top of page

Balmukund & Sutradhar

1. People in the play

Sutradhar

The narrator

Dr V Ajay Sree Chandra (Ajay)

Student at Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru, India. Ended his life on 27 August 2007. 

 

Dr Balmukund Bharti

Student at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, India. Ended his life on 3 March 2010.
 

Jaspreet Singh

Student at Govt Medical College (GMC), Chandigarh, India. Ended his life on 27 January 2008.


Manish Kumar

Student at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, India. Ended his life on 6 February 2011.


Payal Salim Tadvi

Student at Topiwala National Medical College and B.Y.L. Nair Hospital, Mumbai, India. Ended her life on 22 May 2019.


Rohith Chakravarti Vemula

Student at Hyderabad University, India. Ended his life on 17 January 2016.


WITH
Akhilesh “Akki” Jha

The only son of an Indian land-owning (zamindar) family, Akki has always been pampered. While he grew up shuttling between Patna and New Delhi, home was always the zamindar ki haveli. Akki has two elder sisters and a younger brother, but he knows that he will have to take on the responsibility of the family, the business and the family lands one day. But for now, he is enjoying studying Management & Economics at this British university. Akki’s family has a conservative outlook, steeped in the mainstream patriarchal culture of Bihar, which Akki has never questioned. He revels in the respect and perceived adoration as the “zaminder’s son and heir” both from his extended family who look up to his father and grandfather, and all the people in his district. 


Hari Ramakrishnan

Hari is from New Delhi and doing a MA in Big Data Studies. His career goal is a tenured chair at a university, teaching and researching. Hari is a proud Hindu Indian and believes in the superiority of his religious beliefs. He visits the local temple in the university town as often as he can. But he also has made a small temple on a table in a corner of his room so he can seek God’s blessings every morning. Hari is comfortable with the social norms he has grown up with but loves the freedoms he experiences in the university, now that he is no longer living under his parents’ eyes. So Hari’s favourite pastime is debating and a member of the same student association as Sam. He frequently participates in campus discussions around life in India, which he defends to the best of his ability. 


Latha “LG” Guruswamy

LG is a third-generation non-resident Indian (NRI), the youngest of two daughters of her doctor parents. Her family and Sam’s are neighbours in a small tourist-attraction town close to the university. She has been friends with Sam and Lisa since high school. LG is studying law but takes a keen interest in sociological topics and belongs to a sociology study group. Latha is in a live-in relationship with Zara, a journalism student at the university she met in the study group. Latha’s parents are unaware that she is a lesbian, or that she is in an existing relationship, and are scouting around for a suitable boy for their beloved daughter.


Lisa Holmes

Lisa is studying sociology. She is Black British. Her grandparents came to Britain from the Caribbean on the Windrush. Lisa grew up in a single parent household, with her mother working two low-wage jobs to keep the family together. Lisa is well clued into the social pressures and concerns that come with her background and is determined to fulfil her grandmother’s dream of having an academic in the family. But she knows how to keep her life well-balanced and has been together with Sam since high school. They live together in rented student accommodation. Lisa also loves gospel singing and is part of her local church choir.

 

Manu Mathuru

Manu is from New Delhi and came to this university four years ago for his MA in Anthropology on a scholarship and has stayed on do to his Doctorate in Development Studies as he was won a grant for it. He did his Bachelor’s rom St Stephen’s College in Delhi. Manu enjoys debating and that’s how he met up with Hari on campus. They hold opposing views on many subjects, but their mutual respect and common Indian background has resulted in an unlikely friendship.


Samir “Sam” Kulkarni

Sam is a second-generation NRI with a liberal upbringing, doing his MA in Management Science and Engineering. Sam’s father is a wealthy corporate and his mother is a society lady, on the board of many charities. Sam has bolstered his limited first-hand exposure to India with reading, watching films/documentaries. He loves discussing many aspects of India with his friends and family back home. Lately he has joined many WhatsApp discussion groups, which he thinks helps him understand current affairs quickly.


The setting

In a space in the university town of Bristol, UK. The six university friends are chilling out on a warm Saturday night after a day out in the city.


Acknowledgement

Some of the dialogues in this skit are reproduced or paraphrased excerpts from the documentary series Death of Merit. This series of documentaries was prepared by a team of Insight Foundation, New Delhi. We thank Insight Foundation for their permission to use the excerpts.

 

2. Script for Balmukund and Sutradhar

 

Note: depending on number of people, the dialogues below may be read by two people or the same person. The facilitator will let you know.

 

Ajay
Jaspreet
Rohith:
Ajay


Balmukund: I got admission to AIIMS with the All India 8th rank in the general quota. Pehle saal se torture karte the ki aarakshan leke aa gaya hai. The principal openly claimed: “You can never become a doctor” ... tera dimaag nahin hain doctor banne ka. The professors said Harijan aur Adivasi jaane kahaan kahaan se chale aate hain. Teacher log hum se ghrina rakhte hain. Prashn ka uttar batane mein sankoch karte hain. Torture karte hain ki yeh achoot hai, inko zara peeche rakho. Aise hamari zabaan bandh karte hain. Paanch professor pareshaan karte they. Practical mein kam number dete hain. I told my parents everything, but I did not allow them to complain to the institute. I was worried that the teachers would ruin my career. If we were “upper”-caste, people would not have hated us and treated us as inferiors …

 

Akki:

Manu:

Sam:

Hari:

Sam:

Latha “LG”:

Manu:

Akki:

Sam:

Manu:

Latha “LG”:

Sam:

Hari:

Lisa:

Hari:

Lisa:

Latha “LG”:

Manu:

Akki:

Lisa:

Hari:

Sam:

Manu:

Latha "LG":

Sam:

Manu

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Jaspreet
Manish:  
Jaspreet

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Ajay:

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Payal

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Ajay

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Balmukund: I used to ask my father why he had been born a harijan. I tried changing my name to hide my caste, but it didn’t work … My younger brother hides his caste at his college. My father is scared. He is scared of letting my brother go to college. By killing me, they have killed all the desires of my family. Now it’s all gone. How will they live like this?

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Rohith: I would … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Jai Bhim … 

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Balmukund: The dean told my father that he should not go to court, should not take any action, and she would help him get compensation. The police did not help us. We would give them some information, they would write something else in the report. The police made my father sign a blank piece of paper, and then filled it up saying we had no complaint against AIIMS … My family is poor, they were upset. They did as they were told, trusting the system … The system failed my family completely.

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Payal

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Rohith:  

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Ajay

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Rohith: I had … ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... education!

 

---- Pause for 2 seconds ----

Sutradhar: The dropout rate among SC/ST of SC/ST students in prestigious institutions like IITs and IIMs is more than the national average dropouts there. ... On 24th April 2021, a video of Seema Singh berating her students went viral. Seema Singh is an associate professor at IIT Kharagpur and these students were on a one year prep course specially planned to bring students from oppressed backgrounds up to speed for IIT, if required. Her arrogance is obvious. An arrogance that can only be due to her dominant-caste background. Maine Seema Singh ka naam jaan boojh ke liya hai - such people need to be named and shamed. For too long some savarna educators have been getting away with isolating and humiliating Bahujan students, creating a hostile environment for them in schools and colleges. 

Video to play

Sutradhar: So sure it’s critical to examine whether reservations have met with their goal as defined in our Constitution. Has the social condition of SCs, STs, OBCs improved substantially? Or have savarnas found other ways of subverting the system? Like Seema Singh? Isolating and humiliating Bahujan students, and creating a hostile environment, heckling and harassing them to the point of torture … Savarna bureaucrats behaving as if they’re doing scholars from marginalised backgrounds a favour when they apply for a scholarship that is due to them -- as if it’s their personal money …for the savarnas, the wealth of India is rightfully only theirs. So for the rest, obstacles can be created, excuses found to delay stipends, and even access to research materials can be denied. Jaise ki yeh scholarship ke haq ke paise nahin, bheek ho. Education is not a privilege, it is a universal right. But savarnas as a group simply don’t want the others to succeed. … Hire them sure for government jobs, but keep it largely to lower-grade posts. Don’t challenge age-old cultures of hierarchy, so when for example an Adivasi domestic worker steps back as you both wait for elevator in your apartment complex, you just accept it … Has social discrimination stopped? You decide.

END

bottom of page