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.