Monday, December 7, 2009

[ZESTCaste] “Don’t take benefit of reservations, if you can’t pay back” - An Interview with Dr. Umakant


"Don't take benefit of reservations, if you can't pay back"

An Interview with Dr. Umakant

By Gomathi Kumar & Sanjay Kabir

Dr. Umakant

Dr. Umakant (b. 1970) is a well known Dalit activist and scholar and has represented Dalit cause at various levels. After his schooling in home state Bihar, Dr Umakant joined Delhi University and later Jawaharlal Nehru University for higher education. In the year 2000, he was awarded doctorate for his thesis 'Human Rights of Dalits: A Case Study of Bihar (1977-1997)'. In JNU, he was one of the founder members of a Dalit student platform UDSF and later has worked with National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) and International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN). He also co-edited a book titled 'Caste, Race and Discrimination: Discourses in International Context' (2004).


Illustration by Rajesh Kumar, JNU, New Delhi

For almost two decades now, you have been participating in the Dalit movement, first as a student activist and later as representing our cause at many national and international fora together with leading various campaigns for Dalit rights, how did you first get exposed to the Dalit movement and when?

My exposure to the Dalit movement started quite early. I got introduced to the Ambedkarite movement and philosophy at home itself thanks to my father who was very passionate for the cause. He introduced me to the literature published by BAMCEF, DS4 and BSP in my school days itself. However, my direct participation in the movement started in 1988, from my graduation days, when I came to Delhi and joined the Department of Political Science, Hindu college for my BA (Honours).

At that time our students were scattered and had no organisation or forum to come together, even informally. I started interacting with the Dalit students and tried to organize them, not by forming any separate organisation, but by bringing them together on certain issues. However, my participation increased in 1990 when the anti-Mandal agitation against OBC reservation took place and Delhi University became its main centre. 

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