On 25 September, J Viplab Babu, an immigration officer with the Bureau of Immigration, or BOI, at Mumbai, received an order dismissing him from service on charges of “manhandling and assaulting” a senior officer. For over two years, Babu had been raising charges that he faced caste-based discrimination at the hands of two senior officers from privileged castes, including the one he was accused of assaulting. No action was taken on Babu’s complaints. “The dismissal order is the culmination of my struggle against caste discrimination and corruption in the department,” Babu told me.
In early October, in a complaint he registered with the Prime Minister’s Office, Babu wrote that all he did was request for hygienic toilet facilities for the BOI staff at the Mumbai airport. For that, Babu said, he was humiliated repeatedly and a series of departmental enquiries were initiated against him, including the allegation of assaulting HK Pathak, the joint deputy director and the controlling authority at the SIB in Mumbai. But according to Babu, he was the one who was actually subjected to the assault. He said that Pathak had insulted him with casteist slurs during a departmental enquiry against Babu. He wrote that Pathak had told him, “Kya re achhut, kya samaj, teri aukad kya hai, tujhe idhar hi maar dunga toh kya karega?”—What power do you have, you untouchable, what will you do if I hit you right here? Babu added that Pathak then proceeded to slap him repeatedly.
Over the two years that he locked horns with the immigration bureau, Babu wrote several complaints to several authorities about the caste discrimination and the continued harassment he faced. Apart from the PMO, these included the Intelligence Bureau headquarters, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes Commission, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and the commissioner of Mumbai Police, among others. In early November, he filed an appeal against his dismissal before the joint director of the SIB.
These representations chart out the repeated instances of egregious caste discrimination that Babu has had to endure at the hands of two senior officers, and his persistent, yet futile, struggle for action against them. Beyond the casteist attacks by his superiors, Babu’s account of his experiences reveal how even the redressal mechanisms available to an employee failed to protect him. Instead, they appeared to have been manipulated by those in power to further oppress, alienate, and ultimately dismiss Babu.