Rohit : the victim of intolerant India

Evidence of devastating emptiness of an economy poised for demographic dividend.

By Shambu Jayachandran

“…I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself…”

Expressions from a scholar, who dreamt of becoming a science writer like Carl Sagan… a wonderful intellectual with brains full of fiery passion capable of igniting emotions in trillions of neurons… a lost dream, that would never gain fulfillment inspite of possessing all potentials by the carrier, only because he was born in a low caste, amidst the Dalit in modern India led by a leader and a party, who the nation considers capable enough. Everyone that may have read Rohit Vemula’s suicide note, is sure to agree that this deceased Dalit Phd Scholar and ASA activist had every potential and possibility to fulfill the unfulfilled dream which he carried away with himself, had the HCU bureaucracy along with its Vice Chancellor, Bandaru Dattatreya the Minister of State (Independent Charge) Labour & Employment, Government of India been a little tolerant and let him fulfill his dreams like many others in the society.

As mentioned by Chittibabu Padavala, a young Dalit Marxist, Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula , the Research Scholar at Hyderabad Central University was a scientist, activist and the leader of Ambedkar Students Association who was a rare combination of intellect and energy, and bore ‘a principled conception of politics’ although being open-minded amidst other Dalit leaders in the HCU campus. However, this act of suicide carried out by Rohith is so uncharacteristic of him, that not only did it shock the other Dalit youth activist leaders, but also made the other four suspended PhD scholars from the HCU (on the basis of the letter written by Dattatreya to Smriti Irani) speechless. Rohith wanted to be a writer, and reach the stars; but his attempts to break the evil social barrier of casteism set by the so-called torch-bearers of Hindutwa got him nailed to the system, and proved once again how insecure are young dreamers and pioneers of tomorrow in this revered land of secularism.

One of the major reasons that got Rohith suspended along with the five other Dalit activist PhD Scholars was, he had been organizing various programs and campaigns to bring to light the discriminatory practices and maltreatment against the muslims; his objective being uniting the Dalits and the muslims to combat it jointly at the campus level. The 3000 year old caste system of India, the oldest system of social stratification sadly enough, has still kept India divided, polarized and bleeding amidst its masses. Constitutionally, such practice has been banned and termed illegal and equal rights have been granted to all its citizens a long time back, though reality paints a different picture. The four social strata based on occupational classification of Brahman–Priests, Teachers, etc, Kshatriyas-Warriors, Vaishyas – Traders, Farmers etc., Shudras – Workmen , has run riot in the Indian social system , and inspite of its irrelevance in contemporary India continues to play a great role in the political and administrative system in India, as has been reflected in the case of Rohith Vemula. Rohith had become a victim to this ruthless class conscious socio-political system, as he was a member of the Dalit society who had chosen to walk the path with others and lay claims on the rights promised to him by the Indian Constitution. Even a central university system like the HCU had practiced social discrimination by banning him and the five other Dalit PhD scholars in the university campus, withholding the monthly stipend of Rs.25,000 payable to Rohith since July 2015 on the grounds of delayed paper-works, setting-up an enquiry commission against them in August 2015 while Kumar the member of the BJP student wing was being let-off, reflecting the strong bias of Union Minister Dattatreya in his letter to Smriti Irani against them for being brash with the leader of the student division of BJP, and finally suspending them from the students hostel and forcing them to make a tent in the open in September 2015.

Due to a lot of student agitations, the decision was upheld in December 2015, and then finally sanctioned and executed on January 3rd 2016. Rohith along with the four other suspended scholars moved out of the hostel building and went on relay hunger protest, gradually subsiding to severe depression and loss of all hope on humanity. Rohith’s father Manik Kumar, a security guard at a private hospital, and originating from Gurazala, Guntur and his Mother Radhika a tailor, had been struggling a lot to support him when his stipend was withdrawn, and Rohith had to borrow forty thousand rupees from one of his friend, living in the utmost frugality possible. Rohit’s spirit and soul got crushed under the pressure of the politico-educational system of India, and he was being punished brutally everyday for demanding that equal social status that had been granted by the constitution of India to each of its citizen. Rohith finally decided to put an end to this growing feeling of hollow darkness within him that was continually increasing the distance between his body and his soul, and hung himself in the ASA students’ activity room in the hostel using one of its banners. Had his trust and faith on ASA and Ambedkar also dwindled or did he want to draw the attention of the greater population towards the ongoing plight of the Dalits in India?

Rohit had mentioned in his suicidal note- “My birth is my fatal accident…I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past. It is really very sad to know about his childhood that went unappreciated, crushed and doomed under the mighty social machine. Even though the purpose of education is to liberate the mind and soul from the penchant dark gloominess hovering all around, the system has failed tremendously to protect a potential intellect that has reflected and retained excellence even after combatting all the mace-blows targeted at it. Every child in any system is the capital asset on which the nation depends,builds, thrives and carries forward its journey as a civilization. Then why did Rohith’s birth turn out to be a fatal accident for him even after India has attained independence over 68 years now? Rohith loved Science, Stars, Nature, and people…why did his love for people turn into this sordid realization, that ‘people have long since divorced from nature’? Isn’t the basic essence of humanity based on universal love for all? Why did Hindutwa have to show this fascist attitude towards a class based society created at one point of time to another hour? Why can it not show the tolerance and support to everyone as propagated in the constitution? At one time, dalits were banned from hearing the Vedas, and punished by hot molten iron being poured in their ears or ears were chopped off, if they accidentally did- a unique system of oppression & exploitation created by the knowledge bearers with the aim of dominating the society, a fine way devised by a heinous higher class to ward off their insecurities. Now this has even extended to death in modern India.

If there are efforts to silence the voice of protest and opinions on the other side, the inevitable outcome of it would be anarchy and the gradual destruction of the greatest democracy of this world, paving path to religious fascism. The social ban of five Dalit students from Hostel, canteen, classroom and from the campus is a dangerous sign of mass destructive social move made by a crazy segment of the mass owning power, planting causes for generating mass violence and terrorism. It reflects the fascist tendency of alienating them from the mainstream life and depriving them of the benefits of development in all aspects. The stars shining on the eastern sky during the birth of Jesus Christ announced to the world about the advent of the good in the society, while Rohith’s suicide rings the bell of impending doom and disaster looming on the Indian Sky. It is considered as a murder by the student community and others, who are the future of the society.