Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang

A letter that should shake our world: Dalit scholar suicide triggers outrage

17 Jan 2020

First Published on: January 18, 2016


Rohith (right) carrying a poster of Ambedkar along with other belongings, after his suspension

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.

Vemula Rohith, was one of the five PHD students who had been expelled had been successfully protesting the high-handedness of the authorities, sleeping out in the open since the night of January 4, 2016, when the doors to their rooms were illegally locked though they had been quietly studying in their rooms following the suspension. Sabrangindia had carried a story on the protest on January 12. His colleagues were in a day-long meeting and it appears that Rohith Vemula hanged himself in another room of his friend-colleague on Sunday evening. The 28-year-old, hailing from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, was a Ph.D second year student. His letter tells a poignant tale
 


"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 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. "

A Hindi translation of the note left by Rohith Vemula can be seen here
 
It is a battle for freedom of expression. The Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) decided to screen Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai on campus last year (2015). The ABVP tried, unsuccessfully, to disrupt the screening. The saffron outfit began abusing students affiliated to the ASA on facebook and social media. Widespread protests by all students at this hate-mongering forced the student to submit a written apology. However, local BJP and RSS supporters joined with ABVP to force the VC to expel the ASA leaders on fabricated charges, although, a committee appointed by the VC had already given a favourable report finding no fault in the ASA or the students affiliated to it.

The persuasion in this communication appears to have worked. The Vice Chancellor buckled under pressure and without looking into the background of the case or even hearing the students, expelled them.

This expulsion from the hostel of five Dalit student leaders of the Ambedkar Students Association(ASA) at the Hyderabad Central University is illustrative of the manner in which politico-ideological considerations and governmental authority are being abused with impunity to suppress all points of view other than the self professed ‘nationalism’ of the Hindutva  brigade. Another reason for the expulsion was the claim that they had opposed the death sentence to Yakub Memon!

Several students groups from the university have also launched a legal battle. They have challenged the University of Hyderabad (UoH)’s decision to expel five Dalit scholars for allegedly attacking a student and a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).  Seeking justice, the suspended students, on December 18, filed a writ petition in the Hyderabad High Court. This development has come in the wake of university issuing orders, banning the Dalit scholars from hostels, barring their entry into common places in groups, administration building and disallowing their participation in students union elections as a punishment.

The unique sleep out research protest of the research scholars is backed by 10 student outfits on campus. Student supporters have been gathering singing slogans and participating in the seep out protests. All of us all over India most now organise protests and sleep out protests against the highhanded intolerance and authoritarianism of the present government.  The death of Rohith Vemula must not go in vain. 

A letter that should shake our world: Dalit scholar suicide triggers outrage

First Published on: January 18, 2016


Rohith (right) carrying a poster of Ambedkar along with other belongings, after his suspension

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.

Vemula Rohith, was one of the five PHD students who had been expelled had been successfully protesting the high-handedness of the authorities, sleeping out in the open since the night of January 4, 2016, when the doors to their rooms were illegally locked though they had been quietly studying in their rooms following the suspension. Sabrangindia had carried a story on the protest on January 12. His colleagues were in a day-long meeting and it appears that Rohith Vemula hanged himself in another room of his friend-colleague on Sunday evening. The 28-year-old, hailing from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, was a Ph.D second year student. His letter tells a poignant tale
 


"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 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. "

A Hindi translation of the note left by Rohith Vemula can be seen here
 
It is a battle for freedom of expression. The Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) decided to screen Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai on campus last year (2015). The ABVP tried, unsuccessfully, to disrupt the screening. The saffron outfit began abusing students affiliated to the ASA on facebook and social media. Widespread protests by all students at this hate-mongering forced the student to submit a written apology. However, local BJP and RSS supporters joined with ABVP to force the VC to expel the ASA leaders on fabricated charges, although, a committee appointed by the VC had already given a favourable report finding no fault in the ASA or the students affiliated to it.

The persuasion in this communication appears to have worked. The Vice Chancellor buckled under pressure and without looking into the background of the case or even hearing the students, expelled them.

This expulsion from the hostel of five Dalit student leaders of the Ambedkar Students Association(ASA) at the Hyderabad Central University is illustrative of the manner in which politico-ideological considerations and governmental authority are being abused with impunity to suppress all points of view other than the self professed ‘nationalism’ of the Hindutva  brigade. Another reason for the expulsion was the claim that they had opposed the death sentence to Yakub Memon!

Several students groups from the university have also launched a legal battle. They have challenged the University of Hyderabad (UoH)’s decision to expel five Dalit scholars for allegedly attacking a student and a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).  Seeking justice, the suspended students, on December 18, filed a writ petition in the Hyderabad High Court. This development has come in the wake of university issuing orders, banning the Dalit scholars from hostels, barring their entry into common places in groups, administration building and disallowing their participation in students union elections as a punishment.

The unique sleep out research protest of the research scholars is backed by 10 student outfits on campus. Student supporters have been gathering singing slogans and participating in the seep out protests. All of us all over India most now organise protests and sleep out protests against the highhanded intolerance and authoritarianism of the present government.  The death of Rohith Vemula must not go in vain. 

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

How to talk about caste and casteism

A step-by-step guide for Savarnas to acknowledge and address an age-old evil, and become part of the solution

17 Jan 2020

Caste

It isn’t easy to talk about caste, especially for those of us who have, perhaps inadvertently, benefitted from a hierarchical social structure built upon the foundation of oppression. But this doesn’t mean Savarnas cannot play a role in eliminating discrimination and prejudice. Here is a step by step guide.

1)     Understand the concept of privilege: People often have a very narrow view of what it means to be privileged. The concept is often wrongly tethered to financial might. While it is true that more privileged people are likelier to have greater access to all kinds of resources including money, privilege is actually a much more complex concept. Instead of approaching it as a “have vs have-not” idea, try to view it as the following question: “What have I not been forced to endure?” For example; “Have I ever been forced to sit on the ground while my other classmates sit on benches or chairs in school?” or “Have I ever been presumed to be unhygienic because my ancestors have historically been associated with professions related to sanitation and waste management?”

2)     Understand intersectionalism: This approach to the idea of privilege will also help you understand that being able-bodied and having a sound mind are also a privilege, and therefore a disabled Dalit person experiences two layers of challenges. The more the layers of challenges, the harder a person has to work to overcome them. Therefore, often underprivileged people work twice as hard but get only half as much.

3)     Accept that there is a hegemony: The hegemony is a social order where the most privileged people are on top, and as each layer of privilege disappears, their location falls lower and lower in the order. For example: Cis-gender, hetero-sexual, able-bodied, upper caste male members of the majority community who are of sound mind will always have a higher location in the social hierarchy than a lower caste, homosexual, disabled woman or a mentally challenged person from a minority community.

4)     Acknowledge historical oppression: This is often the hardest thing to do. We all love our families and accepting that our ancestors either engaged in caste-based discrimination or benefitted from it on account of their higher location in the social order, is difficult. But, what can help make it easier to accept is that you do not have to be defined by the bad decisions (even if they were inadvertent) of your forefathers. You can help undo their wrongs and build a more just society.

5)     Educate yourself: There are many books, studies, research papers and other resources that trace the genesis and impact of casteism. Read up as much as you can. This will help you form stronger arguments against what is clearly a social evil, instead of just engaging in tokenism like dropping one’s surname. If generation after generation of your family have already benefitted from having a certain surname that indicates that you belong to a so called “upper caste”, dropping your surname will neither erase privileges that you already have, nor will it empower people who come from historically oppressed families and communities. This will also help you acquire the correct vocabulary required to address communities with respect and help you identify offensive words and terms that you must avoid at all costs. Also, share your knowledge with friends and family. This might lead to uncomfortable conversations with parents and grandparents, so find a way to keep it civil.

6)     Pass the mic: Once you have educated yourself you might feel tempted to organize a demonstration or a public meeting. But instead of hogging the mic to talk about what you have discovered, why not let a less privileged person speak and narrate their story in their own words? Why not let them tell you what they want and need, instead of you pontificating on the ills of casteism?

7)     Introspect: Look at your immediate surroundings. How many of your friends, neighbours and colleagues belong to the same social strata and caste as you? Instead of accusing Dalits and minorities of living in filthy ghettos and hovels, ask yourself what prevents their integration into your spaces, neighbourhoods, schools or workplaces. Are Savarnas not guilty of building their own islands of privilege, spaces designed to keep out Dalits, Bahujans, Adivasis and minorities? Are you actively or even passively a part of the “othering” process? Does your domestic help drink from the same tea cup as you? Do you eat at a table away from the ‘vernacs’ in the workplace? Do you live in a “proudly vegetarian” neighbourhood? Do you just have that one token Muslim friend who you only speak to or about in context of Eid or biryani? Once you have identified your own possibly subconscious discriminatory behavior, push for measures to remove these obstacles to integration with the “others”. Demand more diversity.  

How to talk about caste and casteism

A step-by-step guide for Savarnas to acknowledge and address an age-old evil, and become part of the solution

Caste

It isn’t easy to talk about caste, especially for those of us who have, perhaps inadvertently, benefitted from a hierarchical social structure built upon the foundation of oppression. But this doesn’t mean Savarnas cannot play a role in eliminating discrimination and prejudice. Here is a step by step guide.

1)     Understand the concept of privilege: People often have a very narrow view of what it means to be privileged. The concept is often wrongly tethered to financial might. While it is true that more privileged people are likelier to have greater access to all kinds of resources including money, privilege is actually a much more complex concept. Instead of approaching it as a “have vs have-not” idea, try to view it as the following question: “What have I not been forced to endure?” For example; “Have I ever been forced to sit on the ground while my other classmates sit on benches or chairs in school?” or “Have I ever been presumed to be unhygienic because my ancestors have historically been associated with professions related to sanitation and waste management?”

2)     Understand intersectionalism: This approach to the idea of privilege will also help you understand that being able-bodied and having a sound mind are also a privilege, and therefore a disabled Dalit person experiences two layers of challenges. The more the layers of challenges, the harder a person has to work to overcome them. Therefore, often underprivileged people work twice as hard but get only half as much.

3)     Accept that there is a hegemony: The hegemony is a social order where the most privileged people are on top, and as each layer of privilege disappears, their location falls lower and lower in the order. For example: Cis-gender, hetero-sexual, able-bodied, upper caste male members of the majority community who are of sound mind will always have a higher location in the social hierarchy than a lower caste, homosexual, disabled woman or a mentally challenged person from a minority community.

4)     Acknowledge historical oppression: This is often the hardest thing to do. We all love our families and accepting that our ancestors either engaged in caste-based discrimination or benefitted from it on account of their higher location in the social order, is difficult. But, what can help make it easier to accept is that you do not have to be defined by the bad decisions (even if they were inadvertent) of your forefathers. You can help undo their wrongs and build a more just society.

5)     Educate yourself: There are many books, studies, research papers and other resources that trace the genesis and impact of casteism. Read up as much as you can. This will help you form stronger arguments against what is clearly a social evil, instead of just engaging in tokenism like dropping one’s surname. If generation after generation of your family have already benefitted from having a certain surname that indicates that you belong to a so called “upper caste”, dropping your surname will neither erase privileges that you already have, nor will it empower people who come from historically oppressed families and communities. This will also help you acquire the correct vocabulary required to address communities with respect and help you identify offensive words and terms that you must avoid at all costs. Also, share your knowledge with friends and family. This might lead to uncomfortable conversations with parents and grandparents, so find a way to keep it civil.

6)     Pass the mic: Once you have educated yourself you might feel tempted to organize a demonstration or a public meeting. But instead of hogging the mic to talk about what you have discovered, why not let a less privileged person speak and narrate their story in their own words? Why not let them tell you what they want and need, instead of you pontificating on the ills of casteism?

7)     Introspect: Look at your immediate surroundings. How many of your friends, neighbours and colleagues belong to the same social strata and caste as you? Instead of accusing Dalits and minorities of living in filthy ghettos and hovels, ask yourself what prevents their integration into your spaces, neighbourhoods, schools or workplaces. Are Savarnas not guilty of building their own islands of privilege, spaces designed to keep out Dalits, Bahujans, Adivasis and minorities? Are you actively or even passively a part of the “othering” process? Does your domestic help drink from the same tea cup as you? Do you eat at a table away from the ‘vernacs’ in the workplace? Do you live in a “proudly vegetarian” neighbourhood? Do you just have that one token Muslim friend who you only speak to or about in context of Eid or biryani? Once you have identified your own possibly subconscious discriminatory behavior, push for measures to remove these obstacles to integration with the “others”. Demand more diversity.  

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Rohith Vemula March: The Caste Turn for Student Delhites?

16 Jan 2020

First published on February 23, 2016



Rohith Vemula gives them the perfect point of departure

 
Delhi is a city that has naturalised caste: a gardener believes he is born to be a gardener; a maid believes she was born to be a maid. Its so called efficiency has something to do with this aspect. Even among academics and students, the understanding and discussions of caste stay at their abstract best. Most of them are well meaning to be concerned about the "upliftment of Dalits" but in the busy-ness of their own professional lives, they really couldn't do much. The city kept running on the shoulders of the Dalits. Caste was a matter to be encountered only in reservation debates and that was a sort polemics only the political class could go through with.
 
But Rohith Vemula's one-note altered the caste debates in the country, from asking, "How can discrimination against Dalits be stopped?" or, "How can Dalits be uplifted" to, "Why is our society so inhumanly casteist?" or, "When will upper castes improve?", making every one ask the question, "Why are we like this?". The fact that his suicide note did not have a single word about caste discrimination, it only spoke about the need to travel from "shadows to stars" and the impossibility of it, struck a code with Delhi's students. Now they knew it was not about Dalits alone; it was more about them. Or the impossibility of being themselves ethically in this system. Now the onus was on the academic community: to make sure that Rohith is the absolute last to be orphaned to death.
 
The huge march in solidarity with JNU (against the trending #ShutdownJNU) on February 18 had many posters of Rohith Vemula and slogans such as, "JNU to bahana hai, Rohith ka mudda dabana hai" (JNU is an excuse to distract from Rohith's issue) prominently demonstrated such a change. The straight-line from FTII through HCU and OccupyUGC to JNU that students kept drawing was quite in place: the central government doesn't seem to understand the ways in which students work or think.
 
The Narendra Modi government might be good at attacking known political or social formations but students are an evolving social category and it clearly doesn't have the tools. If FTII was a clear case of trying to show "we can, so we will", OccupyUGC was an unnecessary provocation and HCU was MHRD's flexing its muscles gone terribly awry and JNU its hurried conclusions riding on hyper sensationalist jingoism. The mass media debates on national/anti-national, continued on social media, made students realise their common sense and regular discussions were stuff that could be termed "anti-national" and they found themselves in a strange situation where they had to explain their very existence to friends and family in the "tax payer entitlement" narrative. Students who were not part of any existing political formation also felt alienated and they kept telling themselves and others: students have to fight as students. In fact, they found a student issue with a cosmic objective to fight for.
 
The "Chalo Dilli" march on April 23rd and its clarion call "Delhi for Rohith Vemula" became exciting not just because more than 5,000 people walked a kilometre together from Ambedkar Bhawan to Jantar Mantar, or because there was a representation from all parties other than the BJP for the rally, but because the students had found a new icon in Rohith Vemula. It was difficult to dispute him or reject him if you didn't have party obligations or social interests.

The speciality of this icon was in its social content: caste was becoming an issue of political debate in student lives. Some Delhi students whose encounter with caste as a political issue was rather new also kept shouting "Jai Bheem" in an event primarily organised by Dalit organisations. 
 
One of the limitations of the Indian student movements has been their being floated and managed by students who socially belong to the ruling elite of the country. This is quite different from the Western situation where student movements have been political, academic and cultural manifestations of social changes. The chemical change of thinking in the 1960s was a result of socio-economic changes that ushered in women, African Americans, refugees, third world students and homosexuals into academe in huge numbers.
 
In India, such a turn hasn't happened. Nationalism and universal class wars were the concerns of student politics in earlier decades. But now the organising principle of Indian society is their problem as students. It might be the caste turn for student discourses. 
 
Surely, unlike in the University of Hyderabad, where the number of Dalit students is huge and the discourse of caste is very strong, Delhi still doesn't have such a situation. But it must now emerge to address the huge blind spot they have now realised. And Rohith Vemula gives them the perfect point of departure. 
 

Rohith Vemula March: The Caste Turn for Student Delhites?

First published on February 23, 2016



Rohith Vemula gives them the perfect point of departure

 
Delhi is a city that has naturalised caste: a gardener believes he is born to be a gardener; a maid believes she was born to be a maid. Its so called efficiency has something to do with this aspect. Even among academics and students, the understanding and discussions of caste stay at their abstract best. Most of them are well meaning to be concerned about the "upliftment of Dalits" but in the busy-ness of their own professional lives, they really couldn't do much. The city kept running on the shoulders of the Dalits. Caste was a matter to be encountered only in reservation debates and that was a sort polemics only the political class could go through with.
 
But Rohith Vemula's one-note altered the caste debates in the country, from asking, "How can discrimination against Dalits be stopped?" or, "How can Dalits be uplifted" to, "Why is our society so inhumanly casteist?" or, "When will upper castes improve?", making every one ask the question, "Why are we like this?". The fact that his suicide note did not have a single word about caste discrimination, it only spoke about the need to travel from "shadows to stars" and the impossibility of it, struck a code with Delhi's students. Now they knew it was not about Dalits alone; it was more about them. Or the impossibility of being themselves ethically in this system. Now the onus was on the academic community: to make sure that Rohith is the absolute last to be orphaned to death.
 
The huge march in solidarity with JNU (against the trending #ShutdownJNU) on February 18 had many posters of Rohith Vemula and slogans such as, "JNU to bahana hai, Rohith ka mudda dabana hai" (JNU is an excuse to distract from Rohith's issue) prominently demonstrated such a change. The straight-line from FTII through HCU and OccupyUGC to JNU that students kept drawing was quite in place: the central government doesn't seem to understand the ways in which students work or think.
 
The Narendra Modi government might be good at attacking known political or social formations but students are an evolving social category and it clearly doesn't have the tools. If FTII was a clear case of trying to show "we can, so we will", OccupyUGC was an unnecessary provocation and HCU was MHRD's flexing its muscles gone terribly awry and JNU its hurried conclusions riding on hyper sensationalist jingoism. The mass media debates on national/anti-national, continued on social media, made students realise their common sense and regular discussions were stuff that could be termed "anti-national" and they found themselves in a strange situation where they had to explain their very existence to friends and family in the "tax payer entitlement" narrative. Students who were not part of any existing political formation also felt alienated and they kept telling themselves and others: students have to fight as students. In fact, they found a student issue with a cosmic objective to fight for.
 
The "Chalo Dilli" march on April 23rd and its clarion call "Delhi for Rohith Vemula" became exciting not just because more than 5,000 people walked a kilometre together from Ambedkar Bhawan to Jantar Mantar, or because there was a representation from all parties other than the BJP for the rally, but because the students had found a new icon in Rohith Vemula. It was difficult to dispute him or reject him if you didn't have party obligations or social interests.

The speciality of this icon was in its social content: caste was becoming an issue of political debate in student lives. Some Delhi students whose encounter with caste as a political issue was rather new also kept shouting "Jai Bheem" in an event primarily organised by Dalit organisations. 
 
One of the limitations of the Indian student movements has been their being floated and managed by students who socially belong to the ruling elite of the country. This is quite different from the Western situation where student movements have been political, academic and cultural manifestations of social changes. The chemical change of thinking in the 1960s was a result of socio-economic changes that ushered in women, African Americans, refugees, third world students and homosexuals into academe in huge numbers.
 
In India, such a turn hasn't happened. Nationalism and universal class wars were the concerns of student politics in earlier decades. But now the organising principle of Indian society is their problem as students. It might be the caste turn for student discourses. 
 
Surely, unlike in the University of Hyderabad, where the number of Dalit students is huge and the discourse of caste is very strong, Delhi still doesn't have such a situation. But it must now emerge to address the huge blind spot they have now realised. And Rohith Vemula gives them the perfect point of departure. 
 

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Calling Smriti Irani's Bluff: Twisted Truths in Parliament

16 Jan 2020

First published on February 25, 2016



Goebbels was an interesting and effective man. Held responsible for many of the worst and most supremacist and violent ideas that guided Fuhrer Hitler’s reign, he is recalled in history, more as a frequently used adjective-term, to connote a particular kind of pernicious government propaganda based on lies, or at best half-truths (he headed the Propaganda Ministry of the Nazi government).

Goebbelsian propaganda has been the forte of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and was palpably evident in Minister, MHRD, Smriti Irani’s speech in the Lok Sabha yesterday, February 24,2016.

The broader issues raised in the speech by the Union Minister for Human Resources Development (MHRD) have already been effectively countered in The Telegraph : A [1]Fact Check on what HRD minister Smruti Irani said in Parliament [2] including countering systematic efforts at vilification and name calling.[3]

Here we put some Questions countering the Goebbelsian untruths surrounding the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula


Did or did not the central minister of the BJP, Bandaru Dattatreya write to Irani on August 17, 2015, a letter in which he clearly calls the activities and vision of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) as casteist and anti-national?  Letter can be seen here.

Was or was not Rohith Vemula’s Research Fellowship stopped (illegally) for seven months severely constraining and humiliating him?

Did or did not, on five occasions, bureaucrats of the MHRD under Irani write directly to the Vice Chancellor (VC) Hyderabad Central University (HCU) on the matter showing an unseemly interest in the case ?

(The letters are dated September 3, 2015 from the Under Secretary referring to comments by Bandaru Dattatreya, MOS, for Labour and Employment; another dated September 24, 2015, sent as reminder, signed by Deputy Secretary to the GOI; letter dated October 20, 2015, signed by Joint Secretary, MHRD; letter dated November 19, 2015, signed by Under Secretary to the GOI). Letters can be seen here.

Do or do not these letters show an obsessive interest by the Minister, MHRD that was, in effect, putting extraordinary pressure on the VC?

Is it or is it not true that a fellow student at HCU called the Health Centre immediately after learning of Rohith being hanged and within five minutes the CMO Health Centre, Dr P Rajashree reached the spot, felt his pulse and declared him dead nullifying the Goebellian lie to the nation in Parliament that no doctor or police were allowed to see Rohith till the next day? 
[The doctor certified Rohith's death at 7.30 pm: UoH medical officer counters Smriti Irani's statement - http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/doctor-certified-rohiths-death-730-pm-uoh-medical-officer-counters-smriti-iranis-statement#sthash.tdp9MlM4.dpuf]

Is it not true that Rohith Vemula was quietly cremated without family or friends as the authorities did not want to face up to the palpable anger on campus and outside?
 
Did or did not the newly appointed Vice Chancellor, Appa Rao receive a chilling letter from Rohith Vemula on December 18, 2015 –a month before his death --that clearly indicated a warning: that by the systematic exclusion and humiliation Rohith was being pushed, and reaching, the end of his tether?

[Rohith allegedly sarcastically said in the letter that every VC of HCU should “10 mg of sodium azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission… [and] a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalit students.” This handwritten letter should have been read as a precursor to what was coming. In the letter, Rohith allegedly goes on to say, “I request your highness to make preparations for the facility [of] ‘euthanasia’ for students like me. And I wish you and the campus rest in peace forever.” ]

Does or does this communication not squarely put the blame on the university authorities and, first and foremost, on the vice chancellor ?
[The letter traces the officially sanctioned “social boycott” of Dalit students after they took on a member of the ABVP for making derogatory remarks about Dalits. “Donald Trump will be a lilliput in front of you..”]




Did or does the VC feel at all disturbed by this communication? Does the GOI? Was there any communication between the VC, HCU authorities and Rohith and the other four research scholars between December 18, 2015 and January 17, 2016?

Were or were not the five Dalit Research scholars locked out of their rooms from January 4, 2016 onwards, compelling them to start a protest and sleep out, on the street, rubbing salt on wounds so to speak: since their research fellowship stipends had been illegally cut off from July 2015 onwards?

Were or were not the five Dalit scholars ostracised on campus and asked not even to visit the library for research, further humiliating them?

Is it or is it not true that senior functionaries of the GOI, including two central ministers (both women) have questioned the authenticity of Dalit identity of Rohith? link[4] (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rohith-Vemula-was-not-a-dalit-Sushma-Swaraj-says/articleshow/50788780.cms)

After January 17, 2016 and the tragic step that Rohith Vemula took, did or did not the GOI appoint Ajit Duval, National security Advisor the Task to investigate the real caste of Rohith Vemula?  (See Certificates)
[http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Ajit-Doval-gets-report-saying-Rohith-Vemula-was-not-a-dalit/articleshow/50749810.cms; also see http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/was-rohith-vemula-dalit-or-not-and-does-it-matter-explained-37936]

Did the trail not begin politically: with the Vice President, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Hyderabad,  Nandanam Diwakar writing to Central minister Dattareya, (August 10, 2015), seven days before the latter writes to Irani, a letter in which wrong and exaggerated accounts of ABVP student, Susheel Kumar’s injuries are given as well as a litany of political opposition to Ambedkarites listed? Here is the letter.





Is it not true that the claim that the University’s Investigation Team had a Dalit is untrue (Irani’s claim); there were no Dalits in the team and it was in fact headed by a Brahmin?

Is it or is it not true that all claims that ABVP student leader, Susheel Kumar “was beaten up by Rohith”, made repeatedly are actually, are untrue; HCU registrar and others have rejected Susheel Kumar’s story on violence relying on medical reports show that he was admitted to hospital for appendicitis?

 Is it not true that the executive council of HCU only decided to suspend the students, that too from their hostels (Irani said they were expelled by the EC!) and that the trigger was a falsified account of a physical struggle between the RSS-affiliated ABVP and the ASA; with the former screaming “assault” and the hospital records suggesting an examination for a prior medical condition?


While Irani was giving what some have termed as a star performance in the Lok Sabha– even India’s prime minister tweeted his jubiliation at her speech-- Rohith Vemula's mother, Radhika, was at a candlelight vigil at India Gate demanding justice for her  26-year-old son. Radhika Vemula was picked up and taken to a police station in the heart of the capital when Smriti Irani was telling Parliament how condemnable it was that a "child was being used as a political tool".



Close to a month before, in a similar act the MHRD minister, Irani had, in a press conference, claimed that Rohith’s death had nothing to do with his being a Dalit.

Then Radhika Vemula had countered and I today recall those words, "I want to meet Smriti Irani and ask her 'On what basis did you declare my son to be anti-national? Your Ministry had written that my Rohith and other Dalit students were anti-national extremists. You said that he is not a Dalit. You accused him of getting a false certificate. Should I say it is because you got false certificates for your educational qualifications that you think others do so too? You stopped my son's stipend, you got him suspended from the university. You are the Minister for HRD, but you have no value for education. You can never understand how difficult it is for a Dalit to reach the stage of doing his PhD. You can never imagine the hardship, the struggle, the tears and sacrifice to reach that position. In three months, you destroyed what it had taken me 26 years to build. I am talking about my Rohith, he died at the age of 26.'"

Goebbelsian as the propaganda machine is, I do not really expect answers. There are two parallel streams at work here, one asserting, the other challenging the Indian Constitution. The war between truth, reality and propaganda is well and truly on.
 


[1] http://www.abplive.in/india-news/a-fact-check-on-what-smriti-irani-said-in-parliament-295872
[2] For the record, the writer of this article was mentioned by the Hon’ble Minister in her speech leading to several calls from the media: there were falsifications, probably deliberate here too: the Supplemenatry materials for teachers of the Don Bosco schools were prepared by me (the author of this article) in 2001; not when Kapil Sibal was a Minister; it was the Shiv Sena that had then taken objections to the manner in which Shivaji's Coronation was dealt with in the manuals.the author of the manuals has an adjudication in her favour from the State Human Rights Commission.
[4] http://www.firstpost.com/india/after-widespread-outrage-smriti-irani-claims-rohith-suicide-not-dalit-vs-non-dalit-matter-2591830.html; http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/smriti-irani-spoke-of-this-child-his-mother-wants-answers-1281036

Calling Smriti Irani's Bluff: Twisted Truths in Parliament

First published on February 25, 2016



Goebbels was an interesting and effective man. Held responsible for many of the worst and most supremacist and violent ideas that guided Fuhrer Hitler’s reign, he is recalled in history, more as a frequently used adjective-term, to connote a particular kind of pernicious government propaganda based on lies, or at best half-truths (he headed the Propaganda Ministry of the Nazi government).

Goebbelsian propaganda has been the forte of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and was palpably evident in Minister, MHRD, Smriti Irani’s speech in the Lok Sabha yesterday, February 24,2016.

The broader issues raised in the speech by the Union Minister for Human Resources Development (MHRD) have already been effectively countered in The Telegraph : A [1]Fact Check on what HRD minister Smruti Irani said in Parliament [2] including countering systematic efforts at vilification and name calling.[3]

Here we put some Questions countering the Goebbelsian untruths surrounding the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula


Did or did not the central minister of the BJP, Bandaru Dattatreya write to Irani on August 17, 2015, a letter in which he clearly calls the activities and vision of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) as casteist and anti-national?  Letter can be seen here.

Was or was not Rohith Vemula’s Research Fellowship stopped (illegally) for seven months severely constraining and humiliating him?

Did or did not, on five occasions, bureaucrats of the MHRD under Irani write directly to the Vice Chancellor (VC) Hyderabad Central University (HCU) on the matter showing an unseemly interest in the case ?

(The letters are dated September 3, 2015 from the Under Secretary referring to comments by Bandaru Dattatreya, MOS, for Labour and Employment; another dated September 24, 2015, sent as reminder, signed by Deputy Secretary to the GOI; letter dated October 20, 2015, signed by Joint Secretary, MHRD; letter dated November 19, 2015, signed by Under Secretary to the GOI). Letters can be seen here.

Do or do not these letters show an obsessive interest by the Minister, MHRD that was, in effect, putting extraordinary pressure on the VC?

Is it or is it not true that a fellow student at HCU called the Health Centre immediately after learning of Rohith being hanged and within five minutes the CMO Health Centre, Dr P Rajashree reached the spot, felt his pulse and declared him dead nullifying the Goebellian lie to the nation in Parliament that no doctor or police were allowed to see Rohith till the next day? 
[The doctor certified Rohith's death at 7.30 pm: UoH medical officer counters Smriti Irani's statement - http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/doctor-certified-rohiths-death-730-pm-uoh-medical-officer-counters-smriti-iranis-statement#sthash.tdp9MlM4.dpuf]

Is it not true that Rohith Vemula was quietly cremated without family or friends as the authorities did not want to face up to the palpable anger on campus and outside?
 
Did or did not the newly appointed Vice Chancellor, Appa Rao receive a chilling letter from Rohith Vemula on December 18, 2015 –a month before his death --that clearly indicated a warning: that by the systematic exclusion and humiliation Rohith was being pushed, and reaching, the end of his tether?

[Rohith allegedly sarcastically said in the letter that every VC of HCU should “10 mg of sodium azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission… [and] a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalit students.” This handwritten letter should have been read as a precursor to what was coming. In the letter, Rohith allegedly goes on to say, “I request your highness to make preparations for the facility [of] ‘euthanasia’ for students like me. And I wish you and the campus rest in peace forever.” ]

Does or does this communication not squarely put the blame on the university authorities and, first and foremost, on the vice chancellor ?
[The letter traces the officially sanctioned “social boycott” of Dalit students after they took on a member of the ABVP for making derogatory remarks about Dalits. “Donald Trump will be a lilliput in front of you..”]




Did or does the VC feel at all disturbed by this communication? Does the GOI? Was there any communication between the VC, HCU authorities and Rohith and the other four research scholars between December 18, 2015 and January 17, 2016?

Were or were not the five Dalit Research scholars locked out of their rooms from January 4, 2016 onwards, compelling them to start a protest and sleep out, on the street, rubbing salt on wounds so to speak: since their research fellowship stipends had been illegally cut off from July 2015 onwards?

Were or were not the five Dalit scholars ostracised on campus and asked not even to visit the library for research, further humiliating them?

Is it or is it not true that senior functionaries of the GOI, including two central ministers (both women) have questioned the authenticity of Dalit identity of Rohith? link[4] (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rohith-Vemula-was-not-a-dalit-Sushma-Swaraj-says/articleshow/50788780.cms)

After January 17, 2016 and the tragic step that Rohith Vemula took, did or did not the GOI appoint Ajit Duval, National security Advisor the Task to investigate the real caste of Rohith Vemula?  (See Certificates)
[http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Ajit-Doval-gets-report-saying-Rohith-Vemula-was-not-a-dalit/articleshow/50749810.cms; also see http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/was-rohith-vemula-dalit-or-not-and-does-it-matter-explained-37936]

Did the trail not begin politically: with the Vice President, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Hyderabad,  Nandanam Diwakar writing to Central minister Dattareya, (August 10, 2015), seven days before the latter writes to Irani, a letter in which wrong and exaggerated accounts of ABVP student, Susheel Kumar’s injuries are given as well as a litany of political opposition to Ambedkarites listed? Here is the letter.





Is it not true that the claim that the University’s Investigation Team had a Dalit is untrue (Irani’s claim); there were no Dalits in the team and it was in fact headed by a Brahmin?

Is it or is it not true that all claims that ABVP student leader, Susheel Kumar “was beaten up by Rohith”, made repeatedly are actually, are untrue; HCU registrar and others have rejected Susheel Kumar’s story on violence relying on medical reports show that he was admitted to hospital for appendicitis?

 Is it not true that the executive council of HCU only decided to suspend the students, that too from their hostels (Irani said they were expelled by the EC!) and that the trigger was a falsified account of a physical struggle between the RSS-affiliated ABVP and the ASA; with the former screaming “assault” and the hospital records suggesting an examination for a prior medical condition?


While Irani was giving what some have termed as a star performance in the Lok Sabha– even India’s prime minister tweeted his jubiliation at her speech-- Rohith Vemula's mother, Radhika, was at a candlelight vigil at India Gate demanding justice for her  26-year-old son. Radhika Vemula was picked up and taken to a police station in the heart of the capital when Smriti Irani was telling Parliament how condemnable it was that a "child was being used as a political tool".



Close to a month before, in a similar act the MHRD minister, Irani had, in a press conference, claimed that Rohith’s death had nothing to do with his being a Dalit.

Then Radhika Vemula had countered and I today recall those words, "I want to meet Smriti Irani and ask her 'On what basis did you declare my son to be anti-national? Your Ministry had written that my Rohith and other Dalit students were anti-national extremists. You said that he is not a Dalit. You accused him of getting a false certificate. Should I say it is because you got false certificates for your educational qualifications that you think others do so too? You stopped my son's stipend, you got him suspended from the university. You are the Minister for HRD, but you have no value for education. You can never understand how difficult it is for a Dalit to reach the stage of doing his PhD. You can never imagine the hardship, the struggle, the tears and sacrifice to reach that position. In three months, you destroyed what it had taken me 26 years to build. I am talking about my Rohith, he died at the age of 26.'"

Goebbelsian as the propaganda machine is, I do not really expect answers. There are two parallel streams at work here, one asserting, the other challenging the Indian Constitution. The war between truth, reality and propaganda is well and truly on.
 


[1] http://www.abplive.in/india-news/a-fact-check-on-what-smriti-irani-said-in-parliament-295872
[2] For the record, the writer of this article was mentioned by the Hon’ble Minister in her speech leading to several calls from the media: there were falsifications, probably deliberate here too: the Supplemenatry materials for teachers of the Don Bosco schools were prepared by me (the author of this article) in 2001; not when Kapil Sibal was a Minister; it was the Shiv Sena that had then taken objections to the manner in which Shivaji's Coronation was dealt with in the manuals.the author of the manuals has an adjudication in her favour from the State Human Rights Commission.
[4] http://www.firstpost.com/india/after-widespread-outrage-smriti-irani-claims-rohith-suicide-not-dalit-vs-non-dalit-matter-2591830.html; http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/smriti-irani-spoke-of-this-child-his-mother-wants-answers-1281036

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

At the Pyre of Caste Hatred: Dalit suicides and the Media

16 Jan 2020

First Published on February 3, 2016


 
This article was written by  Shahina Nafeesa in Azhimukham. The translation is by Renu Ramanath


2010 September: To reach the village of Chinthula in Ranga Reddy District you have to travel around 60 kilometers from Hyderabad. That journey was in search of the home of R. Balaraj, who had been a Ph.D Scholar at the Central University of Hyderabad (HCU). Balraj was researching on Telugu Literature. During the second year of his Ph.D. Balraj hung himself to death. He would have become the first Ph.D. holder from his community, even from his locality. In the tiny, two-roomed house made of laterite there were Balraj’s father, mother, two sisters and brother. He was the only literate one in the household. All others did their caste occupation: tethering cattle.

The broken voice of Balraj’s mother Yadamma still echoes in the ears. She took out her son’s certificates one by one and showed them to me. Mark lists from the school onwards. Certificates carrying marks higher than distinction. From the 10th standard till post-graduation.

Rohith Vemula dreamt of writing like Carl Sagan. What was the dream of Balraj, who was researching in Telugu Literature ? His dreams are not even recorded. He had hung himself to death on a tree near his home. It’s not known whether there was a suicide note. His friend Vinod Kumar said Balraj was distressed from the very first year of the Ph.D. work.

During the first year, he was not given a supervisor. A professor used to insult him citing his caste. One day, he had reached the hostel in a totally despondent way. That day, he had told Vinod that the professor had asked him whether he could go to drive the cattle.

I went to the Chinthula Police Station. From the police records I could find that an FIR had been registered against the professor on charges of abetting the suicide. However, the Station House Officer informed me that the case was not proceeded against as there were no ‘evidences.’  The file was closed. Knowing that it would have been useless to ask him more questions, I left the police station.

Amaravathy, a Dalit girl, who was the national Boxing champion, poisoned herself in the hostel room of the Sports Academy. I met Amaravathi’s mother Lakshmi in a single room house in a narrow street of Hyderabad. She had sent her daughter to school while working as a maid. Learning of my arrival, she came to meet me from the house where she was working, in her soiled clothes. With tears in her eyes, she regretted having sent her daughter to the Sports Academy. She had to face heavy insults in the name of her caste. The coach hated Amaravathy. He would often ignore and insult her. Amaravathy took her life during the preparations for the national and international competitions.

Amaravathy’s certificates and medals lay on a wooden bench in a corner of the house. There was a large photo of Amaravathy standing in the boxing ring. The brilliant strength she displayed in the ring did not come to her help. That strength was not enough to overcome the pyre of caste hatred. Amaravathy had many victories under her belt, to her account. But, each of her failures was added on account of her caste. In each failure, she was insulted on the basis of her caste.

This fact had been revealed during the fact finding mission conducted by the National Dalit Forum regarding her death. Amaravathy’s mother’s face bears signs of where tear marks had dried up. Her endless guilt for the daughter. The question, did my daughter yearn for something undeserving…
This still lies raw, along with the thousands of wounds being inflicted during the course of a career in journalism.

Senthil Kumar, who was a Ph.D. Scholar in Physics, at Central University, Hyderabad, hanged himself in February, 2008. Like Balraj, Senthil who hailed from Salem, was also the first person to gain higher education from his community. Their caste profession was rearing pigs. Even after the first year, Senthil was not assigned to a supervisor. He had to pass in one of the four papers as part of the course work. His fellowship was stopped due that reason. This fact was also published on the notice board. Senthil had faced severe financial difficulties as the fellowship was stopped. His friends later said that the public announcement that appeared on the notice board that his fellowship would be cut as he failed in the course work had caused him great distress.

Prof. Sayid E. Hassan, who was the then Vice Chancellor at HCU, refused to accept that caste-based discrimination had led to the death of Senthil. His argument was that such an assumption could not be drawn. He tried to convince me that the Dalits had access to many opportunities in the Central University and that almost fifty percent of students were from Dalit communities. I just listened to him as it was not my job to argue with the VC and also because I had no strength left for the task. It is not easy to communicate with those who ask for evidence for caste-based discrimination. Such discrimination has to be experienced. Communication is just impossible especially with those who feign ignorance.

There was a large photo of Amaravathy standing in the boxing ring. The brilliant strength she displayed in the ring did not come to her help. That strength was not enough to overcome the pyre of caste hatred.

Anusha, who was a last year B.Com student at the Villa Mary College in Somajiguda committed suicide by jumping from the top of the college building. In November, 2009. The college was known as ‘College of Royal Girls.’ That a Dalit girl like Anusha had happened to reach there was another ‘fatal accident.’ She had no friends there. And she sat all alone on a bench. No ‘Royal Girls’ wanted to sit with Anusha. None of the teachers questioned this. At the end of the terrible ignominy, Anusha found a solution. In Rohith Vemula’s words, Anusha’s existence was reduced to that of a single identity. She must have experienced real isolation on that large bench.

It is not only the students who have complaints. The teachers from the Dalit community also have much to say.

Dr. K.Y.Ratnam, who was a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, at University of Hyderabad (he must still be there). His duty as the hostel warden was suddenly handed over to another teacher, of course a ‘Savarna.’ Instead, he was assigned the duty of sanitation. I still remember his words, ‘The caste statement in this action may not be understood by learning the theories of Political Science or Sociology alone.’  This teached told me that day that he does not know how someone can ever be convinced of these facts through arguments.

An Adivasi girl from Warankal who was an M.A. student in German Studies at English and Foreign Languages University tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. She was saved by the local people. That was in August, 2010. After getting all the papers in the first and second semesters, she had failed in some papers in the Third Semester. With that, her stipend had been stopped. Unable to bear with the humiliation and isolation, she tried to end her life on a railway track.

It was in the background of these instances that I had set out on the journey to write on the Dalit – Adivasi persecution that was happening within the higher education sector. At the time, I was working for Tehelka. I met many Dalit organisation workers and activists in Andhra Pradesh. The studies they had conducted, the wounds they had experienced, the cases that had to be abandoned helplessly due to a ‘lack of evidence’.

However, that story which I filed, carrying so many details, was not published. It seems that what happened can be recounted now as the unquestioned dominance of Tehelka led by Tarun Tejpal has eroded; also because those who were celebrated as flag bearers of justice later turned out to be agents of injustice and misappropriation of power. The editor who was my reporting authority wrote off this story at the first reading itself. His argument was that there was no evidence to prove that these suicides were due to caste discrimination. He was a Brahmin. Later he left Tehelka and became Editor of an online portal. I do now know where he is at present.

I tried to argue that caste hatred was an experience and that recounting it may lack recorded evidence. But I could not convince him. No one takes as evidence the tears of parents who have lost their children. I know that very well.

The FIR retrieved from the heap of files in Chinthula Police Station (they may have pushed that file heap for me to see since they were sure that it was not going to harm anyone), the fact-finding missions conducted by the National Dalit Forum into the deaths of Anusha and Amaravathy, the experiences of the Dalit activists in Hyderabad, the statements given by the activists of Ambedkar Students Association, or the experiences narrated by the teachers at Central University, Hyderabad or EFLU or Osmania University were simply not accepted evidence.

As Dr. Rathnam said, how could these wounds be shown to others ? Could the martyrdom of Rohith have convinced him of this ? During a time when the farmers’ suicides were happening in succession, a senior journalist in New Delhi had commented with despair: ‘We’re working with people who have no scruples to ask why the farmer should commit suicide because the cotton crop failed, couldn’t they do cauliflower farming ? !’

Dear Rohith. May be, those who were unable to understand why Senthil or Balraj or Anusha or Amaravathy committed suicide would understand why, a little bit at least, now. They would understand it because of your martyrdom, and only because of that.

That poem which you wrote, immortalising life and death, would certainly have frightened them. Sure. In a way, I too am indebted to you. As a failed journalist. Your political standpoints, the marks you left on all battle fronts, that letter which you wrote to the Vice Chancellor, and this last poem from you – all this is evidence. Evidence, that those among us who failed, need to file away and keep safely. I had nothing with me to show those who asked for evidence then, that the deaths of Senthil, Amaravathy and Balraj, lay at the pyre of caste. Now, you have marked them as well, through your own death.

It was tough for me making a headway in the world of the English media, overruled by Brahmanism, shifting over from Malayalam journalism. For someone coming from a small town in India, studying in the Malayalam medium, at a Government school, language alone was not enough to survive in a metro. I did not have the cultural capital to make my point with an editor who spread the aura of Brahmanism through both language and body language. I could never be the Editor’s Blue-Eyed-Girl. Now I know that I need not be. And now I am proud of not being that.

Rohith, editors who hold the pen like a chisel in trembling hands to re-place the Babri Masjid in place of the controversial building erected, are a minority. I too had felt the same way as you, in those days. I too had felt many times that I too was a ‘fatal accident.’ But, now I know that you and me are right. Not them. Not them, by any means.

Let me dedicate this report that has not seen the light of the day, to you.

At the Pyre of Caste Hatred: Dalit suicides and the Media

First Published on February 3, 2016


 
This article was written by  Shahina Nafeesa in Azhimukham. The translation is by Renu Ramanath


2010 September: To reach the village of Chinthula in Ranga Reddy District you have to travel around 60 kilometers from Hyderabad. That journey was in search of the home of R. Balaraj, who had been a Ph.D Scholar at the Central University of Hyderabad (HCU). Balraj was researching on Telugu Literature. During the second year of his Ph.D. Balraj hung himself to death. He would have become the first Ph.D. holder from his community, even from his locality. In the tiny, two-roomed house made of laterite there were Balraj’s father, mother, two sisters and brother. He was the only literate one in the household. All others did their caste occupation: tethering cattle.

The broken voice of Balraj’s mother Yadamma still echoes in the ears. She took out her son’s certificates one by one and showed them to me. Mark lists from the school onwards. Certificates carrying marks higher than distinction. From the 10th standard till post-graduation.

Rohith Vemula dreamt of writing like Carl Sagan. What was the dream of Balraj, who was researching in Telugu Literature ? His dreams are not even recorded. He had hung himself to death on a tree near his home. It’s not known whether there was a suicide note. His friend Vinod Kumar said Balraj was distressed from the very first year of the Ph.D. work.

During the first year, he was not given a supervisor. A professor used to insult him citing his caste. One day, he had reached the hostel in a totally despondent way. That day, he had told Vinod that the professor had asked him whether he could go to drive the cattle.

I went to the Chinthula Police Station. From the police records I could find that an FIR had been registered against the professor on charges of abetting the suicide. However, the Station House Officer informed me that the case was not proceeded against as there were no ‘evidences.’  The file was closed. Knowing that it would have been useless to ask him more questions, I left the police station.

Amaravathy, a Dalit girl, who was the national Boxing champion, poisoned herself in the hostel room of the Sports Academy. I met Amaravathi’s mother Lakshmi in a single room house in a narrow street of Hyderabad. She had sent her daughter to school while working as a maid. Learning of my arrival, she came to meet me from the house where she was working, in her soiled clothes. With tears in her eyes, she regretted having sent her daughter to the Sports Academy. She had to face heavy insults in the name of her caste. The coach hated Amaravathy. He would often ignore and insult her. Amaravathy took her life during the preparations for the national and international competitions.

Amaravathy’s certificates and medals lay on a wooden bench in a corner of the house. There was a large photo of Amaravathy standing in the boxing ring. The brilliant strength she displayed in the ring did not come to her help. That strength was not enough to overcome the pyre of caste hatred. Amaravathy had many victories under her belt, to her account. But, each of her failures was added on account of her caste. In each failure, she was insulted on the basis of her caste.

This fact had been revealed during the fact finding mission conducted by the National Dalit Forum regarding her death. Amaravathy’s mother’s face bears signs of where tear marks had dried up. Her endless guilt for the daughter. The question, did my daughter yearn for something undeserving…
This still lies raw, along with the thousands of wounds being inflicted during the course of a career in journalism.

Senthil Kumar, who was a Ph.D. Scholar in Physics, at Central University, Hyderabad, hanged himself in February, 2008. Like Balraj, Senthil who hailed from Salem, was also the first person to gain higher education from his community. Their caste profession was rearing pigs. Even after the first year, Senthil was not assigned to a supervisor. He had to pass in one of the four papers as part of the course work. His fellowship was stopped due that reason. This fact was also published on the notice board. Senthil had faced severe financial difficulties as the fellowship was stopped. His friends later said that the public announcement that appeared on the notice board that his fellowship would be cut as he failed in the course work had caused him great distress.

Prof. Sayid E. Hassan, who was the then Vice Chancellor at HCU, refused to accept that caste-based discrimination had led to the death of Senthil. His argument was that such an assumption could not be drawn. He tried to convince me that the Dalits had access to many opportunities in the Central University and that almost fifty percent of students were from Dalit communities. I just listened to him as it was not my job to argue with the VC and also because I had no strength left for the task. It is not easy to communicate with those who ask for evidence for caste-based discrimination. Such discrimination has to be experienced. Communication is just impossible especially with those who feign ignorance.

There was a large photo of Amaravathy standing in the boxing ring. The brilliant strength she displayed in the ring did not come to her help. That strength was not enough to overcome the pyre of caste hatred.

Anusha, who was a last year B.Com student at the Villa Mary College in Somajiguda committed suicide by jumping from the top of the college building. In November, 2009. The college was known as ‘College of Royal Girls.’ That a Dalit girl like Anusha had happened to reach there was another ‘fatal accident.’ She had no friends there. And she sat all alone on a bench. No ‘Royal Girls’ wanted to sit with Anusha. None of the teachers questioned this. At the end of the terrible ignominy, Anusha found a solution. In Rohith Vemula’s words, Anusha’s existence was reduced to that of a single identity. She must have experienced real isolation on that large bench.

It is not only the students who have complaints. The teachers from the Dalit community also have much to say.

Dr. K.Y.Ratnam, who was a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, at University of Hyderabad (he must still be there). His duty as the hostel warden was suddenly handed over to another teacher, of course a ‘Savarna.’ Instead, he was assigned the duty of sanitation. I still remember his words, ‘The caste statement in this action may not be understood by learning the theories of Political Science or Sociology alone.’  This teached told me that day that he does not know how someone can ever be convinced of these facts through arguments.

An Adivasi girl from Warankal who was an M.A. student in German Studies at English and Foreign Languages University tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. She was saved by the local people. That was in August, 2010. After getting all the papers in the first and second semesters, she had failed in some papers in the Third Semester. With that, her stipend had been stopped. Unable to bear with the humiliation and isolation, she tried to end her life on a railway track.

It was in the background of these instances that I had set out on the journey to write on the Dalit – Adivasi persecution that was happening within the higher education sector. At the time, I was working for Tehelka. I met many Dalit organisation workers and activists in Andhra Pradesh. The studies they had conducted, the wounds they had experienced, the cases that had to be abandoned helplessly due to a ‘lack of evidence’.

However, that story which I filed, carrying so many details, was not published. It seems that what happened can be recounted now as the unquestioned dominance of Tehelka led by Tarun Tejpal has eroded; also because those who were celebrated as flag bearers of justice later turned out to be agents of injustice and misappropriation of power. The editor who was my reporting authority wrote off this story at the first reading itself. His argument was that there was no evidence to prove that these suicides were due to caste discrimination. He was a Brahmin. Later he left Tehelka and became Editor of an online portal. I do now know where he is at present.

I tried to argue that caste hatred was an experience and that recounting it may lack recorded evidence. But I could not convince him. No one takes as evidence the tears of parents who have lost their children. I know that very well.

The FIR retrieved from the heap of files in Chinthula Police Station (they may have pushed that file heap for me to see since they were sure that it was not going to harm anyone), the fact-finding missions conducted by the National Dalit Forum into the deaths of Anusha and Amaravathy, the experiences of the Dalit activists in Hyderabad, the statements given by the activists of Ambedkar Students Association, or the experiences narrated by the teachers at Central University, Hyderabad or EFLU or Osmania University were simply not accepted evidence.

As Dr. Rathnam said, how could these wounds be shown to others ? Could the martyrdom of Rohith have convinced him of this ? During a time when the farmers’ suicides were happening in succession, a senior journalist in New Delhi had commented with despair: ‘We’re working with people who have no scruples to ask why the farmer should commit suicide because the cotton crop failed, couldn’t they do cauliflower farming ? !’

Dear Rohith. May be, those who were unable to understand why Senthil or Balraj or Anusha or Amaravathy committed suicide would understand why, a little bit at least, now. They would understand it because of your martyrdom, and only because of that.

That poem which you wrote, immortalising life and death, would certainly have frightened them. Sure. In a way, I too am indebted to you. As a failed journalist. Your political standpoints, the marks you left on all battle fronts, that letter which you wrote to the Vice Chancellor, and this last poem from you – all this is evidence. Evidence, that those among us who failed, need to file away and keep safely. I had nothing with me to show those who asked for evidence then, that the deaths of Senthil, Amaravathy and Balraj, lay at the pyre of caste. Now, you have marked them as well, through your own death.

It was tough for me making a headway in the world of the English media, overruled by Brahmanism, shifting over from Malayalam journalism. For someone coming from a small town in India, studying in the Malayalam medium, at a Government school, language alone was not enough to survive in a metro. I did not have the cultural capital to make my point with an editor who spread the aura of Brahmanism through both language and body language. I could never be the Editor’s Blue-Eyed-Girl. Now I know that I need not be. And now I am proud of not being that.

Rohith, editors who hold the pen like a chisel in trembling hands to re-place the Babri Masjid in place of the controversial building erected, are a minority. I too had felt the same way as you, in those days. I too had felt many times that I too was a ‘fatal accident.’ But, now I know that you and me are right. Not them. Not them, by any means.

Let me dedicate this report that has not seen the light of the day, to you.

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Rohith’s death: We are all to blame

16 Jan 2020

First published on January 19, 2016


 
Supply Sodium Cynanide and a Rope to every Dalit student-Rohit to the VC a month before he took his life

 
This letter, dated December 18, 2015 has not been so widely quoted nor has it gone viral. It is a comment on all of us, especially those of us in the media, that we failed to read the warnings or feel the anguish.  After all it is since August 2015 that the social boycott and ostracizing of Dalit students, including Rohith was systematically afoot. That is close to five months ago.
 
Nearly a month to the day that he tragically gave up the struggle to live and took his own life, on December 18, 2015, a hand-written letter from Rohith Vemula to Vice Chancellor Appa Rao says it all. Taunting and tragic, the note will now be read as a precursor of what was to come. In a hand-written scrawl that hints at acute desperation, he says, “Your Excellency (addressed to the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao) “make preparations for the EUTHANASIA for students like me from the Ambedkarite movement…and may your campus rest in peace forever.”
 
The letter traces the officially sanctioned “social boycott” of Dalit students after they took on a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for his derogatory remarks to the Dalit students. “Donald Trump will be a Lilliput in front of you,” Rohith tells Appa Rao then offering a piece of chilling advice. “Please serve 10 miligram of Sodium Azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission…Supply a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalits students..”The text of the letter can be read here and a scanned hand written copy seen here.

   


Now we know, and fret over the fact that his Rs 25,000 per month stipend (as of all his other suspended colleagues) was stopped after suspension and he had to borrow money, even from home, to survive the struggle. Now that he is dead we listen to the plight and anguish of his family. Why did we not listen before? As the isolation and anguish built up to make Rohith take a step so final that it signalled no return? Yes, we are all to blame.

“After the stipend was stopped, his family was struggling to support him. He borrowed Rs 40,000 from a friend and was living frugally. Almost every day, he used to say that his money was stuck,’’ said Velmula Sankanna, a fellow PhD scholar and one of the other five students who were suspended. “In December, Rohith wrote an angry letter to the V-C, sarcastically asking him to provide euthanasia facilities for Dalit students. Since then, he was scared to go to the administration building and ask about his stipend. He became silent and withdrawn. He said that he was falling into depression because he was being defeated by the system at every turn. He blamed himself, his caste, and the circumstances around him. He did not take much interest in anything except studies,’’ added Sankanna, a close friend.

We did not rise to feel, see or appreciate the seriousness implicit in the warnings. In August 2015, a questionable mode of ‘suspension’ of five singled out students of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) followed by the arbitrary stopping of their scholarship stipend, further followed by their being locked out of their rooms from January 4, 2016. Yet they fought on, sleeping out near the shopping complex in the cold. Awaiting fair hearing, democratic space for protest(s) and justice.

From the night of January 4, 2016 until today the sleep out protests continue.
 
After the tragic and unnecessary loss of the life of a budding science scholar, a proud Ambedkarite, will justice and fair hearing happen? Yesterday in a fully articulated representation to PL Punia, Chairperson of the National Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Commission, the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad (UoH) has demanded:
 

  • Punish the Culprits under the SC/ST Atrocities Act:
  • Banadaru Dattareya, Union Cabinet Minister of State for Labour and Employment 
  • P Appa Rao, Vice Chancellor
  • Professor Alok Pandey, Chief Proctor
  • Susheel Kumar, ABVP President
  • Ramchandra Rao, MLC 
  • Remove P Appa Rao from the post of Vice Chancellor
  • Employ a family member of Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad and give his family Rs 50 lahs in compensation
  • Drop the fabricated cases against five Dalit Research Scholars immediately and unconditionally
  • Revoke the suspension of Students immediately and unconditionally 

 
The Anger Spreads; Demands for resignation of Vice Chancellor Appa Rao
 
Anger and grief are potent combinations and both were visible in plenty at the mortuary of the Osmania Hospital on Monday, January 18 where Rohith Velumal lay, a day after he tragically ended his own life. His mother’s anguished cry says it all, ““I used to proudly tell everyone in my village that my son was doing PhD at Hyderabad University. Today, I have come to collect his dead body.’’ The family is from Gurazala near Guntur, his mother a tailor and father, Manikumar a security guard at the Hyderabad University. Rohith has two siblings, an elder sister and a younger brother.
 
Over 1200 students of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) participated in a rally on Monday evening and have resolved to protest on Tuesday, January 19 and not allow the university to function until the current Vice Chancellor, Appa Rao steps down. Before the rally, his close friends and colleagues, along with his family were present at the cremation of Rohith in Hyderabad. (see Image story)
 
Simultaneous and spontaneous protests continued through the day yesterday at Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam, Mumbai and Delhi. The road outside Shastri Bhavan, the office of Smriti Irani, the Ministry for Human Resources Development (MHRD) was cordoned off akin to a war zone (see pictures). In Hyderabad, a visit from the chairperson of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Commission allayed feelings somewhat.
 
Though it is Rohith is the one who has made the most recent and most tragic sacrifice, the question is whether it will still open India’s eyes and hearts?

We read every other day not just of the social boycott of Dalit children in the mid day meal schemes. In ‘Dravidian’ politics ruled Tamil Nadu colour bands on Dalit students brand them with their caste. There is little political, social or cultural outrage. The television channels, packed as they are with ‘journalists’ most of whom sport a myopic caste consciousness of the elite Indian that simply excludes any mention of discrimination or exclusion while badgering home ‘the banner of tolerance’, rarely flag anti-Dalit atrocities as an institutional ill to be faced squarely then remedied.
In ‘progressive’ west India the discrimination takes similar forms, and examples abound. In Phugana, three young Dalit children, one a baby was burnt alive in a burst of Rajput rage.

Just like the Blacks fought (and have barely won) the Civil Rights battle in the West – last year’s incidents at Fergusson are evidence of how thinly layered this success is –it is privileged India, caste Hindus who need to hang their heads in acknowledgement, first, and the, shame.
 
We need to internalize what Dalit students experience when they enter schools, colleges and universities and break the glass ceiling and enter India’s famed institutions of higher learning, the IITs, the IIMs and Universities.
 
Not only is the percentage of Dalit students who enter higher educational institutions small. They are subject to insidious caste practices and exclusion that batters the hard earned self-esteem. A dangerous argument of ‘meritocracy’ cloaks well organized money and caste induced privilege.

This everyday institutional and societal exclusion and othering needs to be acknowledged squarely by each and one of us.
 
It is time we ask difficult ourselves some hard and uncomfortable questions.
 
What kind of history do we teach? Who are our heroines and heroes?
How many Dalits are there in the media, print and television?
How many Dalits in Institutions of power and governance?
 
The Dalit experience says that entering the corridors of elite educational institutions like Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT) and Indian Institute of Managements and Central Universities for scores of Dalit students is like walking into a living hell, where the fear of being shamed and humiliated hangs heavy on the heart and soul of every student.
 
Before Rohit, we lost Senthil Kumar and Nagaralu Koppalas, also in the Central University of Hyderabad. Have these earlier losses, deaths of young men in their prime been internalized and taught the UoH any lessons worth learning? The recent and continuing unfair suspension of Dalit scholars would appear to suggest that no lessons have yet been learned.
 
Is India willing ready and able to accept her Not So Hidden Apartheid?

Rohith’s death: We are all to blame

First published on January 19, 2016


 
Supply Sodium Cynanide and a Rope to every Dalit student-Rohit to the VC a month before he took his life

 
This letter, dated December 18, 2015 has not been so widely quoted nor has it gone viral. It is a comment on all of us, especially those of us in the media, that we failed to read the warnings or feel the anguish.  After all it is since August 2015 that the social boycott and ostracizing of Dalit students, including Rohith was systematically afoot. That is close to five months ago.
 
Nearly a month to the day that he tragically gave up the struggle to live and took his own life, on December 18, 2015, a hand-written letter from Rohith Vemula to Vice Chancellor Appa Rao says it all. Taunting and tragic, the note will now be read as a precursor of what was to come. In a hand-written scrawl that hints at acute desperation, he says, “Your Excellency (addressed to the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao) “make preparations for the EUTHANASIA for students like me from the Ambedkarite movement…and may your campus rest in peace forever.”
 
The letter traces the officially sanctioned “social boycott” of Dalit students after they took on a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for his derogatory remarks to the Dalit students. “Donald Trump will be a Lilliput in front of you,” Rohith tells Appa Rao then offering a piece of chilling advice. “Please serve 10 miligram of Sodium Azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission…Supply a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalits students..”The text of the letter can be read here and a scanned hand written copy seen here.

   


Now we know, and fret over the fact that his Rs 25,000 per month stipend (as of all his other suspended colleagues) was stopped after suspension and he had to borrow money, even from home, to survive the struggle. Now that he is dead we listen to the plight and anguish of his family. Why did we not listen before? As the isolation and anguish built up to make Rohith take a step so final that it signalled no return? Yes, we are all to blame.

“After the stipend was stopped, his family was struggling to support him. He borrowed Rs 40,000 from a friend and was living frugally. Almost every day, he used to say that his money was stuck,’’ said Velmula Sankanna, a fellow PhD scholar and one of the other five students who were suspended. “In December, Rohith wrote an angry letter to the V-C, sarcastically asking him to provide euthanasia facilities for Dalit students. Since then, he was scared to go to the administration building and ask about his stipend. He became silent and withdrawn. He said that he was falling into depression because he was being defeated by the system at every turn. He blamed himself, his caste, and the circumstances around him. He did not take much interest in anything except studies,’’ added Sankanna, a close friend.

We did not rise to feel, see or appreciate the seriousness implicit in the warnings. In August 2015, a questionable mode of ‘suspension’ of five singled out students of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) followed by the arbitrary stopping of their scholarship stipend, further followed by their being locked out of their rooms from January 4, 2016. Yet they fought on, sleeping out near the shopping complex in the cold. Awaiting fair hearing, democratic space for protest(s) and justice.

From the night of January 4, 2016 until today the sleep out protests continue.
 
After the tragic and unnecessary loss of the life of a budding science scholar, a proud Ambedkarite, will justice and fair hearing happen? Yesterday in a fully articulated representation to PL Punia, Chairperson of the National Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Commission, the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad (UoH) has demanded:
 

  • Punish the Culprits under the SC/ST Atrocities Act:
  • Banadaru Dattareya, Union Cabinet Minister of State for Labour and Employment 
  • P Appa Rao, Vice Chancellor
  • Professor Alok Pandey, Chief Proctor
  • Susheel Kumar, ABVP President
  • Ramchandra Rao, MLC 
  • Remove P Appa Rao from the post of Vice Chancellor
  • Employ a family member of Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad and give his family Rs 50 lahs in compensation
  • Drop the fabricated cases against five Dalit Research Scholars immediately and unconditionally
  • Revoke the suspension of Students immediately and unconditionally 

 
The Anger Spreads; Demands for resignation of Vice Chancellor Appa Rao
 
Anger and grief are potent combinations and both were visible in plenty at the mortuary of the Osmania Hospital on Monday, January 18 where Rohith Velumal lay, a day after he tragically ended his own life. His mother’s anguished cry says it all, ““I used to proudly tell everyone in my village that my son was doing PhD at Hyderabad University. Today, I have come to collect his dead body.’’ The family is from Gurazala near Guntur, his mother a tailor and father, Manikumar a security guard at the Hyderabad University. Rohith has two siblings, an elder sister and a younger brother.
 
Over 1200 students of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) participated in a rally on Monday evening and have resolved to protest on Tuesday, January 19 and not allow the university to function until the current Vice Chancellor, Appa Rao steps down. Before the rally, his close friends and colleagues, along with his family were present at the cremation of Rohith in Hyderabad. (see Image story)
 
Simultaneous and spontaneous protests continued through the day yesterday at Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam, Mumbai and Delhi. The road outside Shastri Bhavan, the office of Smriti Irani, the Ministry for Human Resources Development (MHRD) was cordoned off akin to a war zone (see pictures). In Hyderabad, a visit from the chairperson of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Commission allayed feelings somewhat.
 
Though it is Rohith is the one who has made the most recent and most tragic sacrifice, the question is whether it will still open India’s eyes and hearts?

We read every other day not just of the social boycott of Dalit children in the mid day meal schemes. In ‘Dravidian’ politics ruled Tamil Nadu colour bands on Dalit students brand them with their caste. There is little political, social or cultural outrage. The television channels, packed as they are with ‘journalists’ most of whom sport a myopic caste consciousness of the elite Indian that simply excludes any mention of discrimination or exclusion while badgering home ‘the banner of tolerance’, rarely flag anti-Dalit atrocities as an institutional ill to be faced squarely then remedied.
In ‘progressive’ west India the discrimination takes similar forms, and examples abound. In Phugana, three young Dalit children, one a baby was burnt alive in a burst of Rajput rage.

Just like the Blacks fought (and have barely won) the Civil Rights battle in the West – last year’s incidents at Fergusson are evidence of how thinly layered this success is –it is privileged India, caste Hindus who need to hang their heads in acknowledgement, first, and the, shame.
 
We need to internalize what Dalit students experience when they enter schools, colleges and universities and break the glass ceiling and enter India’s famed institutions of higher learning, the IITs, the IIMs and Universities.
 
Not only is the percentage of Dalit students who enter higher educational institutions small. They are subject to insidious caste practices and exclusion that batters the hard earned self-esteem. A dangerous argument of ‘meritocracy’ cloaks well organized money and caste induced privilege.

This everyday institutional and societal exclusion and othering needs to be acknowledged squarely by each and one of us.
 
It is time we ask difficult ourselves some hard and uncomfortable questions.
 
What kind of history do we teach? Who are our heroines and heroes?
How many Dalits are there in the media, print and television?
How many Dalits in Institutions of power and governance?
 
The Dalit experience says that entering the corridors of elite educational institutions like Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT) and Indian Institute of Managements and Central Universities for scores of Dalit students is like walking into a living hell, where the fear of being shamed and humiliated hangs heavy on the heart and soul of every student.
 
Before Rohit, we lost Senthil Kumar and Nagaralu Koppalas, also in the Central University of Hyderabad. Have these earlier losses, deaths of young men in their prime been internalized and taught the UoH any lessons worth learning? The recent and continuing unfair suspension of Dalit scholars would appear to suggest that no lessons have yet been learned.
 
Is India willing ready and able to accept her Not So Hidden Apartheid?

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Enactment of the CAA has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims

Structural Violence deepens roots of Communal violence in India: the enactment of the CAA has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims, who see the government’s meddling with citizenship laws as nothing short of an existential threat.

07 Jan 2020

ViolenceImage Courtesy: caravanmagazine.in

2019 proved to be a rather tumultuous year for India signalling unrest and violence especially communal violence. Communal violence is a broader term which encompasses communal riots, hate speech targeting a particular religious community, structural violence targeting any particular community  (Engineer, Dabhade, Nair, & Pendke, 2019). It is observed that since the BJP came into rule from 2014, there is an increase in hate crimes and discriminatory policies targeting the marginalised communities including minorities, Dalits, women and Adivasis. Though the government has ceased to publish National Crime Bureau Records data on the number of communal riots from 2017 which makes comparison difficult, according to CSSS report, the number of communal riots seems to have decreased based on their reportage in leading newspapers (Engineer, Dabhade, Nair, & Pendke, Communal Violence 2018: Locating the Role of State and Changing Nature of Violence, 2019).

Structural violence, on the other hand which manifests itself in discriminatory policies by state and state actions leading to discrimination and violence have gained prominence in the past few years. CSSS monitors communal violence annually. This year it will analyse communal violence in three parts, starting with structural violence followed by attitudinal violence and finally physical violence. Given this salience of structural violence in India, CSSS which annually monitors communal violence in India, will analyse below the key aspects of structural violence in India which fuels communal violence.

Communal riots in the past have had a polarizing effect and helped BJP gain political and electoral dividend. According to Paul Brass, there is an institutionalized riot system in India which can orchestrate violence depending on political exigencies and mostly before elections for political mobilization (Brass, 2004). Owing to the electoral dividends of communal riots, till BJP was not in power, communal riots were orchestrated on a larger scale. These riots went on for longer period and claimed more number of lives, disrupting normal life. Post 2014, riots have been low intensity in the sense that they are of shorter duration and cause lesser disruption of normal day to day life. Thus, the means of political mobilisation and polarisation have changed significantly after 2014 and in this context; structural violence assumes importance in order to fully comprehend the changing patterns of communal violence.

Structural violence is more subtle in a way it is in built in the structure itself. Thus it is sanctioned and backed by the state with legitimacy. Structural violence is more long lasting owing to its ability to institutionalize violence to perpetrate itself. This makes it possible to influence discourses in a way to reproduce discrimination and demonization of the vulnerable groups. The policies of state and subsequent state action have reinforced and exacerbated this discrimination against minorities which constitutes violence, denying them equal rights and equal citizenship. For instance, to begin with, the very definition of citizenship is undergoing a flux today. Citizenship which is a fountainhead of all rights is contested and defined today in exclusionary terms. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seeks to give accelerated citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As is evident, the Muslims are excluded from this discriminatory Act. Looking at the nature of this Act one can’t help draw parallel with Israel which practices the “law of return”. The belief that Israel is a natural home for all Jews all around the world is akin to the belief of BJP which in its manifesto claims that India is a natural home for all Hindus all around the world. This Act seeks to contest the very foundation of our constitution which rests on secularism and equal citizenship. This has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims, who see the government’s meddling with citizenship laws as nothing short of an existential threat.

The basic premise on which the CAA and NRC is based on is that there is cross border migration. The BJP depending on their political needs has shifted its definition of immigrants. While in Assam it made no distinction between Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims based on religion to suits its politics, overtime, it has insinuated that all Muslim immigrants are infiltrators and even termites. Home Minister Amit Shah said, “The illegal immigrants are like termites. They are eating the grain that should go to the poor, they are taking our jobs (The Indian Express, 2019).” The implications are always that these immigrants are Muslims. The line between Muslim immigrants (there is no official data but merely exaggerated figures) and Indian Muslims is blurred by the ideological moorings. This strengthens the already prevalent narrative against the Muslims that they anti-national, regressive, fanatical and violent. This narrative is reiterated by members holding constitutional power knowing well that it is divisive and will demonize the Muslims making them prone to violence and discrimination. The Prime Minister’s statement in the aftermath of the atrocities on Jamia Millia Ismailia students protesting against the CAA is telling on the attitude of the ruling dispensation vis a vis the Muslims. He said, “the Congress and its allies are making a noise, creating a storm. And if that doesn’t work, they are spreading a fire… From the visuals on TV, those setting the fire can be identified by their clothes

 (Angad, 2019) ”.

 The police have used excessive force on the students especially from Universities which in their perception are “Muslim”. The police fired tear gas inside the Library at Jamia University in Delhi and beat up students seriously injuring students. In Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, the police went one step further: it lobbed stun grenades, which are used in war (Kumar, 2019). This led to an arm of a student being blown off and turned university campuses into war zones putting innocent youth at peril.

The protests against CAA by the students and others have been responded by barbarism especially in UP. “Iss hinsa mein lipt pratyek tatwa ki property ko zapt karenge, aur uss zapt se sarvajanik sampatti ko hue nuksaan ya kahin par public property ko jo damage kiya gaya hai, iski bharapaee bhi hum un sabhi upadraviyon se karenge. Kyunki yeh sab chinhit chehre hain. Wo sab videography mein aa chuke hain, CCTV ke footage mein aa chuke hain. In sab ki property ko zapt kar ke, inse hum iska badla lenge aur sakhti se nipatne ke liye maine iske baare mein kaha hai,” he said.

This intense vicious feeling of revenge of the CM was visited upon the Muslims in UP by sending them notices for compensation of the damage to state property, failing which their meager properties would be attached and confiscated. Most of these are minors and all are poor Muslims. The recklessness and motivated behaviour can be discerned from the fact that amongst those to whom the notices were sent included a Banne Khan, 87, who died six-years ago and 93 years old  Fasahat Meer Khan who has been bedridden for years (Chauhan, 2020).  This was coupled with indiscriminate arrests- 3417 people were taken into custody across the state as part of preventive action (Rehman & Sahu, 2019). 19 people have lost their lives in the anti-CAA protest in a span of one week- all of them Muslims. So ruthless was the police that it looted random Muslim households, vandalized their houses and smashed CCTV cameras. In no other protests have such brute force and terror unleashed on the protestors using the state apparatus. While earlier non state actors enjoying political patronage were given a free hand to wreak violence on minorities, now the state has declared war against its minorities by allowing police to use any amount of force selectively targeting Muslims to subdue them.

The CAA is intricately linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The CAA is a precursor to NRC nationwide. The first step in this direction is the rolling out of the National Population Register (NPR). The NRC will compel all the residents of India to prove that their citizens of India through complicated legacy documents. The onus to prove one’s citizenship will be on the residents. The ones who don’t have the necessary documents will face the dreadful prospect of spending the rest of their lives in the detention centres. If the NRC process under the direction of the Supreme Court that was implemented in Assam is any indicator then this process will spell unimaginable miseries for the poor who will scramble to get the necessary documents even at the cost of livelihood. The Adivasis, poor and the transgender community like other marginalized communities, had no access to hospitals for birth certificates and the landless have no access to land documents. This very much reflects the socio-economic scenario in the rest of India. The CAA is a back door method to give citizenship to all those who can’t prove their citizenship except Muslims, clearly discriminating against them and putting them at imminent risk of inhumane life at the dreadful detention centres.

The CAA-NRC policy followed the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir. Article 370 provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir which gave it greater amount of autonomy to make laws. The long standing promise of the BJP was fulfilled by hastily without taking the people of Jammu and Kashmir in confidence. Parliamentary democracy which reflects in dialogue and consultation was compromised by pushing this abrogation by brute majority of numbers in the Parliament. The move shocked and pained the people of Jammu and Kashmir who feel betrayed by this undemocratic authoritarian move. In order to muzzle dissent in the state, the centre has imposed shutdown of internet and phone lines, thereby isolating the state. There are alarming reports of the excesses of the defence force which are arbitrarily detaining men and boys as young as 10 years old and torturing the people into silent submission. This abrogation set a precedence of passing laws targeting the Muslims and reigning terror against them to dehumanize them and quell any voice of dissent.

Such policies are an affront to the very idea of India as conceived by the founders of the country. Apart from such policies which seek to alter the contours of citizenship, one of the ways that communal violence is taking deeper roots in the society is through the saffronisation of education with an aim of constructing a narrative that Muslims didn’t contribute to the freedom struggle and denying composite nationalism which was the basis of Indian freedom movement. There is a steady policy followed by the current ruling dispensation of rewriting history to glorify the RSS and the Hindutva ideologues. For instance, the Nagpur University has decided to include a chapter on “RSS’s role in nation-building” in the second-year Bachelor of Arts History syllabus. The university has deleted a part on “Rise and Growth of Communalism”, which discussed the role of the Sangh, along with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, and replaced it with the RSS’s role in nation-building (Deshpande, 2019).

Making no bones of their attempt to falsify history to glorify the RSS, Home Minister Amit Shah has urged the historians in the country to rewrite from “India’s” point of view. This was against the backdrop of the design to confer the Bharat Ratna on Savarkar, prominent ideologue of RSS. “Had it not been Veer Savarkar, the 1857 ‘kranti’ (war) would not have become history and we would have been seeing it from the British point of view,” the Home Minister said (The Hindu, 2019). Not only this but on the one hand where universities and students are facing severe repression and denied freedom of expression to critique or question any policies of the state, on the other hand, the university students are expected to endorse the policies of the State. MS University in Vadodara urged the students and the staff to join a rally to support and celebrate the abolition of article 370 (Mohanty, 2019). This was in pursuance of the direction sent out by Ahmedabad District Education Department. A circular issued by the Ahmedabad District Education department asked all government, grant-in-aid and self-financed secondary and higher secondary schools to arrange special lectures, debate, essay and elocution competition, group discussions and other similar contests on the subject of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution during the school assembly on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday (Sharma, 2019).

The other alarming trend is the astonishingly large sums of money spent on Hindu festivals and statues of Hindu Gods. At the same time, public festivals celebrating other religions or cultures are discouraged. For instance, Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has allocated Rs 4,236 crores for the Kumbh Mela 2019, an iconic Hindu festival that is celebrated every six years, being held in Prayagraj (also known as Allahabad), which is more than thrice the budget of the Maha Kumbh in 2013 (Business Today, 2019). Ayodhya Deepotsava which precludes Diwali has been allocated INR 133 crores, making it a ‘state fair’ (The Indian Express, 2019). This is happening at a time where in Karnataka has cancelled celebrating the anniversary of Tipu Sultan, a Muslim King, who is revered in Karnataka (Times of India, 2019). This is a blatant assertion of Hindu supremacy and state giving hegemony to Hindu religion. These trends not just violate the Constitution which doesn’t allow taxpayers’ money to be spent on religious festivals, but also excludes festivals which are important to Muslims or Christians.

The Constitution has provided for an elaborate system of checks and balances in order to protect the values of the Constitution against the access or overreaching action of any of the arms of the state. However one can witness a steady corrosion of the criminal justice system. The police with their deliberate shoddy investigation and pressure from the political bosses have not been able to protect the innocent citizens. For example, there were numerous instances of Muslims being brutally beaten for not chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. Though it is evident that these crimes are communal, the police have denied that these are communal. For instance, four madrasa students in Unnao, UP were assaulted and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. One of the accused in the case is district secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing. The police denied any religious angle (The Indian Express, 2019). The number of such cases shows that the perpetrators have no fear and these crimes continue with impunity. Similarly, there have been demands in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to withdraw criminal cases against BJP leaders involved in communal riots. Earlier in 2019, the UP government withdrew 75 cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots that took place in 2013. It’s worth noting that 41 related cases have already resulted in acquittal dashing any hopes of justice (Sharma A. , 2019). However, there is a hopeless resignation looming large when it comes to prospects of justice from the judiciary given its judgments on Babri Masjid demolition and criminalization of triple talaq. The verdict of the case of Babri Masjid based on “faith and belief of the Hindu devotees” which directly amounts to defying the Constitution of which secularism is a cornerstone.

India is in grip of an authoritarian state which is waging a heinous war against its own poor and minorities. The ruling dispensation in its policies is undermining the basic tenets of the Constitution and single minded targeting the minorities and the poor. This vile vindictive behaviour of the ruling dispensation specifically targeting Muslims is at odds of the idea of India itself. The discrimination, exclusion and the hatred, the structural violence produces is shaking the very foundation of India pushing it towards uncertainty and insecurity. The dominant result will be a monolithic society, fragmented along lines of religion producing a hierarchy in citizenship. The overwhelming sense of trauma and violence will break the spirit of once a vibrant democracy known as India.

Related :

Kerala passes resolution for withdrawal of CAA
Women, Trans and Queer Communities stand against CAA, NRC and NPR
Kerala kids show the way to solidarity and harmony
NPR is Step One to NRC, don’t be fooled
Rajasathan says ‘No’ to NPR
CMS opposing NRC must stop NPR exercise in their states: CPIM
PTI reports Rs. 8,500 cr approved for NPR, PIB retracts figure to Rs. 3,941.35 cr

Enactment of the CAA has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims

Structural Violence deepens roots of Communal violence in India: the enactment of the CAA has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims, who see the government’s meddling with citizenship laws as nothing short of an existential threat.

ViolenceImage Courtesy: caravanmagazine.in

2019 proved to be a rather tumultuous year for India signalling unrest and violence especially communal violence. Communal violence is a broader term which encompasses communal riots, hate speech targeting a particular religious community, structural violence targeting any particular community  (Engineer, Dabhade, Nair, & Pendke, 2019). It is observed that since the BJP came into rule from 2014, there is an increase in hate crimes and discriminatory policies targeting the marginalised communities including minorities, Dalits, women and Adivasis. Though the government has ceased to publish National Crime Bureau Records data on the number of communal riots from 2017 which makes comparison difficult, according to CSSS report, the number of communal riots seems to have decreased based on their reportage in leading newspapers (Engineer, Dabhade, Nair, & Pendke, Communal Violence 2018: Locating the Role of State and Changing Nature of Violence, 2019).

Structural violence, on the other hand which manifests itself in discriminatory policies by state and state actions leading to discrimination and violence have gained prominence in the past few years. CSSS monitors communal violence annually. This year it will analyse communal violence in three parts, starting with structural violence followed by attitudinal violence and finally physical violence. Given this salience of structural violence in India, CSSS which annually monitors communal violence in India, will analyse below the key aspects of structural violence in India which fuels communal violence.

Communal riots in the past have had a polarizing effect and helped BJP gain political and electoral dividend. According to Paul Brass, there is an institutionalized riot system in India which can orchestrate violence depending on political exigencies and mostly before elections for political mobilization (Brass, 2004). Owing to the electoral dividends of communal riots, till BJP was not in power, communal riots were orchestrated on a larger scale. These riots went on for longer period and claimed more number of lives, disrupting normal life. Post 2014, riots have been low intensity in the sense that they are of shorter duration and cause lesser disruption of normal day to day life. Thus, the means of political mobilisation and polarisation have changed significantly after 2014 and in this context; structural violence assumes importance in order to fully comprehend the changing patterns of communal violence.

Structural violence is more subtle in a way it is in built in the structure itself. Thus it is sanctioned and backed by the state with legitimacy. Structural violence is more long lasting owing to its ability to institutionalize violence to perpetrate itself. This makes it possible to influence discourses in a way to reproduce discrimination and demonization of the vulnerable groups. The policies of state and subsequent state action have reinforced and exacerbated this discrimination against minorities which constitutes violence, denying them equal rights and equal citizenship. For instance, to begin with, the very definition of citizenship is undergoing a flux today. Citizenship which is a fountainhead of all rights is contested and defined today in exclusionary terms. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seeks to give accelerated citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As is evident, the Muslims are excluded from this discriminatory Act. Looking at the nature of this Act one can’t help draw parallel with Israel which practices the “law of return”. The belief that Israel is a natural home for all Jews all around the world is akin to the belief of BJP which in its manifesto claims that India is a natural home for all Hindus all around the world. This Act seeks to contest the very foundation of our constitution which rests on secularism and equal citizenship. This has sparked a primordial fear among Muslims, who see the government’s meddling with citizenship laws as nothing short of an existential threat.

The basic premise on which the CAA and NRC is based on is that there is cross border migration. The BJP depending on their political needs has shifted its definition of immigrants. While in Assam it made no distinction between Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims based on religion to suits its politics, overtime, it has insinuated that all Muslim immigrants are infiltrators and even termites. Home Minister Amit Shah said, “The illegal immigrants are like termites. They are eating the grain that should go to the poor, they are taking our jobs (The Indian Express, 2019).” The implications are always that these immigrants are Muslims. The line between Muslim immigrants (there is no official data but merely exaggerated figures) and Indian Muslims is blurred by the ideological moorings. This strengthens the already prevalent narrative against the Muslims that they anti-national, regressive, fanatical and violent. This narrative is reiterated by members holding constitutional power knowing well that it is divisive and will demonize the Muslims making them prone to violence and discrimination. The Prime Minister’s statement in the aftermath of the atrocities on Jamia Millia Ismailia students protesting against the CAA is telling on the attitude of the ruling dispensation vis a vis the Muslims. He said, “the Congress and its allies are making a noise, creating a storm. And if that doesn’t work, they are spreading a fire… From the visuals on TV, those setting the fire can be identified by their clothes

 (Angad, 2019) ”.

 The police have used excessive force on the students especially from Universities which in their perception are “Muslim”. The police fired tear gas inside the Library at Jamia University in Delhi and beat up students seriously injuring students. In Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh, the police went one step further: it lobbed stun grenades, which are used in war (Kumar, 2019). This led to an arm of a student being blown off and turned university campuses into war zones putting innocent youth at peril.

The protests against CAA by the students and others have been responded by barbarism especially in UP. “Iss hinsa mein lipt pratyek tatwa ki property ko zapt karenge, aur uss zapt se sarvajanik sampatti ko hue nuksaan ya kahin par public property ko jo damage kiya gaya hai, iski bharapaee bhi hum un sabhi upadraviyon se karenge. Kyunki yeh sab chinhit chehre hain. Wo sab videography mein aa chuke hain, CCTV ke footage mein aa chuke hain. In sab ki property ko zapt kar ke, inse hum iska badla lenge aur sakhti se nipatne ke liye maine iske baare mein kaha hai,” he said.

This intense vicious feeling of revenge of the CM was visited upon the Muslims in UP by sending them notices for compensation of the damage to state property, failing which their meager properties would be attached and confiscated. Most of these are minors and all are poor Muslims. The recklessness and motivated behaviour can be discerned from the fact that amongst those to whom the notices were sent included a Banne Khan, 87, who died six-years ago and 93 years old  Fasahat Meer Khan who has been bedridden for years (Chauhan, 2020).  This was coupled with indiscriminate arrests- 3417 people were taken into custody across the state as part of preventive action (Rehman & Sahu, 2019). 19 people have lost their lives in the anti-CAA protest in a span of one week- all of them Muslims. So ruthless was the police that it looted random Muslim households, vandalized their houses and smashed CCTV cameras. In no other protests have such brute force and terror unleashed on the protestors using the state apparatus. While earlier non state actors enjoying political patronage were given a free hand to wreak violence on minorities, now the state has declared war against its minorities by allowing police to use any amount of force selectively targeting Muslims to subdue them.

The CAA is intricately linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The CAA is a precursor to NRC nationwide. The first step in this direction is the rolling out of the National Population Register (NPR). The NRC will compel all the residents of India to prove that their citizens of India through complicated legacy documents. The onus to prove one’s citizenship will be on the residents. The ones who don’t have the necessary documents will face the dreadful prospect of spending the rest of their lives in the detention centres. If the NRC process under the direction of the Supreme Court that was implemented in Assam is any indicator then this process will spell unimaginable miseries for the poor who will scramble to get the necessary documents even at the cost of livelihood. The Adivasis, poor and the transgender community like other marginalized communities, had no access to hospitals for birth certificates and the landless have no access to land documents. This very much reflects the socio-economic scenario in the rest of India. The CAA is a back door method to give citizenship to all those who can’t prove their citizenship except Muslims, clearly discriminating against them and putting them at imminent risk of inhumane life at the dreadful detention centres.

The CAA-NRC policy followed the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir. Article 370 provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir which gave it greater amount of autonomy to make laws. The long standing promise of the BJP was fulfilled by hastily without taking the people of Jammu and Kashmir in confidence. Parliamentary democracy which reflects in dialogue and consultation was compromised by pushing this abrogation by brute majority of numbers in the Parliament. The move shocked and pained the people of Jammu and Kashmir who feel betrayed by this undemocratic authoritarian move. In order to muzzle dissent in the state, the centre has imposed shutdown of internet and phone lines, thereby isolating the state. There are alarming reports of the excesses of the defence force which are arbitrarily detaining men and boys as young as 10 years old and torturing the people into silent submission. This abrogation set a precedence of passing laws targeting the Muslims and reigning terror against them to dehumanize them and quell any voice of dissent.

Such policies are an affront to the very idea of India as conceived by the founders of the country. Apart from such policies which seek to alter the contours of citizenship, one of the ways that communal violence is taking deeper roots in the society is through the saffronisation of education with an aim of constructing a narrative that Muslims didn’t contribute to the freedom struggle and denying composite nationalism which was the basis of Indian freedom movement. There is a steady policy followed by the current ruling dispensation of rewriting history to glorify the RSS and the Hindutva ideologues. For instance, the Nagpur University has decided to include a chapter on “RSS’s role in nation-building” in the second-year Bachelor of Arts History syllabus. The university has deleted a part on “Rise and Growth of Communalism”, which discussed the role of the Sangh, along with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, and replaced it with the RSS’s role in nation-building (Deshpande, 2019).

Making no bones of their attempt to falsify history to glorify the RSS, Home Minister Amit Shah has urged the historians in the country to rewrite from “India’s” point of view. This was against the backdrop of the design to confer the Bharat Ratna on Savarkar, prominent ideologue of RSS. “Had it not been Veer Savarkar, the 1857 ‘kranti’ (war) would not have become history and we would have been seeing it from the British point of view,” the Home Minister said (The Hindu, 2019). Not only this but on the one hand where universities and students are facing severe repression and denied freedom of expression to critique or question any policies of the state, on the other hand, the university students are expected to endorse the policies of the State. MS University in Vadodara urged the students and the staff to join a rally to support and celebrate the abolition of article 370 (Mohanty, 2019). This was in pursuance of the direction sent out by Ahmedabad District Education Department. A circular issued by the Ahmedabad District Education department asked all government, grant-in-aid and self-financed secondary and higher secondary schools to arrange special lectures, debate, essay and elocution competition, group discussions and other similar contests on the subject of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution during the school assembly on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday (Sharma, 2019).

The other alarming trend is the astonishingly large sums of money spent on Hindu festivals and statues of Hindu Gods. At the same time, public festivals celebrating other religions or cultures are discouraged. For instance, Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has allocated Rs 4,236 crores for the Kumbh Mela 2019, an iconic Hindu festival that is celebrated every six years, being held in Prayagraj (also known as Allahabad), which is more than thrice the budget of the Maha Kumbh in 2013 (Business Today, 2019). Ayodhya Deepotsava which precludes Diwali has been allocated INR 133 crores, making it a ‘state fair’ (The Indian Express, 2019). This is happening at a time where in Karnataka has cancelled celebrating the anniversary of Tipu Sultan, a Muslim King, who is revered in Karnataka (Times of India, 2019). This is a blatant assertion of Hindu supremacy and state giving hegemony to Hindu religion. These trends not just violate the Constitution which doesn’t allow taxpayers’ money to be spent on religious festivals, but also excludes festivals which are important to Muslims or Christians.

The Constitution has provided for an elaborate system of checks and balances in order to protect the values of the Constitution against the access or overreaching action of any of the arms of the state. However one can witness a steady corrosion of the criminal justice system. The police with their deliberate shoddy investigation and pressure from the political bosses have not been able to protect the innocent citizens. For example, there were numerous instances of Muslims being brutally beaten for not chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. Though it is evident that these crimes are communal, the police have denied that these are communal. For instance, four madrasa students in Unnao, UP were assaulted and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. One of the accused in the case is district secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing. The police denied any religious angle (The Indian Express, 2019). The number of such cases shows that the perpetrators have no fear and these crimes continue with impunity. Similarly, there have been demands in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to withdraw criminal cases against BJP leaders involved in communal riots. Earlier in 2019, the UP government withdrew 75 cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots that took place in 2013. It’s worth noting that 41 related cases have already resulted in acquittal dashing any hopes of justice (Sharma A. , 2019). However, there is a hopeless resignation looming large when it comes to prospects of justice from the judiciary given its judgments on Babri Masjid demolition and criminalization of triple talaq. The verdict of the case of Babri Masjid based on “faith and belief of the Hindu devotees” which directly amounts to defying the Constitution of which secularism is a cornerstone.

India is in grip of an authoritarian state which is waging a heinous war against its own poor and minorities. The ruling dispensation in its policies is undermining the basic tenets of the Constitution and single minded targeting the minorities and the poor. This vile vindictive behaviour of the ruling dispensation specifically targeting Muslims is at odds of the idea of India itself. The discrimination, exclusion and the hatred, the structural violence produces is shaking the very foundation of India pushing it towards uncertainty and insecurity. The dominant result will be a monolithic society, fragmented along lines of religion producing a hierarchy in citizenship. The overwhelming sense of trauma and violence will break the spirit of once a vibrant democracy known as India.

Related :

Kerala passes resolution for withdrawal of CAA
Women, Trans and Queer Communities stand against CAA, NRC and NPR
Kerala kids show the way to solidarity and harmony
NPR is Step One to NRC, don’t be fooled
Rajasathan says ‘No’ to NPR
CMS opposing NRC must stop NPR exercise in their states: CPIM
PTI reports Rs. 8,500 cr approved for NPR, PIB retracts figure to Rs. 3,941.35 cr

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Do Dalits & Adivasis not suffer religious persecution, asks anti-CAA meet

26 Dec 2019

dalits

“The Modi government has sought to camouflage its real intention of undermining Article 14 by stating in the CAA is about providing shelter and citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India, with the exception of Muslims. But what about Dalits’ religious persecution in India? Our survey suggests that 90% of villages prohibit entry of Dalits into temples.”  

“We would be demanding from the Government of India to create a new register, of the villages which don't permit entry of Dalits into temples, irrespective of  religion. Also, we would be demanding that from the Prime Minister declare India untouchability free on the next Independence day, August 15, 2020.”
- Martin Macwan

Former BJP MLA from Rajkot, now independent Dalit leader Siddharth Parmar, told the gathering that the current fight is between the Indian Constitution, authored by Dr BR Ambedkar, and those who want that the country to live by the codes scripted in the ancient treatise Manusmriti. “The real intention of the government is revive Manusmriti, which codifies inequalities, even as undermining the equality focus of the Constitution”, he said.

In a similar vein, Uttam Parmar, a South Gujarat Gandhian activist, said, “CAA and NRC are not just about excluding Muslims, as our rulers are propagating. It’s about seeking exclusion of Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes, who have been legally recognized equal by the Indian Constitution. Our rulers are unable to reconcile themselves with the revolution brought about by Gandhiji and Dr Ambedkar through the Constitution by providing equality before law. They are trying to divide the country on communal lines. It is well known who pitted Dalits against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots."

Renowned academic Prof Ghanshyam Shah, recalled the historic day of December 25, 1927, 92 years ago, when Dr Ambedkar’s launched his campaign against Manusmriti by burning and said, “The Manusmriti burning wasn’t just burning of a book. It was a symbolic gesture to burn the idea of inequality, codified in the ancient treatise.” He wondered whether, through CAA, India was following Pakistan by making religion as the basis for citizenship. “Our rulers must remember, India’s Constitution is not Pakistan’s, which provides supremacy to a particular religion”, he said.

Do Dalits & Adivasis not suffer religious persecution, asks anti-CAA meet

dalits

“The Modi government has sought to camouflage its real intention of undermining Article 14 by stating in the CAA is about providing shelter and citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India, with the exception of Muslims. But what about Dalits’ religious persecution in India? Our survey suggests that 90% of villages prohibit entry of Dalits into temples.”  

“We would be demanding from the Government of India to create a new register, of the villages which don't permit entry of Dalits into temples, irrespective of  religion. Also, we would be demanding that from the Prime Minister declare India untouchability free on the next Independence day, August 15, 2020.”
- Martin Macwan

Former BJP MLA from Rajkot, now independent Dalit leader Siddharth Parmar, told the gathering that the current fight is between the Indian Constitution, authored by Dr BR Ambedkar, and those who want that the country to live by the codes scripted in the ancient treatise Manusmriti. “The real intention of the government is revive Manusmriti, which codifies inequalities, even as undermining the equality focus of the Constitution”, he said.

In a similar vein, Uttam Parmar, a South Gujarat Gandhian activist, said, “CAA and NRC are not just about excluding Muslims, as our rulers are propagating. It’s about seeking exclusion of Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes, who have been legally recognized equal by the Indian Constitution. Our rulers are unable to reconcile themselves with the revolution brought about by Gandhiji and Dr Ambedkar through the Constitution by providing equality before law. They are trying to divide the country on communal lines. It is well known who pitted Dalits against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots."

Renowned academic Prof Ghanshyam Shah, recalled the historic day of December 25, 1927, 92 years ago, when Dr Ambedkar’s launched his campaign against Manusmriti by burning and said, “The Manusmriti burning wasn’t just burning of a book. It was a symbolic gesture to burn the idea of inequality, codified in the ancient treatise.” He wondered whether, through CAA, India was following Pakistan by making religion as the basis for citizenship. “Our rulers must remember, India’s Constitution is not Pakistan’s, which provides supremacy to a particular religion”, he said.

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

JMM’s Hemant Soren files complaint against Jharkhand CM for casteist slur

The BJP had earlier filed a complaint against Soren and Priyanka Gandhi for insulting the sentiments of Hindus

20 Dec 2019

raghubar das

Opposition leader and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s (JMM) Executive President Hemant Soren has filed a complaint against Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das at the Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe Police Station in Dumka alleging that the CM used casteist slurs against him at the Mihijam in Jamatara Assembly during his poll address. Soren demanded that a case against Das be filed under the SC / ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
 

 

 

 

Soren told reporters, “I have filed a complaint with the Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste police station in Dumka against the chief minister, who used objectionable words on my caste during a poll meeting at Jamtara's Mihijam on Wednesday. His words hurt my feeling and honour. Is it an offence to take birth in a tribal family?”

Dumka Sub Divisional Police Officer Pujya Prakash said that a written application had been received by Soren personally and based on the same, further action would be taken.

JMM General Secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya addressed a press meet after the incident. He said that the entire party and the people of Santhal had been insulted by Das’ comments. “The party has filed a complaint at Jharkhand CEO’s office against Das and has sought stern action against him as it is matter of pride of entire Jharkhand. During the election campaign we also have used very aggressive words against our opposition parties but we never used such kind of words which can hurt people. This is matter of shame and it will be not accepted. The party is strongly condemning it”, he said.

BJP is currently on shaky ground in Jharkhand after its alliance with the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) went kaput. Its chief whip MLA Radhakrishna Kishore, after being denied a ticket, joined the AJSU. Principal spokesman Praveen Prabhakar too quit the party to contest separately from a ticket by the National People’s Party (NPP) after he asked the BJP to do some ‘soul searching.’

The votes too are now tilted in the favour of the grand alliance of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal with the JMM, which has a legacy in the state, giving more reasons to BJP to suffer from heartburn. It is aware of the challenge to stop the Tribal-Christian-Muslim front that is against it. While the JMM alliance bringing up issues like the age-old exploitation of the tribals and the matter of ‘Jal, Jungle, Zameen’ and tribal rights, the BJP is still going on about Pakistan and making speeches clearly meant to incite communal sentiments. Whether this will or won’t work with the people of Jharkhand will soon come to light.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that the complaint filed by Hemant Soren against CM Raghubar Das comes after the BJP filed a complaint against Soren for using inappropriate words against the Hindus asking the Jharkhand State Election Commission to book Soren and Priyanka Gandhi on the charges of treason.

This complaint and counter-complaint seems to have heated up in the run-up to the Jharkhand Assembly election results. Who will get catch the bait and who will get the boot, only time will tell.


Related:

Will Modi’s Pakistan stick to beat the Congress with, work in Jharkand?
AJSU breaks alliance, BJP will now contest the assembly elections alone

Protest against starvation and govt apathy in Jharkhand on Friday
BirsaMunda's Jharkhand slipping out of Adivasi hands
Rajasthan Local Body elections: Congress wins (863) over BJP (661)
BJP’s Hate Mongers out of Karnataka By-Poll Campaign

Saffron Fades: Maharashtra State Elections 2019

JMM’s Hemant Soren files complaint against Jharkhand CM for casteist slur

The BJP had earlier filed a complaint against Soren and Priyanka Gandhi for insulting the sentiments of Hindus

raghubar das

Opposition leader and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s (JMM) Executive President Hemant Soren has filed a complaint against Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das at the Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe Police Station in Dumka alleging that the CM used casteist slurs against him at the Mihijam in Jamatara Assembly during his poll address. Soren demanded that a case against Das be filed under the SC / ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
 

 

 

 

Soren told reporters, “I have filed a complaint with the Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste police station in Dumka against the chief minister, who used objectionable words on my caste during a poll meeting at Jamtara's Mihijam on Wednesday. His words hurt my feeling and honour. Is it an offence to take birth in a tribal family?”

Dumka Sub Divisional Police Officer Pujya Prakash said that a written application had been received by Soren personally and based on the same, further action would be taken.

JMM General Secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya addressed a press meet after the incident. He said that the entire party and the people of Santhal had been insulted by Das’ comments. “The party has filed a complaint at Jharkhand CEO’s office against Das and has sought stern action against him as it is matter of pride of entire Jharkhand. During the election campaign we also have used very aggressive words against our opposition parties but we never used such kind of words which can hurt people. This is matter of shame and it will be not accepted. The party is strongly condemning it”, he said.

BJP is currently on shaky ground in Jharkhand after its alliance with the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) went kaput. Its chief whip MLA Radhakrishna Kishore, after being denied a ticket, joined the AJSU. Principal spokesman Praveen Prabhakar too quit the party to contest separately from a ticket by the National People’s Party (NPP) after he asked the BJP to do some ‘soul searching.’

The votes too are now tilted in the favour of the grand alliance of the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal with the JMM, which has a legacy in the state, giving more reasons to BJP to suffer from heartburn. It is aware of the challenge to stop the Tribal-Christian-Muslim front that is against it. While the JMM alliance bringing up issues like the age-old exploitation of the tribals and the matter of ‘Jal, Jungle, Zameen’ and tribal rights, the BJP is still going on about Pakistan and making speeches clearly meant to incite communal sentiments. Whether this will or won’t work with the people of Jharkhand will soon come to light.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that the complaint filed by Hemant Soren against CM Raghubar Das comes after the BJP filed a complaint against Soren for using inappropriate words against the Hindus asking the Jharkhand State Election Commission to book Soren and Priyanka Gandhi on the charges of treason.

This complaint and counter-complaint seems to have heated up in the run-up to the Jharkhand Assembly election results. Who will get catch the bait and who will get the boot, only time will tell.


Related:

Will Modi’s Pakistan stick to beat the Congress with, work in Jharkand?
AJSU breaks alliance, BJP will now contest the assembly elections alone

Protest against starvation and govt apathy in Jharkhand on Friday
BirsaMunda's Jharkhand slipping out of Adivasi hands
Rajasthan Local Body elections: Congress wins (863) over BJP (661)
BJP’s Hate Mongers out of Karnataka By-Poll Campaign

Saffron Fades: Maharashtra State Elections 2019

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Dalit man assaulted for selling biryani in Noida

The men have been arrested under the SC/ ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and will be sent to custody

16 Dec 2019

Dalit
Image Courtesy: dailyhunt.in

A 43- year old Dalit man was attacked by a group of 'upper caste' men in Greater Noida for selling biryani in ‘their area’. Lokesh Jatav, who was badly beaten up by the assailants also saw casteist slurs being hurled against him. A video of the incident that took place in Rabapura, 66 km from Delhi was widely shared on social media showed the man standing back to the wall, being slapped by a man shouting abuses and calling him names, demanding he apologize for being there.

 

 

Speaking to The Quint, Lokesh said, “On the evening of December 13, I was about to return home after selling biryani in the nearby Mohammad Khera village. Three men, who own shops in my village in Rabupura, came and enquired about my caste. When I told them I belong to the Jatav community, they started thrashing me and abusing.” He added, “They just wanted to show how they are beating a man from the oppressed caste. They wanted to show their dominance. They asked me to fold my hands and beg for mercy. I belong to an oppressed caste so I had to do it.”

The Quint also reported that the mother of one of the accused said that her son shouldn’t not have beaten up Lokesh and that he was severely reprimanded by his father once he got home. She also mentioned that might have been drunk at the time of the incident.

An FIR against the three men had been registered against under the Scheduled Casts and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Speaking to Sabrang India, Vineet Kumar Singh the Station House Officer at Rabupura Police Station said, “Three men - Brajesh alias Veeram, Shanu and Anand had been arrested at 8:30 PM yesterday and are being sent to jail. The men said that there was a fight between them and Lokesh after which they had hit him, but that is yet to be confirmed. Lokesh has said that he was at his stall selling biryani when they came and asked about his caste and beat him up for being there. The investigation in the matter is still on and we’re in the process of speaking to eyewitnesses.”

 

 

UP CM Yogi Adityanath, in keeping with his campaign call ‘Yogi hai toh Yakeen Hai’ also tweeted about the incident saying that there was no place for any communal disharmony in the state and people trying to spew hatred would be duly prosecuted.

 

 

Lokesh has said that the threats won’t stop him and he would continue to sell biryani, which he insists is vegetarian, saying the business fed him and his family.

It is shocking to see such hate crimes take place in the country. Earlier this year, in Uttarkhand, a group of upper caste Hindus had beaten up a 21-year-old Dalit boy named Jitendra for sitting on a chair and eating in their presence at a wedding. The boy died nine days later.

In UP’s Hardoi district a 20-year-old Dalit man was beaten up in captivity and set ablaze by relatives of an upper caste girl he was in a relationship with for the past six years.

There have been a slew of incidents against Dalits in India. Just last week, Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani was suspended from the Assembly for calling out the hypocrisy of the BJP with regards to celebrating Constitution Day and how it believed in the Constitution of India. Mevani mentioned the killing of Dalits in Thanagadh and the abysmal conviction in the matter and in that of the flogging of Dalits in Una. 

In the past three years, 43 percent of all cases of harassment of minorities and Dalits, taken up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) were registered in Uttar Pradesh, with the state accounting for 869 cases out of the 2,008 cases registered. While cases against minorities dropped from 42 to 19 between 2016 – 17 and 2018 – 19, cases of harassment against Dalits rose saw an increase of nearly 41 percent from 221 cases in 2016 – 17 to 311 in 2018 – 19.

In regards to harassment of Dalits, cases registered by NHRC have seen an increase of 33 per cent in the past three years. In 2016-17, NHRC registered 505 cases. By 2018-19 this figure increased to 672 -- nearly two cases every day. This year (till June 15) NHRC has already registered 99 cases where Dalits were harassed.

Dalits and minorities have witnessed harassment in the Hindi belt of India with Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh accounting for 64 percent of the cases. According to Indiaspend, the conviction rate in crimes against the SC / STs was at 26% in 2016 and acquittals of the accused rose to 74% in 2016.

The SC / STs everywhere in India, be it students, the working community, and women in particular, have been at the receiving end of hatred for a very long time now. There have been a lot of campaigns, digital and in the real world to stress that these minorities must get their rightful share in society, but their fight against such atrocious inhumanity seems to be far from over.

Related:

Islamophobia: What’s Common between Payal Tadvi and Fathima Latif
Irony at its worst: Dalit boy thrashed for attending rally about ending caste discrimination
In Gujarat, even Dalit Cops are not spared, driven out of temple, refused food
Dalit youths stripped, flogged after altercation with restaurant owner: Ahmedabad

Dalit man assaulted for selling biryani in Noida

The men have been arrested under the SC/ ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and will be sent to custody

Dalit
Image Courtesy: dailyhunt.in

A 43- year old Dalit man was attacked by a group of 'upper caste' men in Greater Noida for selling biryani in ‘their area’. Lokesh Jatav, who was badly beaten up by the assailants also saw casteist slurs being hurled against him. A video of the incident that took place in Rabapura, 66 km from Delhi was widely shared on social media showed the man standing back to the wall, being slapped by a man shouting abuses and calling him names, demanding he apologize for being there.

 

 

Speaking to The Quint, Lokesh said, “On the evening of December 13, I was about to return home after selling biryani in the nearby Mohammad Khera village. Three men, who own shops in my village in Rabupura, came and enquired about my caste. When I told them I belong to the Jatav community, they started thrashing me and abusing.” He added, “They just wanted to show how they are beating a man from the oppressed caste. They wanted to show their dominance. They asked me to fold my hands and beg for mercy. I belong to an oppressed caste so I had to do it.”

The Quint also reported that the mother of one of the accused said that her son shouldn’t not have beaten up Lokesh and that he was severely reprimanded by his father once he got home. She also mentioned that might have been drunk at the time of the incident.

An FIR against the three men had been registered against under the Scheduled Casts and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Speaking to Sabrang India, Vineet Kumar Singh the Station House Officer at Rabupura Police Station said, “Three men - Brajesh alias Veeram, Shanu and Anand had been arrested at 8:30 PM yesterday and are being sent to jail. The men said that there was a fight between them and Lokesh after which they had hit him, but that is yet to be confirmed. Lokesh has said that he was at his stall selling biryani when they came and asked about his caste and beat him up for being there. The investigation in the matter is still on and we’re in the process of speaking to eyewitnesses.”

 

 

UP CM Yogi Adityanath, in keeping with his campaign call ‘Yogi hai toh Yakeen Hai’ also tweeted about the incident saying that there was no place for any communal disharmony in the state and people trying to spew hatred would be duly prosecuted.

 

 

Lokesh has said that the threats won’t stop him and he would continue to sell biryani, which he insists is vegetarian, saying the business fed him and his family.

It is shocking to see such hate crimes take place in the country. Earlier this year, in Uttarkhand, a group of upper caste Hindus had beaten up a 21-year-old Dalit boy named Jitendra for sitting on a chair and eating in their presence at a wedding. The boy died nine days later.

In UP’s Hardoi district a 20-year-old Dalit man was beaten up in captivity and set ablaze by relatives of an upper caste girl he was in a relationship with for the past six years.

There have been a slew of incidents against Dalits in India. Just last week, Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani was suspended from the Assembly for calling out the hypocrisy of the BJP with regards to celebrating Constitution Day and how it believed in the Constitution of India. Mevani mentioned the killing of Dalits in Thanagadh and the abysmal conviction in the matter and in that of the flogging of Dalits in Una. 

In the past three years, 43 percent of all cases of harassment of minorities and Dalits, taken up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) were registered in Uttar Pradesh, with the state accounting for 869 cases out of the 2,008 cases registered. While cases against minorities dropped from 42 to 19 between 2016 – 17 and 2018 – 19, cases of harassment against Dalits rose saw an increase of nearly 41 percent from 221 cases in 2016 – 17 to 311 in 2018 – 19.

In regards to harassment of Dalits, cases registered by NHRC have seen an increase of 33 per cent in the past three years. In 2016-17, NHRC registered 505 cases. By 2018-19 this figure increased to 672 -- nearly two cases every day. This year (till June 15) NHRC has already registered 99 cases where Dalits were harassed.

Dalits and minorities have witnessed harassment in the Hindi belt of India with Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh accounting for 64 percent of the cases. According to Indiaspend, the conviction rate in crimes against the SC / STs was at 26% in 2016 and acquittals of the accused rose to 74% in 2016.

The SC / STs everywhere in India, be it students, the working community, and women in particular, have been at the receiving end of hatred for a very long time now. There have been a lot of campaigns, digital and in the real world to stress that these minorities must get their rightful share in society, but their fight against such atrocious inhumanity seems to be far from over.

Related:

Islamophobia: What’s Common between Payal Tadvi and Fathima Latif
Irony at its worst: Dalit boy thrashed for attending rally about ending caste discrimination
In Gujarat, even Dalit Cops are not spared, driven out of temple, refused food
Dalit youths stripped, flogged after altercation with restaurant owner: Ahmedabad

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Subscribe to Caste