Academician Vipin P. Veetil, in an open letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, requested the removal of M. Suresh Babu, an accused in an ongoing caste-based discrimination investigation at IIT Madras, from the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission’s ‘Working group on Industrial Policy’.
In July, Veetil resigned from his post as assistant professor in the department of humanities and social sciences at IIT Madras.
Veetil claims to be a victim of Babu’s alleged casteist slurs. Presently, IIT Madras has constituted a three-member committee to probe charges against Babu. Veetil has also requested the National OBC Commission to open an independent probe, which is yet to begin.
Babu, one of the accused, was recently made a member of the working group on August 29 and Veetil believes this will make it harder for the investigation to draw fair conclusions.
“As a member of the Group, Mr. Babu will befriend and hobnob with people in positions of power. All of which will naturally make it more difficult for us to pursue a fair probe into the matter of caste discrimination. I, therefore, request you to not induct Mr. Babu into any committee formed by the Government of Tamil Nadu until the inquires of the Institute, NCOBC, and perhaps that of the Court is complete,” wrote Veetil in the open letter.
According to Veetil, Babu played a vocal role in discriminating against him based on his caste when he asked to teach a new course on March 18, 2019. Babu wrote that this was not the time for Veetil to teach a new course but to judge his behaviour. However, Babu granted a Brahmin faculty to teach a new course when that faculty sought his permission.
“I suppose the behaviour of those who come from the head of the Cosmic Purusha requires no judgement. I, of course, come from the feet,” wrote Veetil.
Babu also insinuated that the only reason Veetil was trying to teach a new course was because of his inability to teach the existing ones, according to the open letter.
Veetil stressed that Babu’s expulsion wouldn’t harm Stalin’s efforts to industrialise the state since Babu hasn’t published any paper in an A or A* journal in the field. To rebuke Babu’s doubts on Veetil’s abilities, he wrote that he, however, has published two papers in A* journals.
“So much for us lacking ‘merit’. We need affirmative action not because we lack merit, but because we are discriminated against despite our merit and sometimes because of it,” wrote Veetil.
According to Veetil, Babu was also part of a high-level state government committee to tackle the COVID pandemic despite having done no work on understanding the economic consequences of pandemics. He, despite co-authoring a heavily cited paper on supply-chain disruptions during the lockdowns, wasn’t invited to any such committee.
“Unfortunately, what matters in India is not ‘what you know’ but ‘who you know’. And ‘who you know’ is more often than not determined by one’s caste,” wrote Veetil concluding his open letter.