It’s been six years since the Rohith Vemula has left us, but the nation has hardly learnt from his death. There were many well-wishers of Rohith Vemula who mourned on his death. The nation has seen numbers of protests in the universities, Vemula was also discussed in the parliament. But when we will evaluate the result of his big sacrifice, we found that a few students especially students from marginalized community got inspiration to fight against upper casteist regimes. I was one of them who took inspiration from Rohith Vemula and his Ambedkar Students Association who bravely tried to fought injustice against the upper casteist institution. But, does the death of Rohith Vemula really impacted the upper-caste people. In my opinion, it has not. In fact, they make fun of Vemula’s death and some show sympathy towards him. But, do Vemula really need sympathy of upper caste people? In my opinion instead of showing sympathy towards Vemula we need to know the reason why he took this extreme step?
In his last letter, he has written “My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.” Which I assume due to born in lower caste he had a terrible childhood. It is always assumed that weak people commit suicide, but in his letter Vemula clarified that “People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.” He has also written his debt story that “If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.” This shows how much a Dalit student has to suffer while getting education. The Environment for a marginalised students made so toxic that he/she made to die. Unfortunately, after his death the casteist professors, government officials did not take any lesson and they continue torturing the marginalised students. According to a BBC report, the central government told Lok Sabha that between 2014-2021, 122 students committed suicide in government institutions. This is the government data, the actual reality is more horrible. Among these students most of students belongs to marginalised sections and caste and gender discrimination are the major reasons for their death.
When I felt like Rohit Vemula
I found myself very close to Vemula when I was doing my MPhil in Department of History, University of Delhi. Being a OBC-female student, I had to go though double pain one being a woman another being a backward woman. My upper caste supervisor and Head of the Department mentally tortured me. They were not letting my MPhil to submit. They passed casteist slur on me. They mocked my English, they mocked my writing skills. They tore my synopsis and many more tortures. When I complained about their torturous behaviour, the real torture began from there. I mentioned the name of Rohith Vemula to my letter to vice chancellor and my HOD laughed on it. He said “nowadays it has become trend to take name of Rohith Vemula”. I tried to make him understand his death is not a trend but a real struggle of marginalised student. Then he angrily said you are trying threaten us by taking his name, we will not be threatened by it. The reality is that I was trying to make them understand that if you will torture a backward student the student will might take extreme steps, and I was making my point that your torturous behaviour is putting me into depression but none of them understood my pain. On that day I felt what Vemula had gone through my constant feeling for taking extreme steps made me realise that why Vemula took this extreme step? He gave his life while fighting against upper caste regime, the fact is that almost all the powerful positions are captured by upper caste and for them torturing a backward has become a normal routine. Hence, the death of Dalit boy does not matter to them. In my case thanks to National commission for Backward Classes who listened my problems and conducted hearing on my case and because of them my MPhil got submitted.
What marginalised needs to do
Our main goal should be to prevent marginalised students to take extreme steps. I am saying to all marginalised student that caste discrimination had always been in this country, but like upper caste we should not normalise it. We should fight back. We should take help of commissions to address our issue, we should file complaint against these upper casteist officials. We should make forums, committees, groups to discuss our issues. We all need to be united for our problems. We need to know who is our actual oppressor. Lastly, do not give your precious life. We could contribute more to this society to our community if we will alive.
Ritu, Research Scholar,University of Delhi