Sad how politicians have reduced Rohith Vemula to his Dalit identity

Mona Ramavat
Mona RamavatJan 22, 2016 | 20:34

Sad how politicians have reduced Rohith Vemula to his Dalit identity

In the cries of furore that we have been hearing from various people over Rohith Vemula’s suicide - politicians who’ve been rushing to Hyderabad from their busy schedules, local representatives from said political parties, student representatives too from other universities, and several others – two things seem common.

1. We’ve been hearing more "Dalit", less "Rohith."

If you went by much of what they said, the two have become synonymous.


"He is the face of a Dalit movement that has picked up pace all over the country," said a rather vociferous D Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI), delivering a speech at the University of Hyderabad campus yesterday.

We were reminded many a times on the same platform though that Rohith got admission in the university in the general merit quota, despite being Dalit.

"He has become an eternal idea," Raja said and that this struggle will have to be carried on beyond this issue and beyond this university.

He added while concluding his address that this was not a political agenda, as many have been saying.

"Do you not want this as well?" His rhetoric question referred to carrying forward a social movement for "the socially discriminated, economically exploited," against the upper castes.

Delhi chief minister and AAP head Arvind Kejriwal said in his address that the minister of HRD Smriti Irani was playing dirty politics over caste in the issue.

Their pet peeve seemed to be Smriti Irani’s view that this isn’t a Dalit vs non-Dalit issue. So should the opposite be, in that case?

The way things have turned out in the past few days, at least as far as the political speeches are concerned, it seems to be a Dalit and anti-Modi issue.


Rohith’s identity, in the meanwhile, as a student with a potentially bright future ahead, seemed forgotten.

"Can a man be reduced to a mere identity?" were Rohith’s philosophical words he had shared while on protest after the expulsion.

After his death, only his Dalit identity seemed the loudest war cry. His Dalit identity has turned larger than life after his death.

2. Every passion-packed speech veered at some point from an anti-BJP ideology to anti-NDA government and anti-Modi, eventually.

From among the many posters pasted on the shopping complex walls and displayed by protesters on hunger strike and otherwise, one read: "Killing Dalit Students? What Make In India?"

Another decried the Start Up India campaign, pitting it against killing Dalit students.

Someone else wondered how come Modi found the time to condole the death of students from the Bacha Khan University attack in Pakistan but didn’t have the sensitivity to offer condolences to a Dalit student back home, yesterday.

It felt like the forum was turning into something to settle scores against the prime minister.

Kejriwal rightly pointed out in his address to the students that justice should be meted out to any student, regardless of all else, "whether he/she is a Dalit or non-Dalit or anybody."


But he too eventually slipped into BJP-bashing mode, describing them as an organisation that supports neither Hindus nor Muslims or Dalits.

"Unhone Hinduon ke liye bhi kuch nahi kiya. Woh keval satta aur lalach ke bhooke hain. (They haven’t done anything for Hindus either. They are only a power-hungry bunch.)

Sample this then again: "Is desh ke students se panga nahi lena." (Do not mess with students of this nation).

Now, this is possibly a fair remark. Nobody should be taking "panga" with students. But "Dilli me hume dabane ki koshish kar rahe hain. Hum dabe nahi in logon se." (They’ve been trying to suppress us down in Delhi but we haven’t let them succeed.)

Now, what has a personal rant like this one got anything to do with Rohith per se, we would wonder.   

Ex-Rajya Sabha member, Aziz Pasha criticised Smriti Irani vehemently for her remarks at the press conference she held on Wednesday.

He went way further than her involvement in this issue to her HRD portfolio and her capabilities as a minister. "I’ve been in the Parliament for six years and I’ve seen Smriti Irani there. I wonder how such an important portfolio was given to a person who was always keeping mum, only observing, and laughing without any reasoning!"  

Even, her pre-politics acting career and the saas-bahu sagas were delved into with him calling her an "insincere bahu," in the lighter vein, of course, we imagine.

And it did draw some well expected hoots and cheers, but we wonder in what way were dramatic gestures of this kind any condolence to Rohith’s death, made from a platform that was meant to be every bit a platform to condole his death.  

In the midst of so much politics, clash of ideologies, name calling and personal agendas, did we lose Rohith Vemula, and the point completely?

Last updated: January 22, 2016 | 20:34
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