CHENNAI: The DMK government, which declared Dr BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary as “Samathuva Naal” (day of equality), has cited paucity of funds to establish Department of Dr BR Ambedkar Studies in the Thiruvalluvar University (TU), a proposal that has remained on the backburner for more than a decade and half.
It was in December 2006 that the university’s Syndicate unanimously resolved to create the department from the 2007-08 academic year. The Governor had given the consent on April 24, 2008.
“There were only two departments when the university was started in 2002. Now, there are 13 departments. But the Department of Dr Ambedkar Studies, which was proposed as the third department, has not seen the light of the day till now,” said I Elangovan, former member of the Syndicate and Academic Council.
Recalling the objective behind setting up the university, he said a key aim was to maintain and manage institutes of research for Dalit arts and literature and set up a publication wing for literary works by people belonging to BC, MBC, de-notified communities, and SC/STs. “But the university has utterly failed in its objective,” he criticised.
The retired professor has written several letters to the Chief Minister, Higher Education Minister, MLAs of reserved constituencies, and the Chief Secretary flagging the delay in setting up the department.
Failing to get any response, he then moved the Madras High Court with a public interest litigation. In its response to the court, the government said the Finance Committee in its meeting held on June 29, 2022, deferred setting up the department as it involved creating teaching and non-teaching posts that would pose additional financial commitment to the government exchequer.
Thus, the proposal to start the department would be considered in the next academic year (2023-24) subject to the financial position of the State government, it added.
“The government has failed to live up to its ideals and promises. When 10 new departments can be started, why not this department,” questioned Ilangovan, alleging this to be a case of “pure casteism”.
“Here, Dr Ambedkar is looked at as a caste symbol. They have failed to look at him as an expert in economics and his works on philosophy, religion and political science,” the professor added. Recalling the Chief Minister’s promise to translate Ambedkar’s works in Tamil, he added that the government could start it with the establishment of the department.