Ex-BBC Hindi employee claims he was sacked after alleging caste discrimination in office

Abhimanyu Kumar Shah claims he was sacked on 23 March, six days after he sent a mail to BBC employees across the world about the ‘torture’ he faced in the newsroom.

TARUN KRISHNA 2 April, 2020

Illustration by Soham Sen
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint

New Delhi: A former BBC Hindi employee has accused the media organisation of caste discrimination, which, he alleged, drove him to depression.

Citing an example of discriminatory behaviour, Abhimanyu Kumar Shah, who belongs to the Extremely Backward Caste category, alleged that a senior at BBC Hindi would often tell him that Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati is his leader.

“Mayawati is a political leader from Uttar Pradesh and I am from Bihar. How can she be my leader?” he told ThePrint. Shah had joined BBC Hindi in 2017.

This is not the first time that BBC Hindi has been accused of casteism. In August last year, Meena Kotwal, a Dalit journalist and a former employee of the organisation, had alleged that she lost out on a contract at the media house because of her caste.

BBC Hindi had then denied the allegations, saying it abides by the laws of the country it works in, and that it doesn’t comment on personal issues. “Many people work for us on a fixed-term basis and the renewal depends on factors such as editorial requirements and available resources,” a BBC spokesperson had said.

‘Felt suicidal’

Giving other examples of discriminatory behaviour he faced at BBC Hindi, Shah said, “When the 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker section in the general category in India was passed, then some people in the newsroom started making fun of me.”

Shah, who has now launched his own start-up, claimed when the 13-point roster issue was being debated extensively, an employee in the newsroom said, “Abhimanyu can be the best to work on it as he has experience in these things.”

The 13-point roster considers each subject department as a unit to implement quotas in appointments of university faculty.

Shah alleged, “When I raised my voice against it, I was targeted.” 

He said the situation was so bad that he started feeling depressed and suicidal.

Shah also alleged a senior in the organisation had provoked him to commit suicide.

“I was tortured to an extent that I became depressed and had suicidal feelings. A senior had doubts over my depression and he even provoked to me commit suicide,” he said.

Responding to these allegations, a BBC spokesperson told ThePrint, “The BBC has well-established, thorough and fair hearing processes but we do not comment on individual cases.”

Also read: TikTokers dubbed ‘Shudras of internet’: Indians didn’t spare even social media from casteism

Terminated from job on 23 March

Shah told ThePrint when he couldn’t bear the “discrimination”, he sent a mail to thousands of employees of BBC across the globe.

“I had to face caste-based discrimination in BBC Hindi. Most of the employees here are upper caste. There are rarely those who are not upper caste,” Shah wrote in the mail that was accessed by ThePrint.

He further wrote that despite the BBC having a policy that speaks about diversity in the newsroom, most employees are from the upper caste.

Shah told ThePrint he was fired on 23 March, six days after he sent the mail.

“When I raised the issue of discrimination against some other employees and me, my bosses started targetting me and I was terminated before the completion of my term.”

Shah also alleged that the organisation deliberately gave him negative review on his performance.

He claimed after he sent the mail to the BBC employees worldwide, he received calls from some employees working in other South Asian services, who shared similar experiences.

He also referred to the Meena Kotwal incident of August last year.

“Meena was asked by a senior person in the organisation which caste she belongs to,” Shah said.

Also read: Abuses Ambedkar Caravan founder faces every day: Clean my toilet, you belong to gutter


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