Hyderabad Dalit Scholar’s Death Brings University to Standstill

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Rohith Vemula,Hyderabad University

By Tripada Bharati

Hyderabad University is boiling with the news of the suicide of Rohith Vemula.

Unlike normal suicide cases, this seems to be a case of ‘the-act-of-driving-somebody-to-commit-suicide’. However, the departed soul, Rohit Vemula, has cleared everybody of the blames regarding his suicide in his suicide note.

Yet, the background to this incident poses some hard-hitting questions which has its origins in caste-based discrimination and our apathy/antipathy towards our fellow brethren on socio-cultural grounds. Rohit, 25, was a PhD scholar in Science Technology and Society Studies, from University of Hyderabad. He has been expelled along with four others, all from Dalit community, from the University some six months back following an altercation between ABVP, BJP’s student wing, and ASA(Ambedkar Student Association) of which Rohit was one of the active members. They had been protesting against this decision demanding their reinstatement. A court case by these students against university’s decision in Hyderabad High Court is already pending. For the past two weeks, the PhD student with other four expellees had been protesting by sleeping in the open demanding reinstatement.

The expulsion shows high-handedness by the administration which refused to look into the nuances and made its mind to punish one side while being totally oblivious of the other. Clearly, the decision by University administration reeks of caste biases and yielding to political pressure. Besides, the expellees’ demand to have an open meeting between victims, complainants and the administration remain unmet and some serious questions unanswered.

The suicide note by Rohit Vemula is heart wrenching. It reads:

“Good morning,

I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.

I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.

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. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.

I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense.

May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.

People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.

If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.

Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.

‘From shadows to the stars.’

Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.

To ASA [Ambedkar Students Association] family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.

For one last time,

Jai Bheem

I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.

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.“

Our constitution which espouses ideals of social equality lay ripped apart after this incident. Somewhere we have failed in according everyone its dignity which one deserves.  The malady is a deeper one and has a centuries old history of social discrimination where a human being is robbed of its dignity by being born in a lower social class. The suicide note by Rohit Vemula is a commentary on this.

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