Justice for Rohith: Cultural Protest and Rally organised by JAC (UoH)

Mitaja Chakraborty

unnamed (1)Getting totally drenched in rain, with water dripping from your clothes and raising and responding to slogans have never been this beautiful!
On Saturday night, more than 70 students at UoH had gathered at the call for march and cultural protest at 9pm by Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, despite incessant rains. It started off from the New Research Scholars hostel where we had gathered on the 17th of January as well, where we all had guarded Rohith demanding the VC to come who had till then turned deaf ear to every protest at administrative block asking for the revocation of the suspension and social boycott, where we stood all night so that his mother who was coming from Guntur gets to see her son, where the police lathi charged us and took Rohith away amidst tears and all the desperate attempts to hold on to him!
Unstoppable like the rain, the rally moved to other hostels then, where we sang revolutionary songs, raised slogans and danced to the beats of the dappu (dafli).
There is a hostel notoriously known to be the sanghi den of the campus. The moment we entered and started raising slogans, around 20 men came out on the balcony (yeah, we have some fancy hostels here where the balcony overlooks the gate of the hostel and the foyer). They not only raised slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in response to ‘Johar, Rohith Vemula’, but also took their shirts off and started dancing, mocking, and banging the doors loudly to intimidate us and disrupt the protest. They took our photos and made fun of us. None of which matters certainly. But the most amazing part of this whole scene were the students downstairs who all (and mind you, ALL the students present in the march) loudly responded to the slogan ‘Sangh parivar ke khilaaf humaari ladaai jaari hai’ with ‘jaari hai, aur jaari rahega’.
Not a bit of fear even after all that intimidation, but a strong resolve to tell them all that truth WILL prevail. That this is a fight not only for a ‘cause’, but for truth. And at the cost of sounding a little boastful, everyone stood there for a long time, clapped to the tunes of the songs of resistance and then left that hostel without any kind of altercation just like we have been doing till date. And I’m sure even if they tried doing a little more than their nanga naach, we wouldn’t have ‘vandalised’ their property or them, for that matter.

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In all these months, whatever this campus has witnessed, from lathicharge, to incarceration, to water and food stoppage, to constant threats from ‘like-minded faculty’, to departmental pressures, to curbing of democratic rights to hold protests, it all has given us a lot more courage, has sharpened our consciousness and forged us into a strong united voice against the fascist, brahminical, regressive, and undemocratic tendencies and attempts by the administration and the goons in power. The numerous attempts by the BJP government to deny Rohith his caste identity through constant interrogation on his caste certificate, the reports of the one-member judicial commission constituted to investigate on the institutional lapses passing a judgement on his caste and giving a clean chit to Appa Rao and university authorities have not only proved the deeper involvement of the sangh parivar in this institutional murder, but also have strengthened our conviction to fight for truth, for justice. And the effects of which show in the large gatherings in the shopping complex area for any protest or a talk despite the installation of CCTV cameras, numerous guards always on a stroll around the campus and mindless complaints being filed on students for protesting against blocking of mess cards, or, disruption of public meetings organised by students.

I am personally overwhelmed and amazed at the courage, political understanding and the resolve of the students, of us all. I could never have imagined that such deeper understanding regarding structural and systemic discrimination on the basis of caste, class, gender, religion would develop in us, and I’m glad I was proven wrong here. But the only thing that bothers and will keep bothering is that we had to lose Rohith for this, that we had not worked hard enough for him to be here with us raising slogans with us, singing the songs of resistance and marching in the rally today!
But I hope, like many of us, that none of this would go in vain. We should and would fight till justice is met with, till the culprits are punished, till the systemic changes are brought about, till caste is annihilated!
And, for the record, the rally lasted for 2 hours with rain constantly pouring and what we witnessed was only an increase in the strength of the rally, reminding the resistance that the students put up on the 22nd of March when we were beaten up, molested and lathi-charged forcing the policemen reach for tissues to wipe their sweat off!

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