Rohith’s suicide, JNU row unites Left and Dalit students all over India
7 March 2016
University and college campuses in India are seeing more unity between opposing student unions than ever before thanks to the issues of the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and the nationalism-sedition controversy at JNU. Some colleges that never had a student body before are also now creating them.
In JNU, from where Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was charged with sedition together with seven other students with various political ideologies after an event was organised on campus on 9 February, where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised, Leftist student organisations such as the Students Federation of India, All India Students Federation and the All India Students Association are now working together with Dalit group, Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (Bapsa).
The All India Students Association and All India Students Federation members were the first in JNU to protest discrimination against Dalits after Rohith’s suicide on 17 January, and Bapsa members participated in rallies organised by their one-time rivals to protest the government and police crackdown on JNU.
"We still have ideological differences but have decided to join hands on common issues. It’s not a permanent union," said Manikanta, a Bapsa leader.".the recent association is aimed at fighting the Right-wing forces, which are on a mission to destroy institutions."
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Elsewhere, universities that lack student unions have now created student bodies to take up national issues. These include the Ambedkar University and the South Asian University in Delhi. At the South Asian University, according to student Ram Dayal Ahirwar, a forum of Dalit students has just been formed.
Ahir told The Telegraph that Dalit students almost everywhere have become very active.
Ambedkar University student Chaitanya said Dalit students of the university have formed a group called Nouroz (new beginning), which is participating in all the protest programmes organised by the JNU students’ union.
At Hyderabad Central University where Rohith Vemula hanged himself, student groups have formed a joint action committee for Justice for Rohith and to lobby for central universities to address caste discrimination.
"We have also contacted students at IIT Madras and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, where students are organising protests," said Dontha Prasanth, a friend of Rohith. The JAC has already contacted students of universities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
"We see hundreds of students who are not with any Right-wing or Left-wing organisation take part spontaneously in discussions and rallies," said Students Federation of India president Prashant Mukherjee. "The reason is, they realise that the government is on the wrong side - it’s trying to bulldoze institutions and crush dissent."
At Delhi University, the Youth for Social Justice, a Dalit organisation, is working in coordination with the Students Federation of India and the All India Students Association. They have together held two programmes.