Rohith Vemula was a 26-year old PhD scholar at the University of Hyderabad. Alternatively, he can also be identified as a Dalit – SC/ST. After all, that’s what constructs the identity of an individual in this country.
The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind.
These words from this Dalit scholar mock the foundation of our evolving, glorious Bhadta Bhaarat.
V. Rohith was found hanging in his friend’s room after he was expelled from his hostel 12 days ago. Last year in August, he was amongst the five scholars suspended from the University on the basis of a false accusation of a rival student’s assault.
After spending two weeks sleeping in the open to protest, Vemula and other students had started a hunger strike early Sunday to demand the cancellation of their suspension.
After his demise, several students gathered on campus and raised slogans, asking for a case to be registered against Union Minister and BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya under the SC/ST Atrocity Act. They claimed that Dattatreya had asked the HRD ministry to take action against the five scholars including Rohith.
According to the students, the five research scholars were denied access to hostels and were forced to sleep in a makeshift tent on campus. They term this suspension ”undemocratic” and call it a ”social boycott”.
Vemula’s friends are in shock and denial. Chittibabu Padavala, a close friend, believes that suicide on campus due to discrimination is not uncommon and the only way out is when people own it rather than denying it.
I have been arguing for a long time that the real solution to the suicides for Dalit students on the campuses – before the ultimate solution of the end to discrimination – Dalits should own up to their untouchable identity openly and proudly and take to activism as Dalits. Now, here is my own friend and dear comrade, a student leader of national standing and achievement, a bright and promising Dalit Marxist, kills himself!!
In his suicide note, Rohith has asked no one to trouble his friends or enemies after he’s gone.
Even though he takes the accountability of his suicide upon himself, he also asks thought-provoking questions about the prevalent caste discrimination and it’s horrific consequences in this developing country.
My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.
The letter is personal, highlighting his desire to be a writer and his hope to see the world as one.