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BJP supporters assault two JU students in Bikramgarh

Sabrangindia 17 Jan 2020

Around 9 PM on 14th January, two students of Jadavpur University was allegedly assaulted and manhandled by BJP supporters when they were passing by a venue where a BJP meeting was held. 
 
"We were walking past the meeting when we heard the man on the dais spewing hate against the JU students and the movement against CAA and NRC led by the students. Even though we were angered, we didn't say anything. However, someone in the crowd identified us as JU students and a group of  men came running from the meeting, blocked us and started beating us up," said Arjun Kar, a musician and student of Jadavpur University while speaking exclusively to SabrangIndia. 
 
A day after the incident, students of Jadavpur University organised a protest rally outside the JU campus. 
Watch the entire video here. 
 

 
 

BJP supporters assault two JU students in Bikramgarh

Around 9 PM on 14th January, two students of Jadavpur University was allegedly assaulted and manhandled by BJP supporters when they were passing by a venue where a BJP meeting was held. 
 
"We were walking past the meeting when we heard the man on the dais spewing hate against the JU students and the movement against CAA and NRC led by the students. Even though we were angered, we didn't say anything. However, someone in the crowd identified us as JU students and a group of  men came running from the meeting, blocked us and started beating us up," said Arjun Kar, a musician and student of Jadavpur University while speaking exclusively to SabrangIndia. 
 
A day after the incident, students of Jadavpur University organised a protest rally outside the JU campus. 
Watch the entire video here. 
 

 
 

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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. 

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Students of UBKV and Trinamool Chhatra Parishad accuse BJP of violence

The students allege that the attack on them was similar to the one at JNU

16 Jan 2020

attack on students
Image Courtesy: Picture by Main Uddin Chisti / Telegraph
 

The students of Uttar Banga Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (UBKV) in Cooch Behar and Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) supporters alleged that armed BJP workers entered the university campus on the evening of Tuesday, assaulting students after they had held a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in front of BJP MP Jayanta Roy, The Telegraph reported.

On Tuesday, Jalpaiguri BJP MP Jayanta Roy had come to the University to inaugurate an agricultural fair when TMCP supporters and students held an agitation against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). It was after this, that students say, a group of around 20 BJP men, some supposedly carrying firearms, made way into the university premises and started assaulting the students.

General Secretary of the TMCP, Sushmen Biswas told The Telegraph, “The attack was similar to the one at JNU. As we had demonstrated before the MP, they entered the campus with sticks, rods and even guns. They beat us and one of us was hit with the butt of a firearm. We have launched a protest and will continue until the police arrest all of them.”

Bablu Ganguly, a student, also told The Telegraph, “The students shouted ‘go-back’ slogans. Slogans were also raised against the CAA and the NRC. When the MP was leaving the university, they demonstrated in front of him but there was no violence. However, a group of BJP supporters who had gathered outside started throwing stones at the protesters.”

The students of UBKV have since boycotted their exams and launched a protest demanding immediate action against their alleged attackers. The Vice Chancellor of the University too has sent an email to the Superintendent of Police of Cooch Behar. He said, “After the inaugural programme, the MP was leaving the university. We saw some outsiders, who were standing near the entrance, shoving and pushing our students. They also threw stones and bricks at the students. We condemn the attack and have spoken with officials at Nabanna. Not only the students, even the teachers feeling insecure.”

However, BJP leaders have denied the allegations. Sukumar Roy Sarkar, a local BJP leader has said, “Our party does not have any connection with the incident. Some students who support Trinamool are trying to malign our party.”


Related:
Bengaluru BJP workers threaten design school over Modi graffiti

Jamia students demand FIR against police, cancellation of exams
‘Don’t forget Gujarat’: Pro-CAA supporters warn protestors at a BJP rally in Kerala

Students of UBKV and Trinamool Chhatra Parishad accuse BJP of violence

The students allege that the attack on them was similar to the one at JNU

attack on students
Image Courtesy: Picture by Main Uddin Chisti / Telegraph
 

The students of Uttar Banga Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (UBKV) in Cooch Behar and Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) supporters alleged that armed BJP workers entered the university campus on the evening of Tuesday, assaulting students after they had held a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in front of BJP MP Jayanta Roy, The Telegraph reported.

On Tuesday, Jalpaiguri BJP MP Jayanta Roy had come to the University to inaugurate an agricultural fair when TMCP supporters and students held an agitation against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). It was after this, that students say, a group of around 20 BJP men, some supposedly carrying firearms, made way into the university premises and started assaulting the students.

General Secretary of the TMCP, Sushmen Biswas told The Telegraph, “The attack was similar to the one at JNU. As we had demonstrated before the MP, they entered the campus with sticks, rods and even guns. They beat us and one of us was hit with the butt of a firearm. We have launched a protest and will continue until the police arrest all of them.”

Bablu Ganguly, a student, also told The Telegraph, “The students shouted ‘go-back’ slogans. Slogans were also raised against the CAA and the NRC. When the MP was leaving the university, they demonstrated in front of him but there was no violence. However, a group of BJP supporters who had gathered outside started throwing stones at the protesters.”

The students of UBKV have since boycotted their exams and launched a protest demanding immediate action against their alleged attackers. The Vice Chancellor of the University too has sent an email to the Superintendent of Police of Cooch Behar. He said, “After the inaugural programme, the MP was leaving the university. We saw some outsiders, who were standing near the entrance, shoving and pushing our students. They also threw stones and bricks at the students. We condemn the attack and have spoken with officials at Nabanna. Not only the students, even the teachers feeling insecure.”

However, BJP leaders have denied the allegations. Sukumar Roy Sarkar, a local BJP leader has said, “Our party does not have any connection with the incident. Some students who support Trinamool are trying to malign our party.”


Related:
Bengaluru BJP workers threaten design school over Modi graffiti

Jamia students demand FIR against police, cancellation of exams
‘Don’t forget Gujarat’: Pro-CAA supporters warn protestors at a BJP rally in Kerala

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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. 
 

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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

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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.

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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?

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Maha seeks to implement Delhi education model for civic schools

Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar praise efforts of the AAP seeking to replicate the success of the same in Maharashtra

15 Jan 2020

Ajit Pawar

Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar on Monday announced that the state government has decided to adopt the Delhi model of education to enhance the quality of education imparted to the children studying in schools which come under the municipal corporations. The plan is to implement the model on a pilot basis in civic-run schools and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has been asked to study the model and come up with a framework.

“Today, the Delhi school education model is considered to be the best in the country. The transformation in education system under the Delhi model needs a relook and should be replicated to raise the standard of education in Maharashtra,” he had said at a school education review meeting at the Mantralaya.

All praises for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s initiative, Pawar said, “The Delhi model will ensure both effective financial management and also better educational standards. Education is the government’s priority. The state government will ensure ordinary people are also provided quality education. There will be no paucity of funds for education of children. However, government will not tolerate misuse of funds for education of children. The government will not tolerate misuse of funds allocated for education. Every student, irrespective of his family income and category, is entitled to quality education, and the government is committed to accomplish this agenda.”

What the Delhi model of education is and why it is lauded by all

In 2019, the Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya, run by the Delhi government topped the India School Ranking for government day schools in the country. This was possible due to the government’s model of education – with effective in-school plans and provision of all the necessary aid needed for students’ success.

Moving away from dingy classrooms, brick walls, dirty toilets and the like, the Delhi government, headed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) revamped the face of education in the capital in a quick three years from 2015 – 2018. The credit for turning the system over on its head is given to by Rhodes Scholar Atishi Marlena, an alumna of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and Oxford University, UK who joined AAP as an advisor.

In the first step towards the ‘Education Revolution’, the government doubled the allocation in the budget, with Delhi allocating 22.8% of its total budget to education in the year 2016 – 17. However, this was just the first step. The work towards creating an exemplary model involved working on the four pillars – modernizing infrastructure, capacity building of school teachers and principals, making school administration accountable and improving learning outcomes.

1.       Modernizing Infrastructure – Seeing that there was an acute shortage of classrooms, AAP first worked to increase that number and built approximately 8,000 classrooms from 2015 – 2017. In 2017 – 18, it reached the number of 10,000 and added 21 more schools to accommodate students. It also created around 54 pilot schools with smart classrooms and better infrastructure and also appointed Estate Managers, fixed sanitation staff and other modern equipment to ensure that to aid the comfort of the students.

2.       Capacity building of Teaching Staff and Principals – To tackle low teacher retention, the party altered the model of training, giving workshops to over 20,000 teachers who were asked to create supplementary material for their subjects in groups under the supervision of facilitators. This peer-based learning experience made a world of a difference and the decision of making Principals meet with facilitators for a monthly dialogue only fostered the progress. Also, the Mentor Teacher program was begun where a cadre of 200 talented teachers were allocated to schools in groups of 5 or 6 to provide academic support to other teachers making them the bedrock of the education system.

3.       Making school administration accountable - To keep school administration accountable, surprise inspections were held, and the officials of the Directorate of Education were made to monitor and track the management of schools through a network of School Management Committees, pulling up and suspending anyone found guilty of purposeful negligence and corruption.

4.       Improving learning outcomes – The education department observed that many students who entered the secondary school were riddled with severe learning deficiencies. To tackle this, the government started the ‘Every Child Can Read’ campaign where apart from efforts by school teachers, the members of the community started ‘Reading Melas’ across the capital.

The government also brought in Chunauti 2018 – a reform aimed at reducing the dropout rate in schools, especially in Classes 6 to 9 to ensure that students who weren’t at their grade level were equipped with reading, writing and basic math competency to ensure the progress of children especially when they reach Class 9.

Also, through the DHE, the Delhi Higher Education Aid Trust decided to fully or partially reimburse the tuition fee paid by the students. The specifics of the same being –

(a) 100% tuition fee of the meritorious students belonging to economically weaker section i.e. wards of parent/s who possess relevant card issued under the National Food Security Scheme,

(b) 50% of tuition fee to meritorious students having annual family income up to Rs. 2.50 lakh and are not covered under the National Food Security Scheme,

(c) 25% reimbursement of tuition fee to meritorious students having annual income above Rs 2.50 lakh but below Rs 6 lakh. The qualifying aggregate percentage of marks for all three categories is 60%. A relaxation of 5% in qualifying aggregate percentage of marks will be allowed to SC/ST category students. The scheme will be administered and managed by the concerned Delhi state universities/institutions for themselves and for other colleges/institutions affiliated to them.

Apart from formal education, the education department also took care to provide transformative learning to understand psychological and social issues affecting students and working towards resolving them. One of the other most important aspects of the Education Revolution was getting students to understand and contribute to legal policy and for them to see how the law works in action, especially with regards to vulnerable communities.

The AAP now has many a thing to its credit. With innovative programmes that look towards bringing in wholesome development of students, they have set an example that has inspired the state of Maharashtra to follow suit.

This, especially at a time when the Central government is looked at with suspicion to constantly privatize education and turning a blind eye to the plight of government schools in the country. It also cut budgetary allocation for education from 0.64 percent in 2014 – 15 to 0.45 percent in 2019 – 20. The Centre also encouraged the practice of generating loans through the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) asking educational institutions to repay principal loans through internal funds; the same leading to massive fee hikes.

In contrast to this, the Delhi government has taken a route to stop students and parents from being exploited by private players, ensuring that civic schools address all the needs of the children without burning a hole in the parents’ pocket.

AAP has been lauded for its public-centered initiatives especially the enhancement of the education system. Its successes and staying true to its promises has created a trust factor in the people of Delhi. With top leaders being impressed with the work carried out in Delhi’s schools, will this bolster their campaign and cement their success in the upcoming Assembly elections?

 

Related:

Exam failure major trigger for student suicides: NCRB
JNU‘s fee hike fight an eyesore for the admin and Govt.?
No benches, no drinking water for 400 students of BMC-run school

 

Maha seeks to implement Delhi education model for civic schools

Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar praise efforts of the AAP seeking to replicate the success of the same in Maharashtra

Ajit Pawar

Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ajit Pawar on Monday announced that the state government has decided to adopt the Delhi model of education to enhance the quality of education imparted to the children studying in schools which come under the municipal corporations. The plan is to implement the model on a pilot basis in civic-run schools and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has been asked to study the model and come up with a framework.

“Today, the Delhi school education model is considered to be the best in the country. The transformation in education system under the Delhi model needs a relook and should be replicated to raise the standard of education in Maharashtra,” he had said at a school education review meeting at the Mantralaya.

All praises for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s initiative, Pawar said, “The Delhi model will ensure both effective financial management and also better educational standards. Education is the government’s priority. The state government will ensure ordinary people are also provided quality education. There will be no paucity of funds for education of children. However, government will not tolerate misuse of funds for education of children. The government will not tolerate misuse of funds allocated for education. Every student, irrespective of his family income and category, is entitled to quality education, and the government is committed to accomplish this agenda.”

What the Delhi model of education is and why it is lauded by all

In 2019, the Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya, run by the Delhi government topped the India School Ranking for government day schools in the country. This was possible due to the government’s model of education – with effective in-school plans and provision of all the necessary aid needed for students’ success.

Moving away from dingy classrooms, brick walls, dirty toilets and the like, the Delhi government, headed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) revamped the face of education in the capital in a quick three years from 2015 – 2018. The credit for turning the system over on its head is given to by Rhodes Scholar Atishi Marlena, an alumna of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and Oxford University, UK who joined AAP as an advisor.

In the first step towards the ‘Education Revolution’, the government doubled the allocation in the budget, with Delhi allocating 22.8% of its total budget to education in the year 2016 – 17. However, this was just the first step. The work towards creating an exemplary model involved working on the four pillars – modernizing infrastructure, capacity building of school teachers and principals, making school administration accountable and improving learning outcomes.

1.       Modernizing Infrastructure – Seeing that there was an acute shortage of classrooms, AAP first worked to increase that number and built approximately 8,000 classrooms from 2015 – 2017. In 2017 – 18, it reached the number of 10,000 and added 21 more schools to accommodate students. It also created around 54 pilot schools with smart classrooms and better infrastructure and also appointed Estate Managers, fixed sanitation staff and other modern equipment to ensure that to aid the comfort of the students.

2.       Capacity building of Teaching Staff and Principals – To tackle low teacher retention, the party altered the model of training, giving workshops to over 20,000 teachers who were asked to create supplementary material for their subjects in groups under the supervision of facilitators. This peer-based learning experience made a world of a difference and the decision of making Principals meet with facilitators for a monthly dialogue only fostered the progress. Also, the Mentor Teacher program was begun where a cadre of 200 talented teachers were allocated to schools in groups of 5 or 6 to provide academic support to other teachers making them the bedrock of the education system.

3.       Making school administration accountable - To keep school administration accountable, surprise inspections were held, and the officials of the Directorate of Education were made to monitor and track the management of schools through a network of School Management Committees, pulling up and suspending anyone found guilty of purposeful negligence and corruption.

4.       Improving learning outcomes – The education department observed that many students who entered the secondary school were riddled with severe learning deficiencies. To tackle this, the government started the ‘Every Child Can Read’ campaign where apart from efforts by school teachers, the members of the community started ‘Reading Melas’ across the capital.

The government also brought in Chunauti 2018 – a reform aimed at reducing the dropout rate in schools, especially in Classes 6 to 9 to ensure that students who weren’t at their grade level were equipped with reading, writing and basic math competency to ensure the progress of children especially when they reach Class 9.

Also, through the DHE, the Delhi Higher Education Aid Trust decided to fully or partially reimburse the tuition fee paid by the students. The specifics of the same being –

(a) 100% tuition fee of the meritorious students belonging to economically weaker section i.e. wards of parent/s who possess relevant card issued under the National Food Security Scheme,

(b) 50% of tuition fee to meritorious students having annual family income up to Rs. 2.50 lakh and are not covered under the National Food Security Scheme,

(c) 25% reimbursement of tuition fee to meritorious students having annual income above Rs 2.50 lakh but below Rs 6 lakh. The qualifying aggregate percentage of marks for all three categories is 60%. A relaxation of 5% in qualifying aggregate percentage of marks will be allowed to SC/ST category students. The scheme will be administered and managed by the concerned Delhi state universities/institutions for themselves and for other colleges/institutions affiliated to them.

Apart from formal education, the education department also took care to provide transformative learning to understand psychological and social issues affecting students and working towards resolving them. One of the other most important aspects of the Education Revolution was getting students to understand and contribute to legal policy and for them to see how the law works in action, especially with regards to vulnerable communities.

The AAP now has many a thing to its credit. With innovative programmes that look towards bringing in wholesome development of students, they have set an example that has inspired the state of Maharashtra to follow suit.

This, especially at a time when the Central government is looked at with suspicion to constantly privatize education and turning a blind eye to the plight of government schools in the country. It also cut budgetary allocation for education from 0.64 percent in 2014 – 15 to 0.45 percent in 2019 – 20. The Centre also encouraged the practice of generating loans through the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) asking educational institutions to repay principal loans through internal funds; the same leading to massive fee hikes.

In contrast to this, the Delhi government has taken a route to stop students and parents from being exploited by private players, ensuring that civic schools address all the needs of the children without burning a hole in the parents’ pocket.

AAP has been lauded for its public-centered initiatives especially the enhancement of the education system. Its successes and staying true to its promises has created a trust factor in the people of Delhi. With top leaders being impressed with the work carried out in Delhi’s schools, will this bolster their campaign and cement their success in the upcoming Assembly elections?

 

Related:

Exam failure major trigger for student suicides: NCRB
JNU‘s fee hike fight an eyesore for the admin and Govt.?
No benches, no drinking water for 400 students of BMC-run school

 

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Sabrang

JNU Teachers refuse to resume work unless VC resigns

The VC’s retention has made matter worse for the University’s administration and students’ academics and future are at stake

14 Jan 2020

JNU VC

The crisis at JNU is only getting worse. The teachers’ association which is on strike has said that they will not resume academic activity on campus unless the Vice Chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar resigns. There have been, indeed several demands for his resignation, coming not only from students but even a veteran BJP leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, Senior Congress leader BK Chandrashekhar and few media houses. Even Economist Amit Bhaduri who was JNU’s Emeritus professor, resigned in the light of the VC’s actions.

The attack by masked goons on the JNU campus left many students including JNUSU President and many teachers injured while several others were left fearing for their lives. All this while the VC took no action and the police looked on.

The University’s administration has gone on the offensive and said that the teachers’ non-cooperation call violates their service contract. In any case, classes could not be held across the various schools in the campus as most students and teachers refrained from attending.

Reportedly, the teachers association delegation led by its president D.K. Lobiyal and secretary Surojit Mazumdar met HRD ministry joint secretary Girish C. Hasur and other officials.

“The atmosphere of insecurity and fear has increased manifold after the (January 5) violence on the campus. The vice-chancellor is not talking to the students or the teachers,” Lobiyal told reporters. “Till the time (those on the campus) feel secure, normalcy cannot return.”

Lobiyal also made it clear that they have only one demand, that the VC be removed, so that academic activity can resume in campus. With him still at the helm, teachers have refused to recommence work. Moreover, exams for the previous semester have not taken place owing to the fee-hike protests of students and starting teaching for a new semester does not make sense.

 

Related:

Cong’s fact-finding report questions role of JNU admin, right-wing groups
JNU violence must be investigated by a judicial commission
Raghuram Rajan condemns JNU violence, praises student protests
Delhi Police names Left-wing students as suspects in JNU violence
Mandi House Protests in support of JNU
ABVP loses top posts in Varanasi’s Sanskrit University student union elections

JNU Teachers refuse to resume work unless VC resigns

The VC’s retention has made matter worse for the University’s administration and students’ academics and future are at stake

JNU VC

The crisis at JNU is only getting worse. The teachers’ association which is on strike has said that they will not resume academic activity on campus unless the Vice Chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar resigns. There have been, indeed several demands for his resignation, coming not only from students but even a veteran BJP leader, Murli Manohar Joshi, Senior Congress leader BK Chandrashekhar and few media houses. Even Economist Amit Bhaduri who was JNU’s Emeritus professor, resigned in the light of the VC’s actions.

The attack by masked goons on the JNU campus left many students including JNUSU President and many teachers injured while several others were left fearing for their lives. All this while the VC took no action and the police looked on.

The University’s administration has gone on the offensive and said that the teachers’ non-cooperation call violates their service contract. In any case, classes could not be held across the various schools in the campus as most students and teachers refrained from attending.

Reportedly, the teachers association delegation led by its president D.K. Lobiyal and secretary Surojit Mazumdar met HRD ministry joint secretary Girish C. Hasur and other officials.

“The atmosphere of insecurity and fear has increased manifold after the (January 5) violence on the campus. The vice-chancellor is not talking to the students or the teachers,” Lobiyal told reporters. “Till the time (those on the campus) feel secure, normalcy cannot return.”

Lobiyal also made it clear that they have only one demand, that the VC be removed, so that academic activity can resume in campus. With him still at the helm, teachers have refused to recommence work. Moreover, exams for the previous semester have not taken place owing to the fee-hike protests of students and starting teaching for a new semester does not make sense.

 

Related:

Cong’s fact-finding report questions role of JNU admin, right-wing groups
JNU violence must be investigated by a judicial commission
Raghuram Rajan condemns JNU violence, praises student protests
Delhi Police names Left-wing students as suspects in JNU violence
Mandi House Protests in support of JNU
ABVP loses top posts in Varanasi’s Sanskrit University student union elections

Related Articles


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University Campus or Cantonment?

14 Jan 2020

jnu

In the mid-seventies, when I came to Delhi University (DU) from a small village in Haryana, the deployment of police or private security guards either in the college or the university campus was unheard of. There used to be university watchmen at the gates of colleges, hostels and faculty, who were generally befriended by the students. In the entire north campus, only one man from the intelligence used to be seen from time to time. That sociable police officer was often recognized by the students, who took part in student politics, debate, literary and cultural activities. Of course, back then, there used to be protests, elections of students’ and teachers’ organizations, big fairs and festivals; a wave of new 'bad elements' used to come in year after year; there was a race among certain colleges to be on the top as a 'terror' college; there were many kinds of fights in between, even knives were used, ... but generally there was no need to call the police before or after the incidents. The college and university administrations used to manage everything on their own. Police intervention was allowed only on the permission and deliberations of college and university officials. This had no effect on the lives of the students, who were enjoying their studies and pursuing other interests. What it meant was that a large university, whose symbol is elephant, used to run only with its own arrangement, despite the fact that the campus is an open campus which can easily be accessed from all directions. The situation was more or less the same in all central and state universities and colleges. Obviously, this was possible due to a mutual understanding and a sense of responsibility among the teaching and non-teaching staff, students and, of course, the vice-chancellors and the principals.

As the influence or pressure of neo-liberalism increased in politics, society, religion and culture through country's economy, the education system could not remain untouched by it. According to the Indian Constitution, education is the responsibility of the state. However, it was opened to the private sector under neoliberal policies. Due to the privatization of education, a large world of private educational institutions has come into existence. The pressure of privatization has also been put on the already existing public sector educational institutions. Under the earlier administrative setup, all employees from peons, chowkidars, daftaris, gardeners, scavengers, butlers, lab assistants, library assistants etc. to clerks happened to be permanent employees of the university. There was new recruitment after the retirement of a person. But that practice was stopped 20-25 years ago. Instead of making permanent recruitments, appointment on contractual basis became the trend. One contractual employee was made to accomplish the work of three-four employees and made to work for more than the prescribed hours of duty. The teachers, also, could not escape this trend. About 5000 teachers are ad-hoc or guests in the Delhi University, at present. Such vice chancellors and principals were appointed by the governments, who blindly implemented the policies of privatization in governmental educational institutions.

Meanwhile, the character of student politics also changed. The patent on 'goondaism' in student politics did not remain with the National Student Union of India (NSUI) alone. It was taken up by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and further, by the students’ fronts of regional satraps, which came to power in the states due to the politics of social justice, and by the communist students’ organizations in West Bengal and Kerala. Simplicity, healthy debate, common student interests did not remain the concerns of student politics. Student politics has become an endless series of confrontations, with opponents invoking their leaders, icons, slogans, parties, ideologies etc. The students from marginalized societies who, due to constitutional provisions, join the arena of higher education, have envisaged their own mobilization in student politics. So, this clash among student groupings is multi-cornered, which the RSS and the communists operate with a strategy of showing it as between themselves. This phenomenon of student politics is not one-sided or single-folded. Student politics of the neo-liberal era is a shadow of the corporate politics prevalent in the country in the present times. This is also true for teachers’ politics to a large extent. It has lost the strength to oppose privatization of education by securing higher pay scales and other facilities under neo-liberal policies. They are not ready to concede that the communalization of education cannot be stopped without abrogating privatization.

Wealthy students get relief by getting admission and campus postings in private educational institutions. Most candidates, who seek admissions and jobs in public sector colleges and universities, live in constant uncertainty. Government education is no longer as cheap and affordable as it used to be before. The pressure of an all-round consumerist culture also plays its role. They are constantly told by the political elites that the country is progressing very fast. When they try to find their place in that progress, then disappointment is often felt. Various kinds of debates, discourses and NGOs are waved in front of them. They join them and experience the significance of their being for some time. No solution seems to be coming out of this 'touch revolution' and the age goes on increasing. They live in a state of constant restlessness. The way the entire education system is being uprooted from the axis of the Constitution without proper thought and planning, and mounted on the pivot of privatization of a clumsy kind, there is no dearth of protest issues in front of them. Events at national and international level also agitate student groups. So, there is one or the other protest every day on the campuses. The student leaders, who see student politics as a means of making a place in party politics or have other vested interests, take advantage of this situation. Big and small leaders, media, civil society activists are ever ready to play their roles. Hence, there is a need to look into this background while discussing the private security arrangements and the presence and role of the police/paramilitary forces on the campuses.

If there is restlessness and uncertainty in the minds of students, then there will be protests. In the absence of trust towards students and teachers, university officials will continue to resort to the police again and again. 'The police answers to those in power' - this practice has been going on in India since colonial times. The police will defend those student organizations and leaders which have affiliation with the government in power and will suppress the opponents. It will also defend the anti-social and violent elements working for the ruling party. When the top leaders of the country do politics by making communal divide its basis, then the police will also practice communal behavior. In the last few decades, the presence of police on campuses and incidents of interference have increased very rapidly. Rather, the demand for permanent deployment of paramilitary forces on the campus by the vice chancellors has gained momentum. Last year, on the demand of the vice chancellor of the Vishva Bharati University (Shanti Niketan), the central government decided to permanently deploy the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on the campus. This is the first time that this has happened in the university system. Earlier in 2017, the vice chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) had asked the government for permanent deployment of paramilitary forces on the campus. At that time, the government had not given permission because the vice chancellor had to go on long leave due to certain allegations. In November last year, the vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) called the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the campus to deal with the students' agitation.

The increasing dependence on the police by the university officials, even in minor disputes, is converting campuses into cantonments. That day is not far when the police will enter the premises even without their orders. Recently, this has happened in Jamia Millia Islamia. In the absence of the police, a large number of private guards and barriers give the campus the look of a cantonment. The south campus of the Delhi University is small and compact. It has only six small buildings, including a library. There is a police checkpoint at the main gate. Despite this, there is a plethora of private guards. A person coming to meet a teacher cannot reach him/her easily. Not at all, if he/she is a media person.

In fact, all this is done to enslave the young minds so that they subordinate themselves to the system. It is the responsibility of university officials, teachers, students and administrative staff to not allow a campus to be transformed into a cantonment. Parents and guardians can also play an important role in this. They should insist that the primary responsibility of the university authorities is to create a safe, fear-free and creative environment on the campus, and not to obey this or that government's order.

 

RELETED ARTICLES:

  1. Raghuram Rajan condemns JNU violence, praises student protests

  2. JNU violence must be investigated by a judicial commission

  3. ABVP loses top posts in Varanasi’s Sanskrit University student union elections

  4. JU professor assaulted by BJP supporters upon objecting to anti-Muslim insults

  5. The powerful must listen: India's youth has spoken against divisive politics

University Campus or Cantonment?

jnu

In the mid-seventies, when I came to Delhi University (DU) from a small village in Haryana, the deployment of police or private security guards either in the college or the university campus was unheard of. There used to be university watchmen at the gates of colleges, hostels and faculty, who were generally befriended by the students. In the entire north campus, only one man from the intelligence used to be seen from time to time. That sociable police officer was often recognized by the students, who took part in student politics, debate, literary and cultural activities. Of course, back then, there used to be protests, elections of students’ and teachers’ organizations, big fairs and festivals; a wave of new 'bad elements' used to come in year after year; there was a race among certain colleges to be on the top as a 'terror' college; there were many kinds of fights in between, even knives were used, ... but generally there was no need to call the police before or after the incidents. The college and university administrations used to manage everything on their own. Police intervention was allowed only on the permission and deliberations of college and university officials. This had no effect on the lives of the students, who were enjoying their studies and pursuing other interests. What it meant was that a large university, whose symbol is elephant, used to run only with its own arrangement, despite the fact that the campus is an open campus which can easily be accessed from all directions. The situation was more or less the same in all central and state universities and colleges. Obviously, this was possible due to a mutual understanding and a sense of responsibility among the teaching and non-teaching staff, students and, of course, the vice-chancellors and the principals.

As the influence or pressure of neo-liberalism increased in politics, society, religion and culture through country's economy, the education system could not remain untouched by it. According to the Indian Constitution, education is the responsibility of the state. However, it was opened to the private sector under neoliberal policies. Due to the privatization of education, a large world of private educational institutions has come into existence. The pressure of privatization has also been put on the already existing public sector educational institutions. Under the earlier administrative setup, all employees from peons, chowkidars, daftaris, gardeners, scavengers, butlers, lab assistants, library assistants etc. to clerks happened to be permanent employees of the university. There was new recruitment after the retirement of a person. But that practice was stopped 20-25 years ago. Instead of making permanent recruitments, appointment on contractual basis became the trend. One contractual employee was made to accomplish the work of three-four employees and made to work for more than the prescribed hours of duty. The teachers, also, could not escape this trend. About 5000 teachers are ad-hoc or guests in the Delhi University, at present. Such vice chancellors and principals were appointed by the governments, who blindly implemented the policies of privatization in governmental educational institutions.

Meanwhile, the character of student politics also changed. The patent on 'goondaism' in student politics did not remain with the National Student Union of India (NSUI) alone. It was taken up by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and further, by the students’ fronts of regional satraps, which came to power in the states due to the politics of social justice, and by the communist students’ organizations in West Bengal and Kerala. Simplicity, healthy debate, common student interests did not remain the concerns of student politics. Student politics has become an endless series of confrontations, with opponents invoking their leaders, icons, slogans, parties, ideologies etc. The students from marginalized societies who, due to constitutional provisions, join the arena of higher education, have envisaged their own mobilization in student politics. So, this clash among student groupings is multi-cornered, which the RSS and the communists operate with a strategy of showing it as between themselves. This phenomenon of student politics is not one-sided or single-folded. Student politics of the neo-liberal era is a shadow of the corporate politics prevalent in the country in the present times. This is also true for teachers’ politics to a large extent. It has lost the strength to oppose privatization of education by securing higher pay scales and other facilities under neo-liberal policies. They are not ready to concede that the communalization of education cannot be stopped without abrogating privatization.

Wealthy students get relief by getting admission and campus postings in private educational institutions. Most candidates, who seek admissions and jobs in public sector colleges and universities, live in constant uncertainty. Government education is no longer as cheap and affordable as it used to be before. The pressure of an all-round consumerist culture also plays its role. They are constantly told by the political elites that the country is progressing very fast. When they try to find their place in that progress, then disappointment is often felt. Various kinds of debates, discourses and NGOs are waved in front of them. They join them and experience the significance of their being for some time. No solution seems to be coming out of this 'touch revolution' and the age goes on increasing. They live in a state of constant restlessness. The way the entire education system is being uprooted from the axis of the Constitution without proper thought and planning, and mounted on the pivot of privatization of a clumsy kind, there is no dearth of protest issues in front of them. Events at national and international level also agitate student groups. So, there is one or the other protest every day on the campuses. The student leaders, who see student politics as a means of making a place in party politics or have other vested interests, take advantage of this situation. Big and small leaders, media, civil society activists are ever ready to play their roles. Hence, there is a need to look into this background while discussing the private security arrangements and the presence and role of the police/paramilitary forces on the campuses.

If there is restlessness and uncertainty in the minds of students, then there will be protests. In the absence of trust towards students and teachers, university officials will continue to resort to the police again and again. 'The police answers to those in power' - this practice has been going on in India since colonial times. The police will defend those student organizations and leaders which have affiliation with the government in power and will suppress the opponents. It will also defend the anti-social and violent elements working for the ruling party. When the top leaders of the country do politics by making communal divide its basis, then the police will also practice communal behavior. In the last few decades, the presence of police on campuses and incidents of interference have increased very rapidly. Rather, the demand for permanent deployment of paramilitary forces on the campus by the vice chancellors has gained momentum. Last year, on the demand of the vice chancellor of the Vishva Bharati University (Shanti Niketan), the central government decided to permanently deploy the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on the campus. This is the first time that this has happened in the university system. Earlier in 2017, the vice chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) had asked the government for permanent deployment of paramilitary forces on the campus. At that time, the government had not given permission because the vice chancellor had to go on long leave due to certain allegations. In November last year, the vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) called the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the campus to deal with the students' agitation.

The increasing dependence on the police by the university officials, even in minor disputes, is converting campuses into cantonments. That day is not far when the police will enter the premises even without their orders. Recently, this has happened in Jamia Millia Islamia. In the absence of the police, a large number of private guards and barriers give the campus the look of a cantonment. The south campus of the Delhi University is small and compact. It has only six small buildings, including a library. There is a police checkpoint at the main gate. Despite this, there is a plethora of private guards. A person coming to meet a teacher cannot reach him/her easily. Not at all, if he/she is a media person.

In fact, all this is done to enslave the young minds so that they subordinate themselves to the system. It is the responsibility of university officials, teachers, students and administrative staff to not allow a campus to be transformed into a cantonment. Parents and guardians can also play an important role in this. They should insist that the primary responsibility of the university authorities is to create a safe, fear-free and creative environment on the campus, and not to obey this or that government's order.

 

RELETED ARTICLES:

  1. Raghuram Rajan condemns JNU violence, praises student protests

  2. JNU violence must be investigated by a judicial commission

  3. ABVP loses top posts in Varanasi’s Sanskrit University student union elections

  4. JU professor assaulted by BJP supporters upon objecting to anti-Muslim insults

  5. The powerful must listen: India's youth has spoken against divisive politics

Related Articles


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