When she had to choose between Home science, music and Sanskrit as the elective in her seventh class, Kaushal Panwar — who belonged to Balmiki caste, which is among the lowest of low castes — chose Sanskrit.
The Sanskrit teacher got furious and abused her. But she was adamant.
Fast forward many years, she got herself a PhD in Sanskrit and now teaches as an assistant professor at the Sanskrit department in Motilal Nehru College, Delhi University.
Panwar finished her under graduation in Sanskrit from the Indira Gandhi Mahila Mahavidyalaya in Kaithal district and Masters from Kurukshetra University. After MPhil, she finally got the PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi.
In between, starting from childhood, she had to face many kinds of discriminations and abuse. Some was about using pond in village or drinking water from a public water tap. Class rooms also proved no different, with she was having to wear a different colored uniform from the upper caste, or getting scolded for answering questions that the upper castes can not.
Panwar says her subject, the very language of Brahmanism, and that of caste and gender oppression makes her angry.
“Both, as being a woman and being a Dalit, reading these texts shakes you up. It is so derogatory, so outrageous, at so many levels,” she tells The Mint.