Rohith's suicide has sparked nationwide outrage. Some have been hell-bent on proving his death is a case of discrimination against Dalits and few others have been trying to deconstruct it as an episode linked to a more organic flow of events going back to protests against Yakub Menon's hanging and beyond. Now that with Rahul Gandhi's visit and many other insinuations against the current government at the Centre, the death has been politicised despite Rohith's suicide note, it is high time we looked at the possibility of opening up the gates of all colleges and universities in India - whether engineering or medical or humanities or law or commerce or any other stream - to politics.
Let us look at some of the ministers at the Centre. Harsh Vardhan, Jitendra Singh, Sanjeev Kumar Balyan and Najma Heptullah have been medical students. Jayant Sinha, Manohar Parrikar, Jual Oram and Manoj Sinha are engineering graduates. When we readily accept engineers and doctors taking decisions for the larger population on key issues like price rise, tribal welfare, minority affairs, agricultural rights, etc, why do we fail to train students to ask the right political questions from when they are still in college?
Sixty five per cent of India's population is less than 35 years of age and only 53 per cent of our MPs are under the age of 55. It is extremely important, therefore, that our youth start claiming the political space right from their student days and put the right set of questions to the powers that be - beginning from their teachers, lecturers, readers and professors.
Why have Delhi University and colleges like Miranda House, which boast of inaugurating a culture of feminism in the nation through their firebrand lecturers and alumnae, inculcated no culture whatsoever of discussing the regressive "rules" of their women's hostels in classrooms, beyond the rudimentary feminist readings of curricular texts? Why do the grand old "liberal" humanities departments in varsities like DU, JNU and Jadavpur University not question and sustain protests of having more respectable representation of Dalits in their cocoons, which are almost always headed by an upper caste, upper class, Brahmin (in most cases) HoDs?
Why is there a silencing of young voices in campuses, except when there are structured and teacher-instigated protests on issues of curriculum designs and V-C selections? Why and till when should students be the pawns of a generation older to them - represented only symbolically and as mere numerical strengths - to bolster an opinion by a set of politically-motivated individuals who fester the academic atmosphere of campuses only for their own petty power climbs?
Rohith's death is unfortunate. And so are thousands of suicides that have happened in "elite" educational institutions like the IITs of this country over the past two decades. Rather than looking at Rohith's death from an angle which is most obviously casteist, can we take a step back and see why we failed to generate a culture of equality and freedom in campuses and beyond?
Why is it that students must learn political articulations only after attaching themselves to the age-old political wings of traditional political parties? Why can they not have an avenue of training in political disciplines right from the time they realise their voting rights? Why is it that a student's narrative is either dictated by the larger ideology of a couple of big political groups or a very personal narrative of incidents like suicide and self-immolation? Why do the youth not find a stronger assertion in taking the authorities hostage to their opinion rather than falling prey to the loopholes of the educational system?
Why have we never seen a Dalit engineering student inviting a similar outrage over his death as Rohith, is a question that needs a threadbare analysis. But why have we not seen Rohiths up in arms and vociferously raising their voices in campuses secluded from the mainstream academia is the larger question.