NEW YORK: US Tamil Diaspora members held a peaceful protest in front of the United Nations in New York denouncing the Indian government’s imposition of a discriminatory qualifying exam known as NEET for medical student admissions at state level. They also demanded justice for the Tamil Nadu premedical student Anitha who ended her life when NEET squashed her dreams of becoming a doctor.
The protest by Tamils was aimed at gaining the attention of the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who was attending the proceedings of the UN General Assembly. The September 23rd protest was well attended by Tamils from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia who wore masks depicting Anitha and holding Indian and American flags. They chanted slogans against NEET and seeking justice for Anitha.
“In India, laws and regulations are enacted without sufficient consultations and implemented with swiftness”, lamented a protester, Mr. DS. Kannan. “The imposition of NEET is a classic example of this swiftness which is eroding the gains of social justice that forms the very core of Tamilnadu.”
Anitha, a 17-year-old student hailing from Ariyalur, a village in the State of Tamilnadu has become largely the face of NEET. Fast being is known as the first victim of NEET, Anitha’s score of 1176 out of 1200 did not guarantee a spot on the state medical colleges. Promises by Central and Tamilnadu State Governments to exempt the state from NEET did not materialize. It is feared that NEET could undo decades of public health achievements by Tamilnadu.
As a direct outcome of Anitha’s death, Tamils across America have organized and run many spontaneous demonstrations. Candlelight vigils were observed in more than 40 states with many protestors holding placards to express their views against NEET.
Peaceful protests were held in Washington, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Raleigh and Atlanta and in front of the Indian Embassies garnering attention.
A petition has been sent by protestors to the Indian Embassy in Washington on September 22nd requesting Tamilnadu to be exempted from NEET, and to devolve education from Central Governance to State Governance.