BEING A GOOD CITIZEN: THIS IS WHAT I WROTE TO OBAMA FOUNDATION

This is what I wrote in response to the Obama Foundation mailer on what “I think about being a good citizen.” And on what the Obama Foundation should be? Well, anything that can bring smile to the majority of this planet, something that other honest organizations working in the social sector are trying to do, irrespective of societies, boundaries and countries.

MY RESPONSE

What I am going to write here is based on my experiences in the Indian context and I believe it will stand true for any other society that needs large scale social intervention. India is slated to become the world’s most populous country but its majority is still poor and forced to live a life of misery, something that the government alone cannot address.

The basic needs of life, food, i.e., shelter, health, education, are still not on their radar. And how can it be when they have to go through the grinding of feeding themselves first, day after day, month after month, year after year. Everything else comes later.

We need to accept the ground reality if we have to bring the change here. The process to change a society and undoing its wrongs and malaise can only begin once we have this realization.

And the most important thing is – the government cannot do it alone. The society must contribute. And we must contribute. We all must feel duty-bound with the sense of ‘giving it back to the society’ for our very existence here – in whatever capacity we are. For me, that is all about being a good citizen.

On a larger and more organized scale, someone once had told me that in order to bring empowerment to the needy, one needs to be an activist and not a fighter. A fighting spirit is good but many a times, the trade-off between ‘fighting the system’ and ‘fighting over your way out of the system’ becomes too costly for the people you are fighting for.

An example will be apt here. Natural calamities, if displace many, are also opportunities for the corrupt souls in a system. You know there is corruption but your priority must be rehabilitating those displaced – and you have to work in tandem with the system – even if the system is corrupt. Your integrity and tenacity lie in how you can take work from the system. There is always the time to fight the menace of corruption later.

As always, committed social work needs a committed soul more than anything else, otherwise there is always the chance to drift away, especially when in India, where everything is so political that in order to get things done, one needs to be inside the system, knowing how to take work from it, keeping in mind the fine line between manipulating a system and taking work from it.

I believe this should be the story of every not-for-profit or every individual working in the social sector – no compromise with ethics – and no compromise with patience – because I think we just do not deal with the mindset or the behavioural change here only – but more importantly, we also deal with the exterior of a person – the society he lives in – with all sorts of good and bad people and institutions.

THE OBAMA.ORG MAILER

We’re so glad you’re a part of this startup for citizenship. Working together, we’re going to build a working, living center for developing the next generation of active leaders all over the world. We have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to count on your ideas to inform our efforts.

That’s why we’re asking you to add your voice today, and that’s why we’ll continue asking you to share your ideas in the months and years ahead. Let us know what’s on your mind, what good citizenship means to you, and what you want this Foundation to be.

©SantoshChaubey

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KANHAIYA AND OTHERS TO BE RUSTICATED? TOMORROW IS AGAIN A STORMY DAY IN DELHI.

The inquiry committee constituted by JNU has submitted its report. The day finally came today after the three extensions the committee was granted. And going by the information leaked so far, its findings and recommendations are going to make for headlines.

It has already begun and tomorrow, when there is a big agitation march planned by the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) – Parliament Chalo, it is going to figure prominently. The findings of this probe committee will certainly reflect on how stormy the day is going to be tomorrow.

JNUSU is demanding removal of sedition charges and other cases slapped on Kanhaiya Kumar and others. The Left-wing students unions are backing the move. JNUSU has appealed to the students in Delhi’s different colleges and universities to join the protest tomorrow.

And given the response that Kanhaiya Kumar and other students got after the administration and police made the mess of a simple university issue, the protestors will try to mobilize more support for Kanhaiya Kumar and other students when they take to roads tomorrow.

Kanhaiya Kumar is out on ‘interim bail’ with some tough words by the presiding Delhi High Court judge who delivered the order. Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are still in jail after they failed to secure bail.

So, even after the blitzkrieg that Kanhaiya tried to unleash after his bail on March 3, they, from JNUSU and those under scanner including Kanhaiya, are not going to say anything acidic or hostile to the law of the land – that will further affect their case. Yes, a sort of speech delivered earlier in JNU is expected tomorrow – but it is not going to get same eyeballs – because, since March 3, Kanhaiya Kumar last lost much of his currency that made him relevant for a cause.

Some deft political manoeuvring has to be there then – that conveys what the JNUSU wants to say – and convinces people of its intent and substance. JNUSU opposed this probe committee, demanded a fresh one. Those under investigation didn’t appear before it. And students had support of many faculty members as well. And it was certainly not restricted to the university campus. And that has to be sustained.

A well coordinated movement fanning across the capital city or a significant presence in the heart of Delhi to catch media attention and social media pull will serve the purpose. Yes, a speech is ok – but with the intent that reflects sincerity and commitment to a cause.

If tomorrow has to be a stormy day – it has to be within the confines of the law – like the protests of the hugely successful anti-corruption movement of 2011. And if JNUSU has learnt any lessons, it will try to follow the suit.

Hope sense will prevail tomorrow – unlike what happened on February 9 – when anti-India slogans were raised in JNU. Yes, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and others say they did not raise them and those who shouted those slogans were outsiders and we would love to go with that but with the obvious questions that if all these JNU students were present there, when these slogans were raised, they why none of them bothered to stop such anti-nationals or behaved like responsible citizens by informing the authorities of what had happened.

If there had to be any punishment in this case, it was about this – a disciplinary action by the university administration.

And it is expected that the action taken on the recommendations of inquiry committee would be in line with this spirit – with no expulsions – but clear warnings. Police did not go on hunting for two more students named after Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya surrendered indicates that.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SOCIAL BLOGGING

Now is the time to see Social Blogging as a separate category within the realm of the overall larger social activity that blogging is.

Having said that, the Social Blogging content should involve socially relevant and concerned expressions – whether it for activism – or – it is being in solidarity with – in opposing the unjust.

Bloggers have helped shaping the Arab Spring. They have started speaking for those who can’t speak. Blogging is becoming more and more socially responsible.

Bloggers have lost lives in dictatorial regimes, in restive countries and in orthodox societies. The most recent case in point is Bangladesh.

Social Blogging, in fact, is quite strong in oppressive societies where it gets amplified attention and the process that has begun will only intensify further.

Its next big leap is going to be in societies like India. India is a country that is the world’s largest democracy – a country with a robust democracy – but a country where the democracy has still a long way to go.

And the process will be business-driven, even if we scoff at capitalism! Business will lead communication technology penetration that in turn would arm more and more people with information access. Creating a blog or having an online identity to connect with the world had never been this easy.

Long live social media!

And India, the world’s second most populous country, with projections to have the world’s largest share of middle class in a decade or so, just rejected the initiatives of internet and social media giants like India’s Airtel or Facebook to dominate internet/social media by introducing differential pricing through their networks.

Long live net neutrality!

But its sustainability has to be perennial!

Let’s start a debate first and then a discourse to spread the word about Social Blogging and it’s increasing role and need in societies.

SocialBlogging-4

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

KANHAIYA SPOKE WELL

Irrespective of going into the Qualitatives of Kanhaiya Kumar’s address – that he said was not a speech but accumulative expression of his experiences – after his release from the Tihar Jail today – was really something to listen to.

The man spoke well. He had a flow. And he sounded fearless, objective and bound to an ideology. That is probably the difference age brings – a kind of puritan fearlessness where you don’t really think much of the consequences.

Some years ago, once, I had chance to speak to Dr. Binayak Sen over the phone, after he had got a long fought but ‘temporary’ bail in the sedition case the state had imposed on him along with other serious charges. It was a brief conversation where Dr. Sen sounded very cautious on what to speak and what not to. He was evasive on directly answering most of the questions even during our brief conversation.

Dr. Sen is an inspiration – a great crusader of social rights – and he is still the same Dr. Binayak Sen – that he was – when he had started giving shape to the ‘Mitanin’ programme for the tribal people in Chhattisgarh’s hinterlands.

But when I spoke to Dr. Sen, he was around 60 – with years of incarceration and system’s oppression behind him. He was hounded like a hardened criminal when he had simply done his job – of being a doctor – in places no one else wishes to enter. If it is said that doctors are next only to God, doctors like Binayak Sen give a reason to validate that.

But years of State’s hostility and prison term with ageing turned him into a silent crusader than a vocal activist I can say. Something that is not there in case of Kanhaiya Kumar – the 29 year old JNU Students Union president. He is young. He is armed with an ideology. And he sounded like ready to fight come what may. Yes, the Constitutional sanctity is pristine but every act then is permissible within its norms, irrespective of the ideological affiliations (and difference).

The case against Kanhaiya Kumar was always on a flimsy ground and he should have got bail much earlier. In fact, the whole JNU incident (row) was mishandled. We should wish for more in line developments now onward.

This speech by the fellow, delivered at the prestigious institution a while ago, tells where the system erred. Dissent is a must for democracy. Democracy needs consistent spark at ideological levels. A healthy culture of dissent and debate strengthens the Constitution that runs any democracy. Subaltern history should be as important to us as History is.

Irrespective of the observations like a ‘political leader is born today’ or ‘Kanhaiya is making a career option for him’, we should wish this incident, the whole JNU row, may prove a blessing in disguise for us. It has to be much more than mere a ‘making of breaking of a leader’. It has to be a step ahead in the quest to make a just and responsible society. Let’s not make him a hero or a leader. Let’s not do anything to anyone like Kanhaiya Kumar that could bury the valid hopes anymore.

India has had not meaningful and coherent student moments while even China had one – resulting in one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind – the Tiananmen Massacre – when China’s authoritarian regime had killed hundreds of protesting students (some reports quote even thousands).

We should hope this be the right beginning for student movements in India – for student activism from the petty levels of student politics that is reeling under the corrupt and ruthless vice-chancellors mainstream political concerns. The ground is ripe – after the hugely successful civil society anti-corruption movement of 2011 and the massive protests by outraged students and civil society in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012.

Technology is a leveller and it is helping us, in our societies – to get connected – to speak out and to reach out. Spiral of silence in our country is peeking now. And in my view, it is the next big leap of social media after the Arab Spring. It is heartening to see the hashtag #KanhaiyaKumar trending at top on Twitter.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

377: WE CAN EXPECT SOMETHING POSITIVE THIS TIME.

I don’t how true it is but it is great – that today was only the fourth time when the Supreme Court reopened a curative petition – against its own order.

Gay rights activists say so claiming that they are now quite hopeful with the development that saw the Supreme Court forming a five-member constitutional bench to look into legality/criminality of the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (377 of IPC) – that there would now be a positive outcome – based on their demand of decriminalizing 377 again – based on related developments the world over including in the conservative Catholic Ireland that legalized gay marriages last year – based on their just demand to finally give expression to gay rights in India.

If homosexuality has been a taboo – it is basically for political reasons that have decided how societies orient and reorient their structures – that how societies have been orienting and reorienting their layers in every stage of civilizational graduation – and homosexuality has always been there – discriminated and persecuted – for something that is so personal, so intimate that should have no concern about it.

The Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – that criminalizes gay sex says – “Unnatural offences.—Whoever voluntarily has carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1 [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.”

Well, that is a lot – in fact a loadfull of stuff for complete harassment.

Who am to decided what is natural or unnatural for someone else’s sexual preference – an activity so intimate – so if anything is unnatural in all this – it is banning gay sex or homosexuality.

Hope, with today’s development in the Supreme Court and with yesterday’s development in the Madras High Court where a judge observed that it is the high time that we legalize homosexuality in India, the road ahead will see going back to the days which began after the Delhi High Court decision in July 2009 that decriminalized 377.

The four years, between the 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court and the 2013 decision by the Supreme Court, did much positives for the gay people with the LGBT community coming out in the open to open assert their sexual preference. Yes for the whole LGBT community – we, as a society, need to accept the fact that alternative sexual preferences have always been there in our society, and that that is also a way of life.

The two years since the SC decision in December 2013 have been a downhill journey, especially persecuting for those who had started breathing free in that four-year period with arrests and humiliations.

Scrapping 377 could be an opportunity for politicians after the apex court put the ball in politicians’ court observing ‘Parliament was the appropriate place to repeal the IPC section’. But as expected, our conservative politicians didn’t make any move in the last two years.

Today, the Supreme Court could have taken the route the Delhi High Court had taken, decriminalizing 377 and issuing directives to the government in this regard. But even this one, constituting a constitutional bench shows there has been a serious mindset change since December 2013 and we can expect something positive this time.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

377: WOULD TOMORROW BE THE DAY WHEN WE WILL BE ABLE TO UNDO A SOCIAL WRONG?

It is going to be an important day tomorrow and could well be a landmark one if the Supreme Court (of India) accepts the demand by activists (and by the ‘logically thinking’ people) and delivers a verdict overturning its December 2013 verdict recriminalizing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), that, in turn, overturned a Delhi High Court order of July 2009 decriminalizing 377.

Section 377 dates back to our colonial times, to 1860, and legally bars ‘sexual activities between persons of same sex’.

It is simply draconian. Criminalizing such activities through 377 was wrong even then – back in 1860 – because it was simply against the nature of ‘nature’ – was against the natural flow of the right to privacy in each individual’s life.

Like in matters of worship and religion (or even food habits), sexual preferences of an individual is a private, intimate matter and others should not poke in their nose there. Okay, it was a different society and social values back then in 1860 – in India and across the world. But that is now some 160 years back.

Much has changed in these days. The world has seen a sea change in its appearance. The worlds of 1860 and 2016 are entirely different.

So why not upheld that ‘fundamental law of nature of not interfering in private lives of others’ now?

Is enough still not enough for terms like LGBT discrimination and 377 misuse?

And even the Supreme Court, while recriminalizing the Section 377 again, observed that the ‘Parliament was the appropriate place to repeal the IPC section’. So, in a way, it was not a direct denial. But then, decriminalizing 377 was always a sensitive political issue in our country and therefore was never a guarantee. So it was better if the court did it.

Then, now could be the time – that tomorrow could be the day when we will be able to undo a social wrong that is centuries old – and has been used and misused consistently?

Can we sense what can be in store tomorrow with an important observation by the Madras High Court today on homosexuality? According to a report, a judge of the Madras High Court observed, “Why not the central government amend marriage laws to include the homosexuality as valid ground for divorce, as gays and lesbians cannot exhibit interest on the opposite sex which is required for consummation of marriage?”

The judge further said, “More than 30 countries, including a conservative nation like Ireland, have decriminalised homosexuality and legalised gay marriage by way of referendum.

And then he questioned, “Could LGBT be considered as offenders merely for having exhibited their natural sexual orientation and their sexual acts, which are different?”

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

CAN ROHITH VEMULA’S FORCED SUICIDE DO THAT TO US?

We have reasons to go by Narendra Modi’s words. If BJP won complete majority on its own, something unthinkable in the prevailing political scenario of the country, it was basically because of Narendra Modi. People showed trust in him, in his words, in his promises of development.

It is true the first 20 months of the BJP government have given us more questions than solving our problems but still, Narendra Modi is the only political alternative India has when we see the equations in the national politics.

So when he reacted on Rohith Vemula’s suicide today, we should accept some serious action would follow now – after a series of blunders so far – yes, within realms of realpolitik of the day.

The biggest and unpardonable blunder is by University of Hyderabad, its administration and its vice-chancellor. Had they acted like what makes for a real educational institution and credible academic careers, Rohith Vemula would be among us, pursuing his studies for a better career and better life for himself, his family and country.

Universities should ideally be first the places in our societies for healthy, intellectual debates on ideas and ethos of anything and everything – social sciences, sciences, arts and aesthetics, culture, religion, traditions, dance, drama, music, and so on and so forth – and the difference of opinion should be a must – because we cannot progress, we cannot evolve – unless we question – even if we have to reaffirm our faith.

That is not the case here in India – in the world’s largest democracy. But I know we would be there someday – our robustly functional democracy would take us there.

But at the moment – it is total chaos. Our educational system is failing us. Apart from few bright spots, the overall scenario is gloomy. We are churning out degrees but not capable human beings. Political interference and political considerations, coupled with deeply rooted corruption, have vitiated the atmosphere of the seats of higher learning to the extent that the discrimination that Rohith Vemula faced has become quite common.

Vice-chancellors, head of institutions, principals – they behave like they are kings of their fiefdoms – beyond any scrutiny.

They all, all responsible in Rohith’s case, should be held accountable and punished – anymore delay would be blasphemous.

Next is the political interference in student politics.

It is now established beyond doubt that associated outfits and fringe elements are involved in brining much dirt to BJP. And in this case also, role of an Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, BJP’s student wing, is under scanner. The allegations that have been leveled against Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani, senior BJP leaders and union ministers, in Rohith’s suicide, need clear answers.

It was clearly a case of undue political interference, as proven by letters of Bandaru Dattatreya on behalf of BJP and letters of HRD ministry to UoH on Bandaru’s letter that exacerbated the matter. Then there are controversial statements by Smriti Irani, Bandaru Dattatreya and other BJP leaders. BJP could have simply accepted the fault and could have apologized to the nation. That would, in fact, be positive for the party’s public perception.

Now that Narendra Modi has reacted so emotionally, should we see some fundamental changes coming? True, a mother has lost her son and words cannot suffice for the pain her family is going through. Action must follow. The society would be a much better place with a Rohith Vemula, engaged in his life, pursuing his studies, unknown to you and me and each of us who are now thinking so deeply about the incident.

After all, Delhi gangrape on December 16, 2012 was not first horrible crime to happen against women but then, at times, it takes an incident like this to stir our collective conscience to demand for fundamental changes.

We cannot quantify what the massive public outrage on December 16 gangrape did to our society but it did qualify on parameters like forcing policymakers to act, starting debates in social circles and more reporting on crimes against women. At least, a beginning has been made.

Can Rohith Vemula’s forced suicide do that to us – a beginning to bring fundamental changes in our seats of higher learning – away from destructive debates like ‘Brahminical’ or ‘anti-Brahminical’ or ‘pro-Dalit’ or ‘anti-Dalit’ or ‘higher Vs lower castes’ to constructive issues like ‘how to reform the reformative action system’ – like ‘how to keep student politics away from mainstream politics’ – like ‘the social disparity prevailing in the society’ – like ‘social inclusion and exclusion based on economic parameters’ – like ‘poor quality of our teachers’ – like ‘political appointments polluting the posts of VCs, head of institutions or principals’ – and so on and so forth?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

STUDENT SUICIDE: HOW WE SHOULD SEE SMRITI IRANI’S YESTERDAY’S STATEMENT

Nothing more than another botched up political attempt by BJP to damage control in the issue that has outraged the whole nation after a Dalit Ph.D. scholar of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) was forced to commit suicide due to political interference in a matter of student politics.

Reports say that the Union Human Resources Development ministry wrote five letters to UoH to pressurize the university administration to act against Rohith Vemula and his four other friends, members of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA).

We have all the reasons to disbelieve BJP, Smriti Irani, the ABVP student leader of UoH N Susheel Kumar, UoH administration and its vice-chancellor (VC).

And we have every reason to believe every word of Rohith Vemula’s letter, written or unspoken, versions of his friends and their allegations.

What UoH did today, has in fact lend more credence to these voices demanding justice. Today, UoH revoked suspension of four others who were suspended along with Rohith. Now we can only lament on such a blasphemy that aggravates our collective outrage even more. It is absolutely nothing and is unacceptably late.

An individual’s life is the primary driving force of a democracy. Yes, that is the ideal scenario enshrined in our Constitution and we are far from that as a society with the prevailing socio-political milieu.

But this basic tenet takes the sense of urgency whenever we found ourselves in a state of collective mourning and outrage over loss of a human life – like it has become so in the case of Rohith Vemula – a bright and talented human being – whose life was cut short by some unabashed political masquerading of the system.

And our collective mourning, our outrage and that producing echoes of Rohith’s name – a person unknown till January 17 – are the best possible tribute to this man – who has stirred our sentiments.

Rohith’s letter exonerates anyone and everyone of the guilt behind his act but it, in fact, blames each of us. It is, in fact, his dying declaration that puts us all in the dock. And even our legal judicial system accepts the sanctity of someone’s dying declaration – without any further evidence.

Rohith’s highly intellectual last letter is also a contradictory one. He says he is happy in embracing death but he also regrets about his past life and childhood and writes about his disenchantment from the society.

And when we see some past months in his life, we feel why BJP has been utterly wrong in dealing with the crisis and how misplaced the party’s logics have been.

Smriti Irani first painted a very sincere image of her on the crisis saying she was ready to resign in case she was proven wrong and then she came with her misplaced rhetoric yesterday that said that the politicking over the issue was creating a false impression of ‘Dalit Vs non-Dalit’ struggle. And she used ‘wrong facts’ to bolster her claims which fell flat today when UoH teachers said there was no Dalit teacher in the panel that punished Rohith Vemula.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

OUR ORIGINALITY VALID THROUGH ARTIFICIAL ART.

Well, these are some words from the first letter written in public domain by Rohith Vemula – that is now also is his last one – because Rohith, a young research scholar from a reputed university, committed suicide yesterday.

And these words, if they tell his suicide may have other reasons than student politics and caste discrimination, they also tell, in fact the whole language of his letter, that this guy cannot be anti-national as Bandaru Dattatreya, senior BJP leader and union minister, and University of Hyderabad administration think.

Like everything has good and bad facets – student politics is no exception. In fact, student politics is a must in any democracy – but certainly not in the form that is prevalent in India – from Delhi University to Jawaharlal Nehru University to Mumbai University to University of Hyderabad to Banaras Hindu University – in fact, in any university in India.

The developments related to student politics leave you in bad mood and in bitter taste. I have seen its polluted form, a form that has become a sort of norm in India, during my days in Banaras Hindu University. Thankfully, the student union, as it prevails in places like DU and JNU, doesn’t exist in BHU though it has its flipside – a ruthless university administration that has consistently seen and faced allegations of corruption and impropriety – including its current administration – a clear letdown – a trend that began in early years of the first decade of this Century.

Rohith, the 26 year old, second year Ph.D. student, was expelled from hostel and was barred from other living spaces of the university except his classroom, library and seminars and conference halls – in a way a social boycott.

He writes in his letter he has no complaints and no one should be held responsible for his suicide. He writes ‘he is happy being dead than alive’. He writes he is not sad but is feeling empty and that is killing him.

I have no intention to go into inside out of this letter. I am incapable of doing so. In fact, I should not do so.

But there are some relevant questions where we must look for the answers if we have to stand up and grow as a holistic society, and this letter is right there.

What Rohith has written in his letter are questions fuelled from a sense of insecurity that creeps beneath your skin when you start questioning the society around you in terms of your ethos towards life – and we all entitled for that.

His letter flows lyrically. It has a soul – a soul that tells of a conscious mind – a soul that tells us why his detractors including the university administration, politicians including those from student politics and society at large are wrong – a soul that tells why they all are culprits.

Yes, life is as much about positives as it is about negatives – and the journey here is the sum total of maintaining the lead of positives over negatives – but sometimes, negatives become so acidic that anything can happen in those ‘impulsive moments that let you down’.

Embracing death – this young fellow looks set to do that – without blaming anyone – wishing for a journey to some other worlds – but his words also tell that how we failed him – that how we exacerbated the feeling of ‘disconnect’ in those impulsive moments’ when Rohith decided to embrace death.

His tragic death deals deeply with the questions of identity crisis – like commoditization of a human life – a research scholar at a university, with a conscience like of the author of this letter, bound to feel low when he faces the insensitivity around him – mixed with social arrogance and social apathy.

Rohith Vemula was active in student politics but his letter tells his was a logical political past – the way it should be in student politics – and not like the obscene display of political muscle and money in places like DU. And we safely can say that Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), Rohith was a member of, is far less controversial than ABVP (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad), BJP’s student politics wing.

The letter says Rohith was not sad but it lets itself bare open before us in letting us know that how depressed he was when he terms his birth as some fatal accident and his grown up days as disconnected from the society he was living in – so much so that he says that we need fakes to look original.

We may rightly debate that it is not the case but Rohith makes his point logically and lyrically – even if leaving us all humiliatingly burdened by the sense of guilt that his death has caused.

The reason for his death goes well beyond caste politics. It is more about the rot in our education system, especially the university education system. Unfortunately, most of the universities in India are like small fiefdoms where vice-chancellors lord over like anything. And with increasing political patronage and interference, people with questionable academic intent are having a green run. It was a political interference that caused Rohith’s expulsion from hostel.

In such institutions, teaching quality is the first casualty. Next in the line are students. Student politics, that is a direct offshoot of senior level politics in our country, further pollutes the system. Large scale scams are regularly alleged in recruitments and admissions. The VCs with feudal mindsets take bizarre decisions though these things are hardly reported. The recent decision by BHU to sack Sandeep Pandey, visiting professor, IIT-BHU, is one such example. The university administration has branded the Magsaysay winner a ‘naxalite’. Utter rubbish!

And then there are social equations.

India has made considerable progress in ensuring social affirmative action. It cannot be outrightly dismissed as some are trying to do (as some try to do whenever such incidents happen). Much has been done and we can see its effects.

But then it is also equally true that much is yet to be done, especially in rural belts. And that tells us we urgently need to graduate to the next stage of our affirmative action.

And about the mindset change in urban India – where the problem exists – it is a complex social equation and a straight law and order issue – and must be dealt accordingly. It will take time but we need to appreciate that the change is coming – if we have to succeed – like sternly dealing with culprits in this case – even if Rohith’s letter doesn’t blame anyone.

We need to graduate to ‘Dalit cause’ – beyond ‘Dalit politics’ – and we need to be real with it – beyond those artificial dogmas that still blind us.

I did not know who Rohith Vemula was before yesterday. No one except his immediate life circle knew him before yesterday.

But, now I know who he was, through his words – through this letter. A loss of young life this way leaves unanswered questions for all of us – blaming us collectively – for failing it.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

Rohith Vemula only letter (addressed to all of us) – and must be for all of us..

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 every 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 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.

DEVELOPMENT PARADOX: BULLET TRAIN AND SHAKURBASTI SLUM

The paradox of these two words that represent the two extremes, two hostile paradigms of development, sums the essence of the two most intense news developments these days – bilateral agreement with Japan on India’s first high speed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, that we also live to call the ‘Bullet Train’ corridor – and the daylight, inhuman demolition of shanties in Delhi’s Shakurbasti area by Indian Railways.

We may go on endlessly debating if India needs or doesn’t need a ‘Bullet Train’ – but when we see such developments that need huge investment (here it is INR 98000 crore, at this concept stage, and may well end up with higher figures when it is finally done) in the context of the fact that India is still home to countless slum habitations throughout its length and breadth, including its national capital Delhi, we are forced to question the relevance of such massive projects when resources should ideally be invested first in uplifting poor people.

But like it happens, everyone in the policymaking class is busy extracting mileage here with the Shakurbasti demolition incident (with visibly poor or non-existent relief measures for those displaced) – Aam Aadmi Party, BJP, Congress and everyone else, including Indian Railways, the massive Indian government outfit that reeks of corruption and inefficiency in its operations and is headed by a Rail Minister who selects only positive tweets to retweet, sifting away all those negativities. But can he?

As per Census 2011 figures, the slum population in India has gone up to 65 million from 52 million in 2001.

And the primary responsibility of any government in India should be bringing this figure down first. Bullet Trains, that anyway are nowhere near to the primary needs of rail infrastructure in India, may come later.

Because these 65 million are the just the ones who bothered to get counted. There would be, and there are many more than this figure and that should always serve as reminder for the mammoth task that lies before us – to uplift millions from poverty, to mainstream them into society – as society in a democratic country like India – the way it has been enshrined in our Constitution.

We are committing criminal offence by leaving many of our sisters and brothers out in the open, to face difficult and life threatening circumstances – like we did so in the Shakurbasti demolition case. We forced thousands out of their homes without thinking of the cold, inclement weather, without thinking how they would battle it out without roofs over their heads.

Yes, there are many parameters and their indicators that rightly vouch for India’s rising global prominence – the world’s youngest nation, a nation with large middle class that is slated to become the largest, among the world’s largest economies, the world’s fastest growing economy, the favourite marketplace of the world’s companies after China, the example of successful democratic transition from a colonial past, and so on.

But unless and until we don’t work on to bring uniformity in lives of ordinary Indians, we will consistently face such dilemmatic propositions on development – the paradoxes that force us to think what we need first – that how should we prioritize elements of governance in a fast moving economy that still has the maximum headcount of the world’s poor.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/