A letter that should shake our world: Dalit scholar suicide triggers outrage
Rohith Vemula will live on
Anguished and shocked at Rohith’s death, expelled students vow to continue the protest with support of others
Nationwide protests will take place following the suicide by Vemula Rohith, a Dalit student at the university of Hyderabad (UoH) on the evening of Sunday, January 17. The first protest, spontaneous and angry, took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) late night, about 9.30 p.m. on Sunday January 17, 2016 itself. Vemula Rohith left a poignant suicide note before he took his life by hanging himself in the room of a colleague-friend in Hyderabad.
The next protest will take place outside the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) and its minister, Smriti Irani at 2 p.m. on Monday January 18. Irani had, according to protesting students and a letter written by a ruling party Member of Parliament (MP)—see https://www.sabrangindia.in/article/we-shall-not-be-silenced-protest-against-expulsion-dalit-research-scholars — obviously interfered in the matter of unlawful suspension of five PHD students and in protecting the student saffron wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The students belonging to the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) of which Rohith Vemula was an active part, had been furthering a debate on issues related to social justice, including communalism, ensuring that they get effectively flagged on the campus. Irani’s alleged interference can be traced to a letter written by none less than Bandaru Dattatreya , Secunderabad BJP MP and Minister of State for Labour and Employment, to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) dubbing ASA “casteist, extremist and anti-national”. The communication demanded that the “dynamic leadership” of Smriti Irani, Minister of Human Resources and Development, bring about a “change for the better” in the institution. The ‘change for the better’ in ideological terms (for the Sangh Parivar) meant overruling an earlier decision of former Vice Chancellor of the University RB Sharna who revoked an earlier suspension of the same students after the decision was found to be not in accordance with the decision taken by the Proctorial Board of the UoH (August-September 2015). Sharma soon retired after which the newly appointed and more politically compliant, Appa Rao ‘fell in line’ with Dattarayera’s communication and Irani’s interventions.
Anguished at the loss of life of one of their own, one of the five PHD students unlawfully suspended, students from the ASA and other students organizations including the Students Federation of India (SFI) told Sabrangindia that though deeply disturbed there is a steely determination among the students that the late night, sleep out protest will continue.