We were even then aware of the ways in which those who came from marginalised caste backgrounds, were not English speaking, or were from smaller towns were discriminated against.

Some of us have also been part of the student agitation in IITB in 1980 where these issues were raised by the whole student body. Four students sat on a hunger strike against the Institute order cancelling their admission on the grounds that they had a backlog in courses and were not able to cope with the undergraduate program. These students had been granted admission in IITB under the affirmative action guaranteed under the Indian Constitution to those from marginalised castes and tribes as well as under the foreign student quota. We, as students of IITB at that time, stood with these four students.

Although the agitation was quelled and repressed, even today many years later we stand in support of the demands raised then. One of the demands was around giving extra academic support to students who were admitted to the Institute under a reserved quota. We understood then too that just granting admission was not enough. In order to make that admission worthwhile for the student, the Institute not only needed to offer special academic support to all those who needed it but also strive to abolish misconduct and discrimination by faculty, administrators and other students towards students who happened to belong to traditionally oppressed groups in our society. Today, after many of us have been on the other side in academia, our belief in this logic is even more firm. We recognise the role of Institutions in assuring substantive equality to all its students.

Hence the video of Prof Seema Singh teaching a so-called “Prep English Course” (IIT’s course for SC/ST students) so horrifies us. This class we presume is exactly the extra effort that the Institute must invest to make sure that there is some equity amongst students who come from vastly different socio-cultural backgrounds. Professor Singh has blatantly and repeatedly abdicated her responsibility as a teacher by abusing her students when her responsibility was to teach them. How can a teacher make such rude and casteist remarks in any class or to any student? However, her doing so in this class where the purpose is to give self confidence to those coming from social margins is criminal. How can any teacher be allowed to go ahead with this manner of teaching in an Institution that claims to be amongst the best? We wonder what processes of redressal are made available to students so that they can report such actions by their own teachers?

As alumni of a similar institution, as concerned and responsible citizens, and as those invested in the process of “quality education for all”, we are compelled to write to you asking for your immediate intervention in this matter. Teachers have to be cognisant of the various backgrounds that students come from and should empathetically respond to particular needs of those that have struggled hard to reach this stage in their education. Any teacher who cannot do this cannot be trusted in a classroom. The scars left by such action of teachers have harmed too many students already. This cannot be allowed.

We implore you to take note of this utter violation of classroom ethics, create a safe space for students to place their grievances and attend to them on an urgent basis with immediate action.

Looking forward to your response,

(Name, degree and year, present designation)

1 Anupama Krishnamurthy M.Sc. 1988 Physics French Institute Pondicherry, Researcher

2 Aruna Kalelkar M. Tech. 1983

3 Chayanika Shah MSc 1979 PhD 1986 Physics, Retired Lecturer K. J. Somaiya College of

Science and Commerce, Mumbai

4 Deepti Pradhan PhD 1986 Chemistry Associate Director, Research, Yale University, New Haven, CT

5 Enakshi Bhattacharya M. Sc. 1980 Physics Professor, IIT Madras

6 Geeta Mahajan Ph D 1978 Secretary, Bharatiya Mahila Federation (Thane Samiti) affiliated to NFIW

7 Harita Patel M.Sc. 1980 Physics Retired Computer Engineer

8 Mukta Banerjee Ph D 1982 Visiting Prof at COMMITS Bangalore

9 Prajval Shastri M. Sc. 1979 Physics Professor (retd.), Indian Institute of Astrophysics

10 Radha Gopalan Ph.D 1992 Visiting Faculty, Azim Premji University

11 Ranjini Warrier M. Sc. 1981, Ph.D 1986 Applied Geology, Former Adviser, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Govt. Of India

12 Rekha Hatkanagalekar M.Sc 1980 Leadership Coach

13 Rema T K M Sc. 1981 Retired IT Consultant

14 Revathi Kasturi B. Tech. 1980 Electrical Founder CEO, Laqsh Job Skills Academy Pvt Ltd.

15 Rupa Iyer M Sc 1979 Chemistry President & CEO TPM Laboratories Inc, New Jersey, USA

16 Sandhya Gokhale B. Tech. 1979 Electrical IT Consultant

17 Shaibani Azam M.Des 1986 Professor, Jamia Millia University

18 Suju George Ph D 1977 Physics Director, Forum for Sustainable Enterprises;

19 Sumathi Rao MSc 1979 Physics Honorary Professor, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad

20 Sushama Agashe M Tech 1982 Computer Science, Retired IT Professional

21 Svati Bhogle M.Tech 1981 President of a renewable energy association

22 Tara Banerjee B Tech 1982 Civil Retired Civil Engineer

23 Ushma Kriplani M.Sc. 1988 Physics Argonne National Lab, Strategic Initiatives

24 Veena Devasthali Ph. D. 1988 Retd. Prof. SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

25 Vijaya Rao Verma M Tech 1980 CEO of a Healthcare Company

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