One Year After Rohith Vemula:
Social Discrimination, Violence and Political Witch-Hunt Still Stalk Educational Institutions
In January 2016, a promising and socially committed young scientist Rohith Vemula left us – with a cry of anguish and anger against a system that reduced the oppressed people to their ‘immediate identity.’ The Vice Chancellor and authorities of Hyderabad Central University (HCU) instigated by the ABVP and Ministers of the Modi Government had branded Rohith and his fellow activists ‘anti-national and casteist’ for raising their voice against the Government and RSS.
One year later, Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula and students across the country continue in vain to seek justice for Rohith.
On January 17 this year, students protested all over the country demanding justice for the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and a law against discrimination of Dalit students on campuses. Radhika Vemula and protesting students were arrested while protesting in Hyderabad while protesting students in Delhi were roughed up and arrested. In the past year, the case registered against the HCU VC Appa Rao Podile and BJP Central Minister Bandaru Dattatraya still languishes with no headway because the TDP Government of Andhra Pradesh is colluding with the BJP in claiming that Rohith was not a Dalit. Meanwhile, the HCU VC – who admitted to plagiarism in research papers – received a Millennium Plaque of Honour from the Prime Minister Modi at the Indian Science Congress! Those who persecuted Rohith for his activism and have his blood on their hands are rewarded for their services – while those seeking justice for Rohith are being punished.
It is a comment on the state of science and education under Modi that a scientist like Rohith Vemula is rewarded with persecution and death; a science student like Najeeb Ahmad disappears following violence by ABVP; a BJP leader who declares that cows inhale and exhale oxygen is a Rajasthan Education Minister; and plagiarist Appa Rao Podile gets a Science Award.
And in the year since Rohith’s death, other students too have become targets of the Modi Government’s policies of political and social witch-hunt. JNU student activists – most of them from deprived and oppressed backgrounds – have been accused of sedition, unjustly punished, and served show cause notices. A JNU student Najeeb Ahmed is missing after being thrashed publicly by a gang of ABVP members – and JNU students and teachers demanding justice for Najeeb are being victimized and persecuted. The JNU VC like his HCU counterpart are acting as agents of the Modi Government by protecting violent and criminal ABVP supporters while punishing activists who are courageously questioning the Government and the RSS.
Caste discrimination in education and violence against Dalits is rife all over India. Delta Meghwal, a 17-year-old Dalit student was murdered in BJP-ruled Rajasthan, while 15-year-old Dalit student Dika Kumari was recently raped and murdered in Bihar, ruled by the JDU-RJD Government.
The struggle for justice for Dika Kumari has once again brought to the fore the deprivation and vulnerability of Dalit students in Ambedkar hostels in Bihar. Ambedkar Hostels in Bihar remain deprived even of basic facilities like drinking water. Girls in these hostels are vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse by teachers and administrative authorities. Dika herself had complained of sexual harassment to her mother – but was prevented from leaving the hostel premises. She was subsequently found brutally murdered.
We may recall that students of Ambedkar Hostels in Bhojpur had been targets for attacks by the Ranveer Sena following the death of Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh. Then, too, the Nitish Government had instructed the police to allow the Ranveer Sena free rein to indulge in such violence. The Nitish Government is also complicit in the discrimination against Dalit students in Patna University.
The struggle for justice for Rohith Vemula, for Najeeb Ahmed, for Delta Meghwal and Dika Kumari and so many others like them will continue with increased spirit and determination. It is a struggle to ensure freedom of political expression on campuses, and to free education in India from the clutches of caste, communal, class and gender discrimination. It is a struggle to resist the ongoing fascist crackdown on dissent and saffronisation of campuses.
A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.20 | No. 4 | 17- 23 January 2017]