On the 17th of January 2016, the walls of the confinement of Uma Anna witnessed something that would ring in the miseries of the administration. The body of Rohith Vemula hung from the ceiling fan, lifeless and torpid. This tragedy sparked up a series of protests throughout the country, only to find itself in the pit of an unresolved matter.
Rohith Chakravarti Vemula was a PhD scholar in the University of Hyderabad. Apart from being a student, he was also an avid member of the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA). Initially he was a part of the Students Federation of India but gradually he realized that the association was a Hub of of classism and casteism. Being from a socially backward sect, he was often criticized and doubted on his authenticity of admission to the university. Undergoing adversities of caste discrimination in the campus, Rohith Vemula and his friends eventually started raising agitation under the banner of ASA. In the wake of this agitation they were falsely accused for assaulting an ABVP member. On the 5th of August, the University set up a panel to investigate into the matter and on the urge of a BJP MP and the Union Minister, Rohith along with four of his friends were suspended from the University in September. Their suspension did not deter their spirits and they set up tents in the campus itself and began a relay hunger strike.
Rohith Vemula was from a family which earned barely enough to make their ends meet. The stipend which he received from the University was the sole source of income for his family, which was curbed a long time back in 2015. Being vocal and opined about the prevailing discriminations and having a dream of living in an atmosphere of equality lead to his expulsion from the University. One event leading to another became a source of pessimism for him. He gradually lost hope from the administration and his life. This led him to take his life on the 17th of January 2016. Rohith was often described by his friends as a person with a vision and a leader with integrity and positivity. He was always the one who never had futile discussions with people. He always talked about ways of protests and amendments that could take them closer in their venture. He was an admirer of science and nature and a fanatic of stars. He was an avaricious reader and a cynosure of knowledge.
His demise took the country by storm and was a surge of disappointment for his family and friends. It led to a series of countrywide protests and student agitation. Sadly, the matter that was investigated after his death was not the accountability of the administration but the caste to which Rohith Vemula actually belonged. Indeed, a very diminutive issue to debate upon, but an important matter for the politicians.
His letter which he had written before he committed suicide left an impression that is difficult to heal from. An excerpt from his letter that could devour anyone’s soul. “I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living. I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past”
B.A. (Hons), Jamia Millia Islamia