The suicide of Dalith PhD student Rohit Vemula from Guntur, one of the five members of Ambedkar Students Association, who had been expelled from the University of Hyderabad administrative campus, a fortnight ago- should be an eye opener for the millions of youngsters in our nation. That he was a strong force of youth resistance in this country, an ambitious young scientist and a pivotal social activist- is clear from the fact that despite knowing the gargantuan risk he was throwing himself into, he stood bravely against the fascist forces in his campus and fought till the very end of his breath against communal hatred, minority atrocities, casteist hegemony- that has forever dominated the Indian education system, but is only now being unraveled.
Rohit Vemula stood up to fascist goondaism that dominates much of our social behavior lately. What we wear, where we go, what we eat, what we protest, what we watch, how we stand and when we do not stand, what color clothes we wear, our names, our births, our love, our marriages- everything is profoundly ensnared by this fascist element and sadly, most of us are simply too sacred to raise our voices. However, when we talk of dalit atrocities, the entire narrative takes on a sickening and bloodier turn. The collective cowardice of a society, since the last six decades and more, have resulted in the killings of thousands- Vemula and Nagraju Koppulla being latest.
As savarna educated society, we feel absolutely no shame while being dictated by a gang of unscientific, uncultured, unilaterally misogynist and inherently casteist gang of thugs. So, when we are told not to watch a documentary on riots, we keep quiet. When the same thugs tell us to not send our daughters out after dark, beat our children for touching savarna lunch plates, tell us not to love or marry someone cos he or she is muslim or Dalit – we keep silent. They then break our doors, rampage over our food, bludgeon us to death, we shift uncomfortably in our armchair and change channels in the TV. Emboldened, they become Student Leaders, Ministers, Vice Chancellors. They push, they rape, they sodomise, they expel, they rusticate, they hang, they beat, they plummel us with a sewing machine – we simply live, go on breathing.
This collective lack of conscience, this willful incoherence is however, not new in a nation guided by the principals of Manusmriti. When our High Courts quote Manu while delivering sentences, while its premise is encumbered with a statue of Manu, when 12 out of 14 Judges in a Court belong to just one Caste, and religion, one can easily comprehend where this nation’s idea of justice is headed. Or when our Universities and Schools have teachers belonging to just one caste, and follow a Brahminical hierarchy to twist and misappropriate history- when they teach 20 percent of us to hate 80 percent of the rest-we know there will be many more Rohit Vemulas in this country. Their books, their philosophies, their fallacies of hyprocrisy, their culture of hatred, their inherently substituted lies- we as a society have digested it all, in the same breath while letting our fellow beings clean our feaces, eat grass and sell children to sexual slavery.
But Rohit Vemula was not part of this profanity. He termed human beings,“As glorious things made up of star dust, in every field, in studies, in streets, in life and in death,”. A person of Science who believed in equality, freedom, fraternity and in the idea of Resistance. Precisely for this, he paid the ultimate price. As the entire University of Hyderabad administration danced to the tune of ABVP goons and Brahminical arrogance, he showed us with his supreme sacrifice- what a coward lot we all are.
The million dollar question is- Have we learnt any lessons here? I am afraid not, as is obvious from the restricted and painfully subverted reporting of this martyr’s sacrifice appears in leading Newspapers today. As the mainstream media dominated by the same Savarna “journalists” who had silently watched one of their own Nagraju Koppulla wane away to Tuberculosis a few months back- the reportage of Vemula’s death is equally humiliating. NDTV, ZEE News, LiveMint, The Hindu and Nyoooz have unilaterally omitted larger text from Vemula’s suicide letter and highlighted just the “I do not blame anyone for my act” part in their reportage. In a FirstPost article an author claims, “The last words Rohith Vemula wrote were profound, noble and far more benevolent than the campus politics that killed him. “No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act. This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this. Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone,” he wrote. He was making a more profound point. A point we will love to miss. Newspaper headlines are already screaming: ‘Dalit student kills himself’. The angst was not based on caste, despite the seeming backdrop of political confrontation.”
Precisely this absence of humanity among the leaders, journalists, teachers, professors, students, doctors, engineers, and almost everybody else in a society dominated by Brahmins and other Upper Castes- has killed Rohit, and his blood- is in all our hands. We are ashamed.