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AIPSN Statement On suicide by Rohith Vemula, student of the Central University of Hyderabad.

On suicide by Rohith Vemula, student of the Central University of Hyderabad.

All India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) expresses its shock and grief at the suicide by Mr. Rohith Vemula, a research scholar at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) . It sends its condolences to Rohith’s family and his comrades.

Rohith’s decision to take his life was not a “suicide”. It was a protest. What is disgraceful is that he was pushed to this extreme step by the actions of the Vice Chancellor (Appa Rao Podile) and the BJP MP and the Union Minister of State for Labour (Bandaru Dattayreya), and their open support to the RSS’s student wing (ABVP). The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) added fuel to the fire, when it directed the university to curb the so called “anti national” activities in the campus, an allegation forwarded to the MHRD by Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya. Charges of criminal complicity have been registered against Mr. Appa Rao Podile, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya and two leaders of the ABVP.

Though the scholar’s suicide note says that he was solely responsible for this step, it reflects the desperation that had engulfed him at the highly discriminatory, hostile and intimidating way that the University had treated him and his colleagues, so that he was “ happy dead than being alive.”

The sequence of events show the systematic way the university administration, with the Vice Chancellor in the lead and with the Unions Minister of State’s abetment and the MHRD’s support unleashed their intimidatory tactics on Dalit Students in the campus. It is disgraceful that discriminatory casteist practices go unabated in Indian universities and institutes of higher learning. Further, under the present dispensation with the BJP government at the centre, and allied Hindutva forces in a position of enormous influence are using intimidatory tactics in order to impose their writ on institutions of higher learning and research. In the present case it took a direction of planned intimidation after the Ambedkar Student Association (ASA) protested against the ABVP’s (RSS’s student body) attack on the screening of the anti communal film: “Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai” . In an unabashed display of casteism, and intimidation, the Vice Chancellor, on 16th December 2015, rusticated five students of the ASA- all being from the Dalit community- barring them entry even to the administrative bloc and other public spaces of the university. In protest, students laid siege of the administrative building since 13th January, 2016. On 17th January, Rohith took his life. It must be noted that what led Rohith to take his life was not the despondency of an individual but to protest against systematic attack on human dignity by forces in control of the state’s administrative machinery.

The issue that lies at the root of the episode is the acute discrimination that Dalits and the marginalised face in our society and their redress being met with intimidation and humiliation. Rohith Vemula’s rustication further reminds one of the Ekalavya story being enacted in the modern era, employing modern methods- at a time when constitutionally such discriminations are punishable by law! AIPSN notes that the present episode holds a dangerous portent when any voice of democratic dissent in academic institutions can be silenced by the state on framed allegation of “anti national” activities. This was also witnessed when the Periyar-Ambedkar Study Circle was banned in the campus of IIT- Madras, under pressure from the MHRD ministry , which in that case too , acted on the basis of demands of the students’ wing belonging to the Hindutva forces.

AISPN condemns the criminal machinations on the part of the Vice Chancellor and other authorities of Hyderabad University and actions by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, especially MoS Smriti Irani who clearly exerted huge pressure on the Vice Chancellor by sending several reminders to take actions against “anti national “ forces . AIPSN also condemns similar actions at IIT-Madras, FTII Pune and several other premier institutions , revealing a growing trend and a planned campaign of intimidation of those who disagree with the ruling dispensation. AIPSN further appeals to all patriotic and democratic minded groups and individuals to raise their voice in defence of social justice, equality and non discrimination amongst amongst all sections of society, and pluralism of opinion. It appeals to all the units of the AIPSN to organize protest meetings in their respective areas of influence, against this shameful way that scholars are treated in institutions of learning, which are themselves sought to be subjugated to the dictates of Hindutva forces, preference being given to caste and creed rather than on scholastic achievement and critical thinking.

Rohith Vemula’s sacrifice will not go in vain.

S.Chatterjee, President, AIPSN
T.Ramesh, General Secretary, AIPSN

Date: 20.01.2016.

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