Rohith Vemula: BJP-RSS fuelled his death. Now they are mocking it

We must fight against casteism, an awful stain on our democracy. Until then, we ourselves will not be free.

 |  3-minute read |   06-02-2016
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Babasaheb Ambedkar pointed out towards the end of the Constituent Assembly meetings in 1949, that the Constitution had ensured political equality: one man, one vote, one value.

But it had not insured social or economic equality. He warned that unless these rights were ensured, the enraged people might pull down the Constitution that the Constituent Assembly had so laboriously put together.

The determined and violent movements for the linguistic states, in which at least 88 people were killed in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement in the police firing in Bombay in the mid fifties, was the first major revolt.

In the late sixties, the Naxalites rose, to be followed by the renamed Maoists. All these activists are all fighting for the poor and oppressed, as Jyotiba Phule, Gandhi and Ambedkar fought for the rights of the backward classes.

Also read: How Rohith Vemula’s 'Dalit identity' has been milked by all

But unlike the others, the Naxalites and Maoists have fought with the gun, an unpopular and impossible fight against a modern paramilitary. Many anniversaries of these legends have been celebrated, but the social evils they had fought all their lives live on.

The case of Rohith Vemula, is a case in point. When five Dalit activists in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) faced an upper caste Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader in August, they were first warned.

No significant action was taken against the ABVP, in the first proctorial inquiry. Then the BJP MP from Hyderabad intervened asking for action against the Dalit students in a letter to human resource development minister Smriti Irani.

Also read: Rohith's tragic death exposes how space for dissent is shrinking

At least four emails followed to the acting vice-chancellor urging action from the MHRD. A second, much harsher proctorial report emerged incorporating stringent action against Rohith and his fellow Dalits, recommending ban from the hostel and expulsion of Rohith.

This led to Rohith's suicide, but it was the machinations of the BJP-RSS which fuelled his death.

Smriti Irani claimed that she had intervened in HCU under the powers she had under the Central Universities Act of 2009. But there is no such Act. The draft Act of 2009 was never passed by Parliament. But Irani is no educationist. She went to Yale University, US for a week and came back claiming that she had a Yale degree.

The quality of her Indian degrees have been questioned by a judicial complaint. What can one expect from this kind of political appointee? But these people came with the Modi wave, itself a reaction to the inept Congress.

Last year, a couple of Dalit children were burnt to death in Haryana. The chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, swiftly denied that the ghastly murder had anything to do with caste.

Similarly, Smriti Irani claimed that that Rohith was not a Dalit. Sushma Swaraj, the abettor of the absconding Lalit Modi, and foreign minister, also emphasised that Rohith was not a Dalit (since his absent father was an OBC).

Also read: Sushma Swaraj is imitating Smriti Irani and looking ridiculous

But a Supreme Court judgment of 2012 had held if the father had not looked after the family and the mother had, the child would inherit her caste. In this case the Dalit caste.

But this kind of brazen political manoeuvring has angered PL Punia, chairperson, SC and ST commission. He has said that he will investigate the Rohith incident with all the powers at his command.

It is high time that every justice inclined Indian helped out in such situations. The backward classes are "backward" because of upper-caste rule. We must fight against this awful stain on our democracy. Until then, we ourselves will not be free.

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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