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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Murder By "Suicide": Institutional Murder Of A Dalit Research Scholar - Counter Currents

By Anand Kumar
25 January, 2016

The India wide protests that have erupted following the “circumstances” orchestrated by the RSS/BJP right wing which lead to the forced death (SUICIDE) of Rohith Vemula. Rohith a Research Scholar coming from the Dalit SC community was pursuing his doctoral studies at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU). His murder by suicide has once again brought to the surface the ugly face of India’s caste ridden hierarchical society. To make matters worse, we have a ruling party that is steeped in an ideology of hate against minorities and the oppressed castes (particularly the Dalits), promoting Brahmanical bigotry every step of the way.

It is not surprising that the HRD ministry under the aegis of ‘Manu’Smriti Irani and another minister hailing from Hyderabad – Bandaru Dattatreya (with an RSS background) had a direct hand in the suspension of the 5 Dalit research scholars. A confrontation between ABVP (RSS/ BJP student wing) and Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) in August last year was blown out of proportion when the ABVP goon Susheel Kumar made false accusations against the 5 students and used his connections with the BJP at the highest levels to teach Dalit students their place in the University.

More than a mere clash of personal differences, the radical politics of ASA was beginning to ruffle more than a few feathers. Not only was it challenging the traditional left politics espoused by the CPI(M)’s SFI, but were increasingly confronting issues like death penalty, LGBT rights, beef politics, minority rights including those students belonging to Adivasi, Northeastern India, Kashmir etc. With over 500 members from different marginalized backgrounds and beginning to find an echo across the campus (even winning an election in 2011-12), this must have set alarm bells ringing in a very much conservative institution. Incidentally, Rohith Vemula saw himself as a Dalit Marxist and left the SFI precisely for the same reason that Ambedkar had once confronted the Stalinist CPI (M)– caste (Lal Salaam to Jai Bhim: Why Rohith Vemula left Indian Marxists).

Hindutva Revival Department under ‘Manu’Smriti Irani
This is not the first time that the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry under Smriti Irani has courted controversy. Last year, the Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle (APSC) was banned at IIT-Madras following an anonymous complaint. Following a social media uproar, this was later revoked. On a more education related issue, the HRD ministry scraped (now reinstated) all fellowships granted to MPhil and PhD students who had not taken the National Eligibility Test (NET). This gave birth to the #OccupyUGC student movement which is very much alive and has linked up with the present protest movement. 

Smirti Irani’s tenure as minister has been anything but controversial. Known more for her roles in the (patriarchal) soap operas than anything concerning education, Irani has gone out of her way to please her RSS bosses.

Worse, Irani’s earlier response in relation to the recent events has only fanned the flames by triggering the resignation of over 10 faculty members from the University. Her assertion such as “not a Dalit vs non Dalit issue”, no blame on any organization/ individual in the suicide letter, following administrative procedure regarding suspension and other defensive arguments are simply packed full of lies. Undue interest was shown by the ministry by sending four letters between September to November to the HCU Vice-Chancellor (VC) regarding the action taken against the students.

The other villain in the plot – Bandaru Dattatreya (MoS for Labour & Employement) is equally responsible for Rohith’s fate. Apart from applying undue pressure on the HRD ministry, his letter to the HRD in August last year labeled ASA and leftist political activities in the campus as ‘casteist, extremist and anti-national’. It has become the habit of the present ruling party to call anyone opposed to the them as anti-national or anti-Hindu. Ironically it is actually the BJP (and the Sangh Parivar) that is in fact the den of extremist, casteist, communal elements that is opposed to all that is progressive or pro-people and has done everything to break the delicate social fabric of the country.
Previous probe findings that had cleared the students was summarily set aside by the newly appointed VC Appa Rao (a BJP appointee and with a past record of discrimination against Dalits) and students were suspended restricting their access to hostel, library, public spaces within campus etc. More crucially their fellowship funds amounting to Rs. 175,000 (in case of Rohith) that were already delayed by 7 months (due to cut backs in social spending in education in the last year budget) was causing them undue financial distress. A Joint Action Committee (JAC) was formed by the student groups and taking a step further Rohith and his fellow comrades decided to protest by sleeping in the open, but the authorities deliberately ignored them.

Rohith’s Story
The short life story of Rohith Vemula, hailing from a Dalit background and raised by single mother, would make anyone cry. The double curse of poverty and still more horrendous experience of being born a Dalit in India can never fully be understand or expressed in words, and yet Rohith overcame all these barriers to securing PhD in a prestigious university under general category, not through the reservation route (which is a major argument used by upper caste elite to further discriminate Dalits students), is no small achievement!

Rohith’s last letter says it all. Even before he took that fatal decision to end his life, we find in his letters not complaints or any display of petty mindedness but a zest for life, wanting to be a science writer like Carl Sagan, echoing one his famous words ‘we are made of star dust ’. The letter stands as a brutal condemnation of the feudal and casteist society that is India, and all that false story build around growth, development etc.

The dignity and magnanimity displayed in the letter should have put the entire ruling political party and its supporters to shame. 

However, all we get to see is their petty mindedness on full display– from shameless characters such as Smriti Irani, Bandaru Dattatreya or BJP party members and the hordes of Sanghi loudmouths online that are casting doubts such as Rohith is not ‘Dalit’ enough, reservation is all to blame, Rohith was indulging in ‘anti-national’ activities, was psychologically depressed and so on. It is this attitude and arrogance of the present government (& supporters) that is filled with bigots and nut-cases that would surely be the cause of its downfall one fine day.

Marking a change in its confrontational attitude, Narendra Modi (PM) finally broke silence after 5 days expressing sadness over Rohith’s death at a student convocation in Lucknow (UP), but was met by students shouting slogans such as ‘Modi Murdabad’, ‘Modi go back’ etc. More specifically he did not say anything about taking actions against all those responsible. But the damage has already been done, BJP has managed to single handedly alienate Dalits, backward castes and youth across the country. This will surely be reflected in the elections to come in the next period especially in UP were Dalit votes matter.

Protest Movement and Beyond
This not the first time a Dalit was forced to take his own life, nine students (from Dalit or backward castes) have taken their lives in the last seven years at HCU alone. There have also been other incidents of Dalit students committing suicide at elite institutions such as IIT’s, AIIMS etc because of caste discrimination. While the previous incidents did not evoke any protests across the country and were mainly confined to the institutions concerned. But this time there have been massive protests in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and also in other smaller metros across India.

The difference is the heightened consciousness of many student groups that have been involved in other face offs with the govt. Protests have not been confined to Dalit organizations alone, but many youth from the upper caste background have also shown solidarity.

The other important factor contributing to this is the string of controversies that have been the hallmark of Narendra Modi’s tenure as PM. Apart from his love affair with the corporate elite at the expense of the majority, the governments covert backing of the Hindutva agenda has polarized the country like never before. (See: Is Modimania On The Wane?)

The FTII student protest lasted for about 139 days and the struggle still continues though in other forms. #OccupyUGC movement despite a formal victory, is still continuing with protests for the last 2 months over certain aspects that has not been clarified by the HRD ministry. So it is not far-fetched to expect this protest to last even longer if the core demands of the JAC are not met. Even if this protest is dissipated, the damage has already been done. And next time around, another controversy of this scale could put a question mark on the longevity of this right wing, communal BJP led government.
On the other hand, the BJP is desperately trying to buy its way out such as the ex-gratia payment of Rs. 8 lakh (which has been rejected by the family of the deceased), ordering a judicial commission inquiry and if the worst comes may even drop Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya or take action against some low hanging fruits like the VC or Susheel Kumar. Unless legally compelled or via mass pressure to act on the JAC’s core demands, the central govt is unlikely to go beyond mere tokenism. How this will play out depends on several factors and crucially on how sensitively/ insensitively this govt handles the situation.

The present situation in India can best be described as radicalization of different sections of the Indian youth and working people on the one hand and communal polarization going hand in hand. Failure to meet expectations and lurching from one major controversy after another, Narendra Modi govt. could unwittingly end up causing a mass upheaval in the country. But it is the leadership of the left forces that is really wanting to take advantage of that enormous class anger to challenge the communal, casteist and capitalist forces that are presently holding the reigns of administration.

Hence, there is a crying need to build a genuinely left, viable mass alternative to challenge the present Capitalist, Communal & Casteist regime and pave way for a Socialist Alternative as urgently as possible.

Anand Kumar is activist a member of New Socialist Alternative and incharge of the Website Socialism.in

Hyderbad Ph.D scholar Rohith Vemula's death raises concern about dalit students in IITs - PagalGuy

24 January 2016

Rohith Vemula's suicide has lead to a surge of protests in the country. Not only IITs but other educational institutes and students have joined forces to condemn his death and the perceived politicization of events. What the protests have also laid thread bare is that not all is hunky dory even in prestigious institutes like the IITs when it comes to issues of reservation.

The recent spate of events asks one question - Reservations can ensure that those from all walks get into government institutes - after that what? If the recent cases are anything to go by the government needs to do much more.  

PaGaLGuY spoke to a handful of students in the IITs who are from the reserved classes, to get a better grasp of the ongoing scenario.

Explaining the discomfort, they told us that post admissions, there are other hurdles to cross. One said that since he had studied in vernacular medium, he had an issue coping with English. "My English is not very good and while conversing with other students or lain studies, it creates a problem." Another said that he had issues participating in club and group activities since 'arts' and 'dance' was not too familiar "Have rarely been part of such activities before joining the IIT, so am taking time to pick up," another student explained. Yet another said that it was easy to feel 'left out' of things but with a some help from peers and faculty, things do get easier.

A post on the facebook page "IIT Madras Confessions" by a student of IIT Madras, posted anonymously, tells the tale of discrimination in the hallowed portals of IITs. Some colleges have taken measures to bridge this gap by conducting special classes to bridge this gap but these are very few. And sometimes there are faculty that help in streamlining processes. 

As reporter, Prof. Sandeep Pandey from IIT-BHU helped a student Mahesh Balmiki pay off his loans. Mahesh dropped out of IIT-BHU, did odd jobs and attempted to sell his kidney under burden of debt. Prof. Pandey on coming to know about the incident arranged for the sum through the Alumni.

For now, however, it is yet to be seen what turn Rohit Vemula's case takes and what solution the Ministry of Human Resource Development brings about.

Dalit Suicide Case: Why Rohith Vemulas Death is the tipping point in caste Bias on Campus - Economic Times

Dalit Suicide Case: Why Rohith Vemulas Death is the tipping point in caste Bias on Campus - Financial Times

Click on Link Below to read article

Dalit Suicide Case: Why Rohith Vemulas Death is the tipping point in caste Bias on Campus - Financial Times

Probe into Rohith Vermula’s suicide will suggest ways to fight bias too: HRD - Indian Express

That apart, the ministry also promised to set up a cell in its office to receive complaints from such students and take quick action on their grievances.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | 
Published:January 23, 2016 2:44 am

At Wednesday’s press meet, Smriti Irani was flanked by ministers Vijay Sanpla, Thaawar Chand Gehlot and Nirmala Sitharaman, but not by her Ministers of State.

Two days after the government dismissed the caste angle to the Dalit student’s suicide at Hyderabad Central University, the HRD Ministry went into damage-control mode and announced a judicial commission to look into circumstances that led to Rohith Vemula’s death.

The commission will also consider a host of measures to reach out to “socially, economically and educationally disadvantaged students”, including a sensitisation programme on campus discrimination for staff and heads of all centrally funded educational institutions.

This development came against the backdrop of the report submitted by the fact-finding committee to HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Friday on Vemula’s suicide. The minister also spoke to Vemula’s mother and brother in the morning to offer her condolences.

Although the contents of the report were not made public, it is learnt that the committee, apart from listing facts and sequence of events, has observed that the university could have handled the matter more sensitively. The panel, however, has refrained from finding fault with the university’s vice-chancellor Prof Appa Rao Podile.

The committee is said to have also pointed out that the student’s suicide was not an isolated incident and that the university has had problems before and needs systemic reforms to build a conducive environment for all students. The fact-finding panel recorded the deposition of 71 people.

Although the report doesn’t fix responsibility for Vemula’s death, the government is reportedly unhappy with Rao for “mishandling the situation on campus” and moving out of the university to an undisclosed location instead of reaching out to the students after the news of Vemula’s suicide surfaced on Sunday evening.

“Even the report shows that the situation could have been brought under control by the administration. The Centre has been forced to fire fight on his behalf,” said a government source.

Sources indicate that Rao could be informally asked to tender his resignation on moral grounds if the campus unrest continues.

The HRD Ministry will write to the Registrar of the Telangana High Court this week for a panel of three names to constitute the judicial commission announced on Friday. It will be headed by either a retired judge or chief justice of a High Court, sources said. The report will be submitted in three months.

To address the issue of discrimination on campus, the government will issue a special charter to all centrally funded institutions. These universities and institutions will also have to run a mandatory orientation programme to sensitise all “academic administrators about understanding and handling problems faced by socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged students.” A module will be prepared for this orientation.

That apart, the ministry also promised to set up a cell in its office to receive complaints from such students and take quick action on their grievances.

“All VCs and senior administrators would be sensitised to reach out to socially, economically and educationally disadvantaged students. There should be zero tolerance for any acts of discrimination on campus,” the ministry’s press release states.
“The Peer-group Assisted Learning (PAL) of IIT Gandhinagar would be extended to all the HEIs, under which mentors would be arranged for the socially, economically and educationally disadvantaged students not only to assist them in education, but to support them with regards to challenges being faced by them within their institutions,” the press statement added.

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/probe-into-rohith-vermulas-suicide-will-suggest-ways-to-fight-bias-too-hrd/#sthash.feAjmGP3.dpuf

Vemula’s suicide an ‘institutional murder’: Satchidanandan - The Hindu

JAIPUR, January 23, 2016

The Hindu
Poet K Satchidanandan. File photo

The poet also expressed fears that such treatment could be meted out to other students as well.

Poet K Satchidanandan on Saturday said the suicide by Hyderabad University scholar Rohit Velmula was not “accidental” and alleged “continued oppression” of Dalit students in various universities in the country.

“I would not call it a suicide, but an institutional murder. This is not the first suicide remember. Right from Senthil Kumar, this is the eighth suicide of a Dalit student in the Hyderabad University. That cannot just be accidental,” Mr. Satchidanandan said on the sidelines of the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival here.

“Clearly there is a design in the sense that there is continued oppression of Dalit students in the university like elsewhere, like in IIT Madras,” he alleged.

The poet likened the Hyderabad incident to the June 2015 incident in IIT Madras, which had derecognised the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), many of whose members are Dalits, following a complaint that it was critical of Prime Minister.

Recognition was reinstated to the group later.
Mr. Satchidanandan also said that despite the suspension of the four Dalit students in Hyderabad being revoked, the death of Velmula had “already done the damage”.

Velmula, whose body was found hanging in a hostel room, was among the five research scholars who were suspended by the Hyderabad University in August 2015 and also one of the accused in the case of alleged assault on the ABVP leader.

“The suspension has been revoked, but the damage has already been done with Rohith’s death. What more can happen than somebody deciding to leave the world because of that.
They had to revoke it because there was so much pressure from nationwide protests,” he said.

The poet also expressed fears that such treatment could be meted out to other students as well.

“That does not mean it won’t be repeated. Anytime it could be repeated. Other students could be expelled like that,” he said.

“It is much more than just a dalit vs non-dalit issue. Of course Rohith being a Dalit was a major thing, but that is just an expression of the kind of violence that some people have in them and their desire to suppress it using any means.

“It could be murder or forcing someone to commit suicide.
Or it could just be silencing someone like a Perumal Murugan,” he said adding that Ambedkar “would be shocked to know that after so many years of freedom, the wonderful Constitution he drafted is not respected”.

Tamil author Murugan had over a year ago announced his renunciation from writing after his book “Mathorubagan” faced opposition and he was forced to tender an apology.
Mr. Satchidanandan also questioned the letters by the HRD ministry to institutions like IIT-Madras and Hyderabad University.

“The HRD ministry writing letters is something that is absolutely new. First of all, institutions have their autonomy. It is true they are audited, but in academic matters they have complete autonomy and that is being questioned,” he said.

Mr. Satchidanandan, who had resigned from all positions in the Sahitya Akademi to protest against the killing of writer M M Kalburgi, said the literary institution had an obligation to defend the freedom of expression, but had failed to rise to the occasion.

“If you put all the recent happenings together, you will find there is a growing culture of intolerance. The public intellectual is not safe, the writer cannot write what he wants. You cannot eat what you want to eat, you cannot think what you want to think, filmmakers cannot make the films they want. Who is safe in this country?” he asked.

The Death of a Dalit Scholar is Not Just a Dalit Issue - The Wire

The Death of a Dalit Scholar is Not Just a Dalit Issue

Rohith Vemula, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi were all targeted for aspiring to a progressive society – an idea that is anathema for Hindutva forces.

In solidarity with a fellow student: a protest in Bengaluru. Credit: PTI

“Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die.”
–B.R. Ambedkar

The death of Rohith Vemula, research scholar at the University of Hyderabad, seems to have shaken the conscience of society at large, although some voices from the ruling dispensation would have you believe otherwise. Not only have they remained  unmoved by this tragic incident; they have gone so far as to  malign the victim of  institutional persecution.

This is not the first case of a bright Dalit student driven to suicide in a hallowed institution of higher education, nor will it be the last. According to reports, nine students have taken their lives in the University of Hyderabad in about as many years, not to speak of the suicides by students at Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).  The feudal, casteist and gender biased mindset is far too deeply entrenched in these institutions to be rooted out in a few decades; it is also the  reason why the  Government of India has singularly failed either to initiate any action  against the perpetrators or implement any of the recommendations of the Thorat Committee that it  instituted in 2006 to look at the issue of discrimination against students from a socially deprived background at AIIMS.

The reason for the violence of acute institutionalised discrimination against Dalits and other marginalised sections is quite apparent. The mere presence in such institutions of students, whose ancestors’ tongues would be cut off if they  recited slokas or molten lead poured into their ears if they heard  words of knowledge,  seems to rattle people in  positions of power.  New forms of discrimination are invented to ensure that these students pay the price for having dared to enter educational institutions that should have continued to remain the privilege of a select few as has been the case for centuries.

It is a double whammy for students from Dalit and tribal communities.  They grow up with a belief that education will help them break free from the shackles of caste but find that the realities of higher education institutions are often worse than in Indian villages which, according to Dr. Ambedkar, were a sink of narrow-mindedness, casteism and communalism.

To make matters worse there has been a substantial withdrawal of the state from areas of higher education, leaving the field open for privatisation or rather commercialisation of higher education, which is bound to put it out of the reach of the poor and the downtrodden of the country in the days to come. Higher education will become a playground for those with deep pockets.

The ultimate irony is that these ‘modern‘ institutions of learning perpetuate practices that militate against the idea of modernity. After all, what ideas were students like Rohith propagating or challenging which resulted in the Vice Chancellor passing orders  that were more akin to the diktat of a khap panchayat? Rohith was denied access to the hostel, administrative building and common areas, and his stipend was withheld. What was this if not an extreme form of social ostracism? It was this institutionalised climate of oppression that made Rohith refer to his birth as a “fatal accident” and end his life by hanging himself.

When a bright individual like him takes his life thus, what a setback it is for his immediate family and his larger family of peers and juniors who would have looked up to him. What message does his suicide send out to them about their place – their very existence — in modern India, and their right to freedom of thought and expression that is guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution of India? It seems their servitude must continue; they cannot dream of a future in which their country and the institutions it spawns would guarantee the Constitutional promise of looking after the interests of the marginalised sections. So if they say documentaries such as Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai on the Muzaffarnagar riots should be shown to conscientise students; if they speak out against the death penalty in general and also hold that Yakub Memon could have served a life term – all this in the interest of creating a platform for constructive debate — they will be branded as anti-national or apologists for terror.

In Delhi’s January cold, students brave the onslaught of police water cannons during a protest against the Ministry of Human Resource Development over the suicide of Rohith Vemula. Credit: PTI

The writing on the wall is clear: if one holds a view different from those in power, they will be branded anti-national. The backlash is tremendous – on the street, in institutions and online. In fact the BJP’s veritable army of trolls on the social media has a one-point agenda — of indulging in vicious bullying tactics by calling people traitors for holding views different from theirs. For a  political party and its parent organisation, the RSS, who had no positive role to play in  India’s freedom struggle, trying to arrogate to themselves the mantle of being the sole custodians  of patriotism and nationalism is ironical to say the least.

To put it simply, those who subscribe to the views that all men and women are not born equal will always question the ideas of liberty, equality and rationalism. The hypocrisy of the BJP and its student wing, the ABVP, is there for all to see. It is trying its best to appropriate Babasaheb Ambedkar in a bid to increase its constituency. But the experiences of Rohith and his fellow students who were part of the Ambedkar Students’ Association shows that any attempt on their part to  fight the battle for  equality and liberty will continue to be anathema for those who profess their loyalty to the ideology of Savarkar and Gowalkar.
At a larger level, Hindutva’s Right-wing ideology rests on the view that people who stand for liberty, equality and rationalism, need to be dealt with severely, and even silenced. Whether such people belong to the so-called  upper or lower castes does not matter; what matters is that these progressive principles cannot be allowed to take root in our country for they would  end up destroying the  unquestioned privileges and unparalleled powers that have been enjoyed for centuries by virtue of the accident of birth. As history bears witness, vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves of their privileges unless there was sufficient force to compel them.
The Right-wing worldview was there for everyone to see in the cold-blooded murder of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi. None of them belonged to the so-called lower castes, but they were men who believed in the values espoused by the Indian Constitution. That should make it amply clear that it is the idea of a society based on egalitarianism and rationalism that is abhorrent to the forces of Hindutva.

It is precisely for this reason that those who consider the suicide of a Dalit scholar as having to do with ‘Dalit issues’ need to do a rethink. Rohith Vemula’s final, irrevocable act was a moment when the elaborate veil hiding the unequal, unjust and inhuman worldview of the Right-wing was lifted for us to see its reality. 

The question is: will Rohith’s death be in vain or will progressive minds in campuses and beyond come together across the country to unshackle institutions of higher learning from their feudal and discriminatory mindset? Will progressive minds in campuses and beyond join hands to nurture the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity and so develop India into a truly modern democracy not just politically but socially and economically too? A modern India, in which no bright-eyed scholar need write in anguish as Rohith did, that “…some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident.”

Are we willing to stand up and be counted at least for ourselves – if not for Rohith?

Alankar is a former banker.

A Spate Of Suicides Highlights The Pressures On Students In India - Washington Post - NDTV

All India | Rama Lakshmi, The Washington Post | Updated: January 25, 2016 10:24 IST

KOTA, MADHYA PRADESH:  Shivdutt Singh left his tiny village of wheat and barley farmers last summer with a dream of becoming the first doctor in his family.

Singh, 20, traveled more than 300 miles from the village of Kolari to Kota, a buzzing city in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan where students from all over the country come to cram for entrance exams to India's highly competitive engineering and medical colleges.

More than 160,000 students from across India flocked to Kota's schools last year, feeding the town's reputation as the nation's capital for test preparation. But grueling study schedules, frequent testing and round-the-clock stress are taking a deadly toll.

More than 70 students have committed suicide in the past five years in Kota, including 29 just last year - a rate much higher than the national average of 10.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2014, reported by the National Crime Records Bureau. Students in Kota have hanged themselves, set themselves ablaze and jumped from buildings.

Two weeks ago, Singh became one of them. He had studied nonstop for six hours in his dorm room. He even called a cousin with a biology question.

But then he locked the room and hanged himself from the ceiling fan. He left a note: "I am responsible for my suicide. I cannot fulfill papa's dream."

"He was very excited. We used to tease him by addressing him as 'Doctor,' " said his father, Mangal Singh, 52. "But after a few months, he began panicking. He was studying all the time, slept very little."

Educators at the private test academies say they can't explain the rise in suicides, but they concede that the intense pscyhological pressure is real.

"Students are under a constant state of anxiety here. They are unable to study, concentrate, remember, sleep or eat. They complain of headaches and breathlessness. Many just weep in front of me," said Madan Lal Agrawal, a psychiatrist in Kota who ran a help line for students for three years. "They feel guilty because their parents have spent so much money and have high expectations. Parents often impose their own unfulfilled ambitions on their children."

"Daddy, I hate maths," one student wrote in a suicide note last year. "I am a good-for-nothing son," another wrote with a frowny-face.
Police in Kota blame the news media for hyping the incidents and prompting copycats.

Officials ordered coaching schools to appoint counselors, organize special "fun" days in classrooms and quickly refund fees to students whodrop out.

"We have also told coaching schools to conduct screening tests to determine if students are really capable of scoring in Kota," said Sawai Singh Godara, the superintendent of police.

The police have also told the schools not to send results of bimonthly tests to parents via text message.

"This keeps the students on the edge all the time. The parents keep calling them to scold," Godara said.

Rising middle-class aspirations, parents' unrealistic ambitions for their children, poor teaching standards in schools and a fiercely competitive college admissions race have spawned a $400 million test prep industry here.

Kota, an unassuming city with a population a little over a million, had only a handful of private math and science tutors twenty years ago. But so many private schools have opened that studying in Kota has become almost an essential rite of passage for many seeking admission to India's top colleges. Aspirants come and study from three months to two years.

Many dream of winning admission to the exclusive Indian Institutes of Technology, 16 public colleges whose graduates are lapped up by global companies that offer fat salaries. Graduating from one of the IITs, considered the Ivy League of engineering education in India, is a ticket to an elevated social status and a sure shot for a job in a top tech company in India or Silicon Valley. Google chief executive Sundar Pichai is one of IIT's most famous graduates.

Every year, about 1.5 million students take the entrance exam. Fewer than 10,000 are accepted.

The test prep industry has also motivated modest families from smaller towns and villages to aspire to prestigious colleges, which until about a decade ago were largely the reserve of the elite from big cities. In the past two years, sons of a railway station baggage handler, a truck driver and a cycle rickshaw driver studied in Kota and made it to top engineering and medical colleges.

"All around Kota, the message is to excel, or be left behind," the Times of India newspaper wrote Sunday.

Kota's skyline is dotted with billboards featuring the faces of students who aced their entrance tests, instead of the usual supermodels and Bollywood stars. The best teachers are mini-celebrities. Students have created individual vision boards that hang on the walls in their dorm rooms where they write down life goals to keep them focused, but there is no television, Internet or Facebook. The wall of the biggest Hindu temple in town is scribbled with pleas from students who have come to ask for college acceptance.

"If you come to Kota, you should be ready for the pressure. After all, if you plan to participate in the Olympics, you know it won't be easy," said Ritesh Dahiya, who runs a center called Potential 2 Kinetic, which teaches students to listen better in class, to retain information and to manage time. "I teach them how to manage stress, because you cannot get rid of it in this town."

The top bureaucrat of Kota sent an open letter to students this week saying, "Life is beautiful." He urged them to "watch the rivers flow" and "see the squirrels," because "clearing an exam or two is not everything."

Last week, local authorities ordered the schools to hold a surprise "fun day" to help students let off steam. Teachers and students sang, danced, did breathing exercises and laughter therapy, said Nitish Sharma, a senior executive at Allen Career Institute.

But some students skipped the fun.

"They are a waste of time. My most prized possession is my watch because it reminds me that wasted time is not coming back," said Ojas Thakur, 16, who wants to study space engineering at IIT. "I avoid friends who go to malls and movies, or are on WhatsApp."

His roommate has a note on the wall that says, "Formula to crack the code" next to a note that says, "Remember to drink water." Thakur's day schedule on the wall ends with: "Good night, if sleepy. If not, then study."

The biggest stresser is the batch-shuffling system. If the bimonthly test scores are low, students suddenly find themselves moved to a group with low-scorers and mediocre teachers. The best teachers go to the top groups.

Two years ago, Ashutosh Kumar came to Kota from Lucknow, a city in the north, with what he calls a "winner's stride."

"But soon, my confidence dipped," Kumar, 20, said, his hands trembling. "Everybody in the classroom is super smart and so competitive. I got pushed down to a much lower batch."

Now, Kumar skips classes frequently or sits in the last row, away from the teacher's gaze. He is taking anti-depression pills. He feels trapped. Going home does not appear to be an option.

"How do I tell my parents that I can't do this anymore?" he said.
Two weeks after losing his son, Shivdutt Singh's father is still grieving and does not know whom to blame.

"Is it wrong to be ambitious? My son wanted to make the village proud by becoming a doctor," Singh said. "Every parent wants their child to become something big one day."

© 2016 The Washington Post 
Story First Published: January 25, 2016 10:03 IST

Rohith’s suicide: Kejriwal wants Smriti’s name in FIR - The Hindu

HYDERABAD, January 22, 2016

CPI General secretary D. Raja and other leaders paying tribute to Rohith Vemula by garlanding a memorial stupa at UoH in Hyderabad on Thursday.— Photo: G. Ramakrishna

CPI demands Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence over the issue

The fourth day, after research scholar of University of Hyderabad (UoH), Rohith Vemula, committed suicide, saw senior leaders of anti-BJP political parties stepping up the pressure in a bid to make the Centre bow down to its demands and break the impasse.

Those who visited the campus include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, senior leaders of the Communist Party of India Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy and D. Raja and Lok Satta Party founder Jayaprakash Narayan. They wanted Union Ministers Smriti Irani and B. Dattatreya to be removed from their positions, as also the Vice-Chancellor, P. Appa Rao.

Mr. Arvind Kejriwal demanded that the name of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani be included in the First Information Report (FIR) on the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula. He wanted the arrest of Ms. Smriti Irani and others whose names figure in the FIR, including Mr. Dattatreya, MLC N. Ramchandra Rao and ABVP leader N. Susheel Kumar.
Mr. Kejriwal pointed out that they should be arrested because the sections in the FIR were non-bailable.

‘Smriti Irani playing politics’
“And because Ms. Irani is lying and is playing politics, she should apologise to the nation too,” he said, demanding a full-fletched probe in to the incident. “Call data records of the mobile numbers of all concerned should be looked into,” he added.

On their part, CPI leaders including general secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy, national secretary D. Raja and former MP Azeez Pasha demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi break his silence and order a probe into the developments that have rocked the UoH in the recent weeks and months.
“Mr. Modi found time to convey his condolences to Peshawar on Wednesday, but as far as UoH is concerned, he has not even had the leisure to do the same. He should take action on his colleagues who abetted the suicide,” Mr. Sudhakar Reddy said.

“IITs and Central universities are public-funded with allocations from the Government of India and have to be responsible. The rule of reservation has to be strictly followed and no discrimination of any sort, leave alone on the basis of caste and social status, be allowed. The field of education has become a battlefield of ideas of socialism, secularism and Hindutva,” Mr. Raja said, expressing his outrage.

Police have been present in full force since Thursday morning to prevent embarrassing moments and had a watchful eye over those from ABVP on campus and in the immediate vicinity of the UoH campus.

Interestingly, there is a dichotomy of sorts with students divided on how far they should enlist the support of anti-BJP political parties in their ‘struggle for justice against the social boycott’.

Dalit suicide case: HRD ministry to set up judicial panel - Business World

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

January 22, 2016 Last Updated at 16:42 IS

Based on the report by a fact-finding team, the HRD Ministry today decided to set up a Judicial Commission to look into the sequence of events leading to the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar at the Hyderabad Central University.

The Judicial Commission will submit its report within three months, a Human Resource Development Ministry statement said.

It said in order to prevent such incidents future, all VCs and senior administrators would be sensitised to reach out to students and there will be "zero tolerance" for any acts of discrimination on campus.

"The fact finding committee constituted by HRD Ministry in the wake of the chain of unfortunate events at the Central University Hyderabad submitted its report to the Ministry on January 22, 2016.

"Based on its observations and findings, the Ministry has decided to constitute a Judicial Commission to review the entire sequence of events and the circumstances and to establish the facts and correctives in the context of the University," the statement said.

Rohith's body was found hanging in the varsity's hostel room on Sunday, which sparked massive protests across the country.

While Rohith in his letter expressed disillusionment with life, the suicide has snowballed into a major political storm with parties demanding the ouster of Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and HRD Minister Smriti Irani.

The Hyderabad University had suspended Rohith and four other students after they allegedly assaulted an ABVP leader. The suspension came after Dattatreya shot off a letter to the HRD ministry in August last year, asking it to look into the matter. Students have alleged that his suspension led to Rohith's depression and his eventual suicide.

Meanwhile, HRD Minister Smriti Irani also spoke to Vemula's mother today and expressed her condolences.

In order to address the issues faced by the students from disadvantaged social economic and education background in higher educational institutions "comprehensively" and to prevent such unfortunate incidents in future, the Ministry has also chalked out a series of measures.

The Ministry has decided to set up a special mechanism for receiving and taking expeditious action on the grievances from these students.

At the same time, all VCs and senior administrators would be sensitised to reach out to such students and there will be "zero tolerance" for any acts of discrimination on campus. "A special charter will be issued to all the higher educational institutions in this regard," the statement said.

The Ministry said that Peer group assisted Learning (PAL) of IIT Gandhinagar would be extended to all the HEIs.

Under this, mentors would be arranged for the socially, economically and educationally disadvantaged students not only to assist them in education but to support them to face challenges.

The complex issues surrounding Rohith Vemula's death. Explained - Catch News

The complex issues surrounding Rohith Vemula's death. Explained

|22 January 2016









Rohith Vemula, a 25-year-old Dalit PhD scholar from the University of Hyderabad killed himself on 17 January 2016 and left a suicide note behind. His suicide became a predecessor to massive protests and outrage from across India as an alleged case of discrimination against Dalits and backward classes in educational institutions.
Hailing from Gurazala near Guntur, Rohith's father Manikumar works as a security guard at a private hospital while mother Radhika is a tailor. The couple also has a daughter and a younger son.
Here is a recall of the case so far -
  • This issue stems from an incident that occurred in August last year; the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), of which Vemula was a member, along with Ambedkar Reading Group (University of Delhi), Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (IIT Madras), ASA (TISS) in Mumbai, and concerned students from IIT Bombay issued a joint statement condemning an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) attack on the screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hain, a documentary based on the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.
Rohith Vemula during a protest.
  • The documentary was boycotted by the right-wing student body on the grounds of being anti-Hindu. This led to a widespread screening of the documentary in different parts of India as a mark of protest. Later, ASA's University of Hyderabad chapter too organised a protest demonstration.
  • Another story which is doing the rounds is that ASA members showed support to Mumbai serial blast convict Yakub Memon on 30 June. 'The Deccan Herald', reported on 5 August that the two groups clashed after ASA members carried out anti-capital punishment protests.
Susheel Kumar

  • Some ABVP members opposed the protests and vented their anger via social media, calling ASA members "goons". The post didn't go down well with ASA supporters. Later, Susheel Kumar, an ABVP leader alleged assault by ASA members. In August, he filed a police complaint stating that Vemula and four other students had assaulted him and kicked him in the stomach.
*(Susheel Kumar, who disappeared after the suicide, surfaced on 21 January claiming that the ASA members were performing namaz for Memon. He also alleged that ASA members were making statements like 'every house will deliver a Yakub' which strung up the right-wing student group. He also said that Rohith was not the kind of person who will commit suicide so easily and that his case should be properly investigated.)
  • On August 5, the university set up an inquiry against Rohith and four other ASA members including Dontha Prashanth,Vijay Kumar, Seshu Chemudugunta, and Sunkanna, after Susheel Kumar made these assault allegations.
Students staging a protest after the suicide. (Photo: PTI)

  • However, it is being alleged that the whole issue was being politicised and that BJP leader and Union Cabinet Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya influenced the university probe by writing a letter on 17 August, to the Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani urging action and claiming that the "Hyderabad University. has in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics".
*(Giving a clarification on the issue Dattareya said "I forwarded the letter on my official letterhead to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani. I do not know what happened after that. ABVP or BJP has nothing to do with that.)
  • After a series of flip-flops, the five students were suspended in September. On 17 December, the decision was upheld.
  • A stipend of around Rs 1.75 lakh, which Rohith received as part of his Junior Research Fellowship from CSIR, was also withheld by the university.
File Photo

  • In December, Rohith wrote an angry letter to the VC, sarcastically asking him to provide euthanasia facilities for Dalit students. It is being said that since then, he was scared to go to the administration building and inquire about his stipend. He turned silent and withdrawn.
  • It is also being said that he was falling into depression as he was being defeated by the system; he blamed himself, his Dalit roots and the circumstances around him.
  • On 3 January, after the university's sanction got confirmed, the five students moved out of their hostel rooms to a tent they had set up inside the campus and began a "relay hunger protest".
What happened on 18 January?
  • According to friends, Rohith and other ASA members had gathered to discuss the future of the suspended students on 18 January.
Rohith Vemula

  • "At 4 pm, he said he had to finish some work and left us. When he did not return till 6 pm, we started searching for him. By then his mother had also called us, saying that Rohith had called her and sounded very depressed. She said he had abruptly cut the call and had stopped answering her calls. Then, we found him hanging from the ceiling fan in a friend's room (207), which was also the ASA activity room. He used an ASA banner to hang himself,'' Krishna Kumar, a close friend of Rohith, told the Indian Express.
  • The BJP-led Central government, which is under attack due to the alleged involvement of Dattatreya and Smriti Irani, held a joint press on 20 January. Irani defended her stand, saying that Rohith Vemula's suicide is being misrepresented with "malicious intent" as "a Dalit vs non-Dalit confrontation."
Smriti Irani at the press conference.
  • She also said that she was only going by the book by issuing a letter and four reminders to Hyderabad University, seeking comments/facts on the issues raised by Dattatreya as the government is under obligation to respond to 'VIP references'' in 30 days.
  • She further refrained from making any comments and said that further statements will be issued only after the Ministry's two-member fact-finding committee's report comes out.

Rahul Gandhi at the University of Hyderabad.(Photo: ASA)

  • Meanwhile, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi went to Hyderabad on 19 January. He attacked the vice-chancellor as well as a "minister in New Delhi", without naming either Irani or Dattatreya, who has been named in the FIR on abetment to suicide.
  • Trinamool Congress MPs Derek O'Brien and Pratima Mondal spent two hours on campus interacting with students.
Arvind Kejriwal at the university. (Photo: ASA)
  • Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal visited the university on 21 January. He demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sack HRD Minister Smriti Irani, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and apologise to the nation over Vemula suicide, questioning their "interference" in the internal affairs of the institution.
  • Meanwhile, 15 Dalit professors at the Hyderabad University have resigned from their administrative posts. The professors had earlier attacked Irani for her comments made at the press conference on events that led to Vemula's death.

Mumbai students angry about Rohith’s suicide - Hindustan Times

  • Ayaz Memon, Hindustan Times, MumbaiUpdated: Jan 22, 2016 00:26 IST
Students of various colleges protest over the death of Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad University, at Mumbai University. (Pratham Gokhale/HT)

Anger over the suicide of Hyderabad University PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, which has spread like wildfire over the country in the past couple of days, is singeing Mumbai too. Protests in the campuses of TISS and IIT have begun to find an echo in various colleges of Mumbai University, including those considered “elitist” – whether in SoBo or in the suburbs -- for any kind of activism.

That stereotype of Mumbai students, of course, is true only in perception. Traditionally, the city’s student community has been far less demonstrative compared to those from say Bengal, Bihar, Andhra to name a few states. But that is largely because of the ethos of the city which says “let’s solve the issue quickly and get on with it”, so to speak. This does not mean that Mumbai’s student community is apathetic. The awareness of issues – sociological, economic and political – is no less. Or the bonding with students from elsewhere in the country. The Emergency in 1975, for instance, was imposed in the middle of my undergraduate studies, and I remember long hours spent in the canteen, in hostel rooms and several other ‘addas’ where the primary discussion, as prodded by students from up north was of the ‘tyranny of the state’.

The speed of communication is a zillion times quicker today. The Internet and mobile phones link people and groups instantaneously. The impact of this is not just immediate, but can become a tsunami in no time, as the government at the Centre is beginning to slowly comprehend.

Make no mistake, the country is raging because a precious young life has been lost; the student community even more so because, all said and done, Rohith Vemula was one of them.

That there were two groups of students in Hyderabad University ideologically ranged against each other is beyond doubt. But such difference of opinion should not have been the problem that is being made out, rather how badly this was handled.
At a university, students come to a wider understanding of the world, including their own identity, ideology and belief systems. They will be pulled in different directions and often be at odds among themselves. There is not only nothing wrong with this, in fact it is healthy.

Dissent can open up minds, lead to breakthroughs in various spheres. Indeed, differences between groups could be so stark as to find no ideological reconciliation. Yet this cannot be allowed to degenerate into a situation of such violence – physical or psychological – that it leads to death or suicide. The manner in which this conflict has played out, the complicity of the vice-chancellor with a BJP MP in taking sides, the suspension that precipitated Rohith’s suicide and finally that the suspension of others associated with him has been revoked adds up to a ghastly story.

As it emerges, the HRD ministry played a crucial and – sadly irresponsible – role in the affair. Add to this, several other prior instances of needless meddling in academia and other universities and it throws up a disturbing thrust at the highest level.

Instead of accepting that she may have erred in heeding to her party’s MP and was slow in understanding the real crisis, Smriti Irani (and her party chose) to berate the opposition to rationalise their own blunders. The fact, however, is people voted for change. By reiterating that they are no different the ruling dispensation, I am afraid, could be cutting the ground from under its own feet.

It was disingenuous of the HRD minister (and her party) to contest whether Rohith was from a scheduled caste or not. For the ministry, surely every student is equally important, irrespective of caste and political affiliation.

But, as is more likely, Rohith was from an underprivileged background and whose mother stitches clothes to run her household, was a Dalit, it compounds the issue manifold. It shows the face of a country still chained to its obnoxious, caste-ridden past. Not quite the Incredible India we all want it to be.

Rohith Vemula's death: As method of political resistance, Dalit student's suicide draws on tradition of Gandhi's fasts - First Post

by David Devadas  Jan 22, 2016 13:47 IST

The suicide note written by Rohith Vemula — the Dalit student who recently died at the University of Hyderabad — echoes the discourse Mahatma Gandhi used when he chose to fast 'unto death'. Like Gandhi, Rohith’s letter displays a passion for a better world embedded in a Bhagwad Gita-esque detachment. There are several other similarities: Introspection, taking personal responsibility, seeking forgiveness and not blaming anyone.

In both cases, their willingness to die has generally been accepted as an act of self-sacrifice — an intensely personal moral pressure on society and the structures of power.

In Gandhi’s case, it was an explicitly political tool, an act of resistance. Gandhi’s fasts helped to mobilise a colonised people into a nation. His most important fast single-handedly forced an end to Partition genocide in Bengal. And he forced the government of newly-independent India to give the nascent Pakistan its share of the country’s finances.

It was one of Gandhi’s fasts that forced Dr BR Ambedkar to agree to the Poona Pact (under which seats are reserved for scheduled category candidates in a single electorate, but Dalits do not vote separately).

In the context of Rohith’s Ambedkarite convictions, his adoption of an essentially Gandhian method of resistance (calculated or not, it was the ultimate non-cooperation!) rather than Ambedkar’s tireless faith in constitutionalism is striking. One wonders if it signals a shift across a three-generation gap — from seeking the protection of the law to an increased gumption to defy.

Rohith’s suicide note has also, willy-nilly, become an act of resistance. By giving glimpses of a bright, aspiring, caring person with great potential, it has forced his university and concerned citizens far beyond its campus to introspect about systematised caste-based discrimination.

His name is already a potent symbol; his suicide could spur further political mobilisation. Top-level politicians of various hues have gone to his home or the university following his suicide. Rahul Gandhi was among the first, and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was there on Thursday.

Rohith Vemula. Image courtesy: Facebook

The power of death by fasting
While Gandhi’s stature ensured that his fasts always succeeded in their objective before he actually died, there is no doubt that he was willing to die each time. His life was repeatedly at grave risk. Other protestors, whose fasts could not bring enough moral pressure to bear while they were alive, galvanised public opinion when they died fasting.

Some of those deaths have shaped India. The violent agitations that followed Potti Sriramulu’s death as a result of a 1952 fast demanding a separate state for Telugu-speaking people forced a very reluctant Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to agree to language-based states.

A series of suicides by burning in Tamil Nadu against the imposition of Hindi as the exclusive national language rolled back that measure in 1967. The word 'immolation', used to describe those protest suicides, invoked the ritual status of self-sacrifice.

An activist of the Bhagat (erstwhile untouchable) community died while fasting in Jammu and Kashmir. The resultant public anger forced the government to recognise scheduled castes (and later tribes too) in that state, and extend to them the constitutional privileges these categories have in the rest of the country.

In 2008, agitations in Jammu against the revocation of a government order transferring land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board got a fillip when a young Jammu resident committed suicide. After reportedly consuming poison, he went to Jammu’s Parade Ground and gave a fiery speech to agitators before he collapsed.

That suicide became a cause célèbre and agitations in the Jammu province took on an explosive vitality thereafter. They were mainly organised by RSS activists, including Dr Jitendra Singh, who is now the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office.

All these examples show that willingness to die is a most potent political tool. No wonder the state ensures that the Manipuri protestor Irom Sharmila is force-fed intravenously, to ensure that her 15-year fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act does not kill her.

Such self-sacrificing methods of political resistance have been favoured by those who faced a strong and entrenched power, particularly the apparatus of a strong state. While nationalist leaders like Gandhi and Aurobindo used 'passive resistance' to resist the colonial power, Rohith and students like him have recently resisted entrenched social oppression — on caste as well as religious and ethnic lines.

Pent-up anger is emerging
Their activism has been vigorous over the past year. Indeed, the huge posthumous sympathy for Rohith must be understood in the context of widespread anger over trends that have come to light during the past year and more.

A minister in the Union government made a remark comparing infant Dalits (who had been killed in arson by upper caste neighbours) to dogs. Similar language has been used to disparage a Dalit teacher at one of the country’s most prestigious colleges (now a university) after he was bitten by a dog on campus. There have been several incidents of stripping, beating and other acts of humiliation. School children have been severely beaten for touching plates 'reserved' for upper caste classmates. Ambedkarite students at institutions like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and some IITs have suffered casteist persecution.

Rohith’s death may not reshape the country as fundamentally as Potti’s death did, but already it has put the central government on the back foot far more than any of those other recent humiliations of Dalits did. It has sharply focused caste-based discrimination in the halls of academia, and the Manu-oriented biases of powerful sections of the current ruling establishment.

Apologists for the government have ended up pushing up the levels of anger and reaction. Trying to argue that Rohith was not Dalit in the first place was like salt on a wound — a petty, mealy-mouthed attempt to posthumously deny to a victim even the truth of his life, as he experienced and viewed it. Accusations are flying thick and fast in the political arena over who is playing caste politics: Kejriwal was reported to have accused BJP ministers of trying to turn it into a Dalit versus non-Dalit issue.

Members and leaders of the BJP and its affiliates would do much better to introspect than get drawn into such sparring. They must realize that their party has come a long way over the past three decades by redefining categories and concepts like secularism, but also by normalising the manipulation of facts. ABVP activist Susheel Kumar, whose ego apparently caused Rohith’s death, is said to have misrepresented his appendicitis as an injury suffered in an assault by Ambedkarite students such as Rohith.

This sort of cynical misrepresentation has too often been the BJP’s style; it has cynically wrapped some of its key agendas in highly emotive issues. Just like 'jihadi' terrorism has come back to bite its promoters, this sort of manipulations can prove costly. The BJP may already be riding a tiger it cannot dismount.

It was in the wake of the implementation of the Mandal Commission report that it quickly pushed the Ramjanmabhoomi movement to a much higher pitch than before. The party’s then president, LK Advani, undertook his first 'Rath Yatra' mobilisation drive across the country just a couple of months after the implementation of the Mandal report, which recommended positive discrimination for backward castes. 

Throughout, the Ayodhya issue has been the shorthand that Uttar Pradesh’s upper castes have used to script a pan-Hindu alliance to counter backward and scheduled caste mobilisation.

Now that the party is in power at the Centre, it is hobbled by the prejudices and animosities of a wide phalanx of its leaders. They not only support Hindutva, they have deeply imbibed the principles of Manu. Many of them, and their key supporters, despise some of the lower castes. Whether they realized what they were doing or not, the ABVP activists at the University of Hyderabad and their supporters, in the faculty there and in the corridors of power in New Delhi, have countered social mobility, citizens’ empowerment and equality.

These attitudes are divisive. They go against the grain of the Constitution. They undermine economic growth, political stability and national security. The ruling party must purge itself of such prejudices if the country is to move ahead cohesively towards a shared future of social justice and dignity.

All We Know About Rohith Vermula’s Suspension and Suicide - ScoopWhoop

Jan 21, 2016 at 15:37
All We Know About Rohith Vermula’s Suspension and Suicide

Rohith Vermula, 26, a second year PhD scholar, committed suicide on Sunday night at a hostel of Hyderabad Central University. He was among the five research scholars at the university who were suspended in December over allegations of disputes with students

A student staging a protest in Nagpur / PTI

Why was he suspended?
  • The university students – belonging to various students groups like right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) (of which Vermula was a member) and Telangana SFI - had been fighting over several issues such as beef festival, memorial for Yakub Menon and Kiss of Love campaign. Apparently, ABVP had been opposing these.
  • The latest trigger was in August when ASA tried to screen Nakul Shawney’s documentary titled Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hai at the campus, which was opposed by ABVP, who disrupted the screening and called it “anti-Hindu”. The Ambedkar Reading Group, University of Delhi, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras, ASA (TISS) in Mumbai and concerned students from IIT Bombay even issued a joint statement condemning the act.
  • But it became violent when ABVP president Sushil Kumar put up a Facebook post calling ASA members ‘goons’. Kumar later alleged that he was beaten up by ASA members including Vermula.
  • After the incident, the Hyderabad University administration stopped paying Rohith his monthly stipend of Rs 25,000.
  • On August 5, two days after Rohith and four other ASA members allegedly assaulted Sushil Kumar, the university set up an inquiry against the five.
  • On August 17, BJP MP and Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya wrote to HRD Minister Smriti Irani urging action saying the university had become “a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”.
“This could be visualised from the fact that when Yakub Memon was hanged, a dominant students union, that is Ambedkar Students Union had held protests against the execution. When Shushil Kumar, president, ABVP, protested against this, he was manhandled and as a result he was admitted in hospital. What is more tragic is that the university administration has become a mute spectator to such events,” Bandaru wrote.
  • In December, after the then VC's retirement, new chancellor - Appa Rao - was appointed. He suspended the students after receiving a letter from the HRD ministry, which was in response to Bandaru's letter.
  • On January 3, the five students vacated the hostel and set up a tent in the campus and began a "relay hunger strike" 
  • The five students were apparently very depressed about the suspension.
After the suicide
  • The suicide led to a protest in the university, with the students demanding that Vermula, a Dalit, was driven to suicide and demanded resignations of Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya on Tuesday
  • Following the protest, the police filed an FIR against Bandaru Dattatreya, under the SC/ST Act and on charges that he abetted the suicide
  • The university students’ Joint Action Committee termed the suicide as “institutional murder” while opposition parties criticised the BJP-led NDA government for having an “anti-Dalit agenda and mindset”.
Police use water cannons to disperse protesting students in Delhi / PTI
  • An umbrella organisation of the Hyderabad University launched an indefinite strike and sought the resignation of vice chancellor Appa Rao
  • Protests erupted even in Delhi, where students demonstrated in front of HRD ministry office in Shastri Bhawan on Tuesday. The police used water cannons to disperse the students. Similar protests took place at Pune's Film and Television Institute of India and Mumbai University
  • Noted writer Ashok Vajpeyi announced he was returning the D Lit, awarded to him by the Hyderabad Central University in protest.
  • The police also recovered a suicide note from Rohith that said, "I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster."

Feature image: PTI