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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 6 New Delhi January 30, 2016

Rohith Vemula: From Shadows to the Stars

Saturday 30 January 2016


by Ramaiah Bheenaveni

By committing suicide at the Hyderabad Central University, Rohith Vemula, a research scholar, has shocked the entire country and set up a political stir. An ideological person like Rohith had the potentiality to debate and confront many people, Moreover, his case, pending before the High Court, was scheduled for hearing within two days before his tragic death. What drove him to such depression is a million dollar question. Secondly, his suicide note reveals his personality. He was a positively-minded and properly-oriented intellectual. He could not get out of the dilemma enforced by so-called university administration. However, this is where we have to look into the deeper causes of his suicide from historic, socio-psychological and philosophical points of view.

In fact, when fear within a self spurs utmost courage of the personality, suicide is inevitable.

This is accepted by psychologists. Emile Durkheim has given sociological interpretation of suicide, namely, egoistic, altruistic and anomic. If a person is alienated from the social process, egoism reaches its highest level and leads to self-killing. This takes place mostly among individualistic persons.

The third, when unusual situations arise, individuals face confusion and enigma. That also causes suicide. In Rohith’s case, he was not isolated and had a good number of friends. His suicide note is philosophical and intellectual. Therefore, we can say that Rohith was wedded to ideology.. He appears somewhat like a soldier but he was also a fighter for a cause. He assumed himself as a soldier like Yakub Memon. He was full of confusion, worry and enigma — a state to which he was driven by the university administration. The Vice-Chancellor and the committee appointed to look into the issue took a thoughtless decision to rusticate him.

This was completely irrational and inhuman as it is totally illogical and is the part of the process of saffronisation in academia. This trend is now prevailing across the universities of India. This was foreseen by Rohith which is clear from Rohith’s letter to the Vice-Chancellor, “Give us poison or long ropes to hang ourselves”, wrote Rohith. He was also worried that the institutions of higher education in India did not allow the weaker sections of the society to study and live with dignity. Further, the letter of Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya was also trying to demonise the Ambedkar Student Association (ASA) as anti-national, casteist and extremist. In fact, expressing views against capital punishment is a sin and crime. Moreover, one can speak on verdicts given by the Supreme Court within the purview of the Indian Constitution. Not only Rohith, but many organisations have protested against capital punishment across the world. If it is anti-national and anti-Hindutva, why did students in the UoH commit suicide earlier?

The logic is that Yakub Memon was anti-national and therefore, the punishment given by the Apex Court was justified.

The BJP and RSS projected him both as anti-national as well as anti-Hindutva. This is the conspiracy about which Rohit’s perception differs from that of the general public.

The fact is that Rohit never objected to life imprisonment.

The justifiability of capital punishment instead of life imprisonment was what Rohith called into question.

He felt capital punishment only panders to hatred and intolerance of the advocates of Hindutva.

He also believed that capital punishment never brings a positive psychological change in the convicted criminals, nor in the society. Rohit now seems to prove the theory of Thomas Hobbs, the father of psychoanalysis, who held that ‘humans are brutish, nasty and savage’.

Rohith was against it. This shows his maturity and understanding of the value of human life. However, understanding Rohith and his self-killing requires a philosophical insight and this is something that the champions of Hindutva will never understand.. It is too much to expect justice from the BJP Government.

On other hand, the Right-wing demand for an in-depth study of what is happening in the name of Dalit politics, particularly in universities, shows that a vicious racial hate theory is being propagated in the university campuses in the name of Dalit liberation and abetted by forces inimical to national unity. The demoralising ideas and thoughts have been opposed by Kancha Ilaiah whose contribution is immense and indigestible to the Hinduvta forces. Moreover, they are somewhat comfortable with Ambedkar as he did not accept the fact of Aryan invasion of India. Making the buffalo as the national animal, and promoting meat and beef-eating, promotion of English medium education find wide acceptance in all the universities, particularly among Dalits and Backward Class students. Kancha Ilaiah’s famous slogan ‘Read, Write and Fight’ attracts and demystifies the students who hail from rural areas.

However, Dalit students of this generation have imbibed afresh the spirit of the age and feel that Brahmincal entities are parasitical. They have enslaved the masses by imposing spiritual fascism. As a result, self, identify and culture have become the centrality of understanding, analysis and interpretation of discursive discourses.

Exactly this has taken place in the case of the Central University, ABVP forces tried to retain their losing pride with support of the University administration wherein no scope of academic and intellectual pursuit or argumentation but only conspiracy theories and lobbying, etc. are encouraged.

Rohith blamed no one but himself for having been born in such a society.

It was the RSS’ religious dogma and the BJP’s political intervention that collectively forced Rohith to commit suicide. As many have pointed out, ‘Rohith’s self-sacrifice has not just reinvi-gorated the Dalit-Bahujan struggles throughout the country but has also forced the country’s intellectual elite to confront the elephant in the room: Caste.’ Certainly, everyone must strive for the annihilation of casteism by combining Marxism, subalternism and feminism. It is only then that persons like Rohith would be raised to the level of stars.

Dr Ramaiah Bheenaveni is an Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Osmania University, Hyderabad.

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