With the demise of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh, suddenly whole India has started talking about mental health. There are several poems, stories, and messages which are circulated on social media regarding mental health. I am asking to all fellow citizens that do we need news on famous suicide to talk about mental health? Can’t we talk about mental health in general? Does Dalit-Bahujan students have equal opportunities to discuss their psychological issues?
Since I am a student, so I have seen many students dealing with mental health problems, and I have personally dealt with such issues. Believe me! It’s not easy to deal with psychological problems; it is very traumatic, self-harming. In the whole discussion on mental health, we just focus on suicide news, how it has been committed, the entire proceedings but we hardly gave a thought on that who has created psychological problems in a person.
My mental problems have started after taking admission in the Department of History, University of Delhi. There I got admission after clearing my written exam and personal interview. But when I went for any discussion, I and some of my friends who belongs Hindi medium and mostly from the marginal background were humiliated for not speaking and writing English according to their expectations.
My position from my other Hindi medium friend was little different since I have completed my graduation and post-graduation from DU and JNU respectively, so I know average English. But few of my friends have directly come from small villages of Hindi speaking states, and north-eastern India who didn’t know English much.
Despite knowing average English, I couldn’t associate myself with fluently speaking upper-caste, upper-class group because my identity was restricted as a small-town backward girl. But when problems became much intense, I decided to resist all these humiliations and second-grade behaviour. Many of our classmates have realized that we all are not treated equally; still, they kept silence because they are afraid of losing their degrees. When my decision to become bold and fight all these Hindi-English discriminations, caste-class discrimination, I was left alone. And let me tell you one has to pay prices for coming as bold and brave.
Yes! I have opinions and feelings regarding caste discrimination, English-Hindi class that’s why I am treated as trouble-maker in the department. My supervisors and few professors of the department decided to mentally torture me, they have rejected my research topics again and again because I have refused to work on the topic suggested by them and followed my topic which I have decided earlier. Yes, after this I got untimely calls like 1-2 AM to complete my work. I have been suggested not to take care of family problems and focus on research. There was no place for my ideas in my research. It was rejected continuously. My English has been mocked, and my writing styles has become matter of laugh. Yes, my writings have been called kooda-kachra, despite having a good academic career I have been called below average. There are many more stories of mental torture which I will cover in a separate article.
Still, I obeyed them because I thought they are correcting me, but I didn’t realise that the upper-caste academia didn’t want a student like us to study. They want us to give up, and as a result, many of my classmates dropped the course.
Do you think that the behaviour mentioned above don’t affect any student? Like every other it affected me a lot, and I kept thinking about me and my career. The nasty comments about my writings haunted me, and it still haunts me. It again puts me in a situation of existential crisis. I doubted my skills, and I was underconfident, it took time to regain my confidence.
When I decided to complain such behaviour, the real torture begins there. Yes, when I told my problems to authorities that I am not feeling well because of such behaviour no one asked why I am feeling so? Instead of inquiring about my mental health, people started blaming me. When I have given examples of Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi, Fatheema Latif that these people are institutionally murdered because of such behaviour they thought that I am threatening them.
My teary eyes were trying to explain them I am not well they said: “ye sab drama mat karo, tumhe koi problems nhi hai, janbujh k kisi ko fasao mat.” Yes! From a student, I have become a conspirator. I have written about my problems and my pain to every possible authority. But, no one has tried to know how I am? Why am I feeling so? My pain was taken as natak, and as usual, there was no space for mental issues in our campuses, because my I my parents are not so-called big professors, IAS officers, Politicians and without any hesitation I am saying that I am tortured because I don’t have surnames of Thakur, Sen, Bhattacharjee, Shrivastava and others.
In various campuses, there was no cell where a student can discuss their mental problems. After the death of Rohith Vemula, I thought campuses are wakening up for student’s mental health problems, but I was wrong. We have seen multiple deaths of students like Payal Tadvi, Muthu Krishnan, Fatheema Lateef after Vemula’s demise. Still, our campuses have not become aware of it. The authorities hardly put any effort to establish a cell for the problems of Bahujan students. Few universities have a cell, but they are not sufficient.
While discussing mental health, we must consider why students are so tensed and full of anxiety. Many times they are disturbed by caste-religious discrimination in the campus. Few are bullied by their classmates, seniors and others. We should inquire about those who are troubling them and take action on them.
But in our campuses, teachers were hardly blamed, the upper-caste academia has their solidarity who just write article and books on social discrimination but never followed their own preaching. They don’t stand for student’s cause and tried to protect each other. Their social prestige is much essential than any student’s life. And if a student tried to speak, he/she will be treated as depressed, mental, trouble-maker, conspirator.
I went for research, but I didn’t know I would be treated as dramebaz, or a conspirator, and I am angry with women professors despite knowing my problems they asked me irrelevant questions like why you are disturbed? Are you going to marry? Does your family disturb you in your studies? They knew who are disturbing me; still, they tried to be unknown.
I have spent sleepless nights, crying every day thinking about my degree, felt worthless many times, sometimes I thought of taking extreme steps. I have few friends who made me realise my worth, my family was so disturbed with my anxiety, but my mom said that you will not take any extreme step, I have given birth to a fighter. But do all students have friend and family like mine. My family is educated enough to understand the caste and gender discrimination in the campuses, but many students do not have woke family. At the end either they leave their studies or take any extreme steps.
My problems have been not solved yet, and I am fighting with this problem from the past two years because I have decided to fight back. But not everyone has the same mental strength few students gave up.
I would urge from all the professors and my fellow scholars. Have a self-check that did your behaviour affects anyone? You need to check that you should not contribute to anyone’s pain and take these mental issues seriously. Otherwise, we will keep losing young students.
To all feeling low, and full of anxiety people, if any person or anything is really mentally bothering you. Decide either to fight back or leave! But. Don’t self-harm yourself. Your life is much important than any degree and career.
Ritu is Research Scholar University Of Delhi