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Are law students caste-ist? NLSIU student calls out 5 incidents among co-students

Caste: Doesn't disappear just because you're now in law school
Caste: Doesn't disappear just because you're now in law school
NLSIU Bangalore student-run magazine Quirk published a blog yesterday, which states that the law school’s student body often “degelimitises and demoralises” the section of its students which have gained admission to NLS through caste-based reservations.

Clarification: We would like to point out that the below article is NOT the same as the original, but it is Legally India’s take on it that is structured very differently and omits several arguments and some of the nuance of the original, in order to raise awareness of the issues. We would therefore urge you to read the original article in full on the Quirk to learn more fully about the author’s intentions in writing it.

The author of the piece – an NLS student who submitted the blog anonymously - writes:

“The point of this piece is to highlight, from my personal observation that caste pervades the NLS student body more than we are willing to admit. First, by our silences and lack of engagement with the issue of caste within NLS and outside it, because this engagement offers no rewards or connections which can be vetted on your master CV. Second, because through our casual comments on meritocracy and hard work, we try to delegitimize and demoralise the presence of a section of the student body which is also legally entitled to the same educational experience as everyone else.”

In the blog the author gives five instances of lack of mindfulness by the student body on the issue of caste:

1. Don’t worry you’re one of us

The author took admission to NLS under a quota-based reservation they were eligible for. In the first year of law school when the author was ranting about their unsatisfactory debate performance, to a classmate, the classmate chose to console them in the following terms:

“Don’t worry, everyone already thinks you’re one of us. You don’t have to prove anything.”

The author writes:

“My [All India Rank] had happened to be enough to qualify sans the quota as well. Therefore, I was not an usurper. The implication was that I ‘deserved’ to be at NLS. The implication was that others didn’t by virtue of getting in through the quota. That was my first real encounter with caste at Law School. That if your diction and pop culture qualified, you were one of us.

2. Overcrowded and underpopulated spaces

The NLS student body is apolitical and the popularity of political discussion events is feeble at the law school unless it concerns personal privileges such as benefits at the canteen.

“Yes, the Law and Society Committee and the Legal Services Clinic and now IDIA have always gone out of their way to ensure that questions of inclusion, diversity, religion and politics are brought to the mainstream but there’s always an alternative vibe to it. I was particularly impressed by LawSoc’s activity for incoming freshers about recognising their privilege. We say that NLS allows everyone a space to pursue what they want. Yes, the spaces exist. However which spaces are the most crowded provide an interesting insight into our conscience. We need to stop pretending that people go to Allen and Overy partner talks and a screening of Jai Bhim in similar numbers. We are content to politicise mess coupons, but turn a blind eye to who is picking up our trash.”

3. Politically inclined students are unpopular

Case-in-point: A student senior to the author was considered a “shrill” activist by the student body in general, for discussing constitutional questions about caste.

“One of my immediate seniors was unpopular because he would keep discussing questions of caste on 19(1)(A), on ug students, and through his committee. I know several people who thought his activism was shrill, and unnecessary because caste was not an issue that affected NLS.”

4. Not surprised when quota students fail courses

Comments on merit by the student body indicate that those among them who got in through quotas are not capable enough to survive in the law school environment.

“[…] on several occasions, I have witnessed certain classmates emanate a “what else do you expect?” schadenfreude-like attitude when people who got in on the quotas have failed courses, lost years. As if, that is what happens when you don’t deserve to be here. That never happened when somebody who from the general category fell behind or failed courses.

5. Caste is basically the reason why everything is wrong with everything?

Other vox pop cited in the blog:

“A junior, who was unaware of my caste status, once vociferously told me once that the best way to reign in NLS’ falling standards was to abolish the quota system, those people are bringing us down, that’s why our India Today ranking was in jeopardy.”

“Another junior tried to explain to his classmates how we should advocate positive eugenics because let’s face it certain castes were just more intelligent and capable than others.”

“An extremely successful senior told people over the mess table how she would “never date somebody who was an SC.”

Quirk is a magazine run by NLSIU students, and its objective is “to capture the essence of the Law School experience”, Quirk told Legally India today.

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