Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rohith Vemula - Death of a Scholar (not a Dalit scholar)

"I have no role to play." "The Central government has role to play in Central Universities." "We are not responsible." "It is not a caste issue." "The previous government is responsible." "His suicide note does not mention any university or MP."

Then what are you responsible for? What is your official position about? Sending out letters?

But yet a scholar died. Rohith Vemula, a scholar committed suicide. Notice how different it sounds when we say 'scholar' as against 'Dalit scholar'.  The link below gives the content of his suicide note.

He blames no one. He recalls his favorite dreams, his hopes and his fast fading belief in a just and equal world. He exhorts the authorities not to bother his friends and enemies. It reflects his state of mind. He gave up. He surrendered and said - I give up. Now don't bother my friends which I know you will do, for the inconvenience my death might cause you. And don't bother even my enemies.

But you're clutching at straws when you do that. The authorities are not emotional, conscientious, humanitarians. They have obligations, images, elections. They will do what is good for them - not what is good for you, even if you surrender. Rohith, you should have stayed and ensured that you got the justice you wanted.

Anyway everyone is absolved. Everyone can sleep easy. Thanks to you. You could have named the nation and its keepers in your letter and you would have been fully justified, but you did not. Instead you took all the blame on yourself. How terribly sad is that.

It's incredibly sad when people take their own lives. More so when young people kill themselves. One can only imagine that they see no other way. It's appalling that in the middle of our urban society a bright, educated young man finds himself so alienated that he has to kill himself in hopelessness. To say he has not felt the pressure of being alienated on the basis of what he was and who he represented would be being incredibly foolish or naive. Or in all likelihood, plain mischievous and insensitive.

All the measures the university of the government have in place do not seem to be adequate to provide a fair and just environment. To be able to deal with students and their problems. They have a counsellor. "Rohith did not approach the counsellor. 20 students did." As if that was a fatal mistake too. The idea again, is to lay blame. Not take responsibility. Somebody take responsibility for gods sake.

Simply because positions of power come with responsibility. Not merely to take credit and backslap one another. Even more importantly responsibility lies in delivering justice and fairness to the ones who are often denied it. I would like to see my leaders stepping forward to claim their responsibility when things go wrong. How can a Ministry absolve itself? Why did it write letters to a VC who is answerable to it? How can it say it was routine? How can a Minister say he forwarded a memorandum with a few choice adjectives - from a student wing of his party against a fledgling party of the downtrodden - and call them casteist, anti national? What kind of responsibility are you taking? If this be the lessons that our leaders teach, it only reflects on the society.

What are we teaching our children?

Instead of coming forward to find out why I have always been amazed at how shamelessly institutions and agencies try to ward off blame. How can those who wanted the action to be taken now back off and say they are not responsible? Of course they are responsible. If you use the letterhead of a powerful office against someone who is from the weakest link in the chain, you cannot absolve yourself of responsibility. You are guilty of actively perpetrating the consequences when you should in fact have been finding a fair and just solution.

Yet, they can all sleep easy having washed off their hands by laying the blame elsewhere.

We can now look forward to our glorious future riding on digital India, startup India, Shining India. An India led by the intelligent and meritorious with a small role for the not-so-intelligent lower castes. A small role they will get if they keep quiet. If they voice an opinion, their small allowances in their already meagre lives will be cut off. All you have to do is look at this case and you know who will get the stick first. Who is most expendable. Who will get support from the high and mighty.

When the weakest is affected, the highest office must take responsibility for it. What does the highest power in the land have to say about this?

The tag of 'Dalit scholar' brings a different connotation to the mind than a mere 'Scholar'. I don't need to say it. You felt it as you read it. It is exactly that difference which you experienced that the Dalit scholar feels. Everyday. That sense of discrimination - not on merit but on birth. It is that same feeling people feel when they are ridiculed for being what they are - genders, colours, abilities, physical disabilities, sexuality. But this Dalit tag goes deeper - it is almost as if someone is being tolerated. You are here and we will tolerate you but we will not accept you fully. So you can stay but not speak up too much. Else...

I have heard learned professors speak derisively of the 'lack of quality' (never about lack of equality). I have seen faces screw up distastefully at the mention of 'reservations'. I have heard acid dripping out of those who feel they have been nudged out by an 'undeserving class'. I have seen how some classes and communities cosy up to each other to preserve territories. To see these kind of attitudes in universities and colleges of high learning, to witness to such narrow thinking from people of high learning and high positions, to see such intolerance or even active hatred, makes one wonder what it is that they are teaching.

The blame game will continue. The muck is already being brought out. New stories will come. After all everyone knows it is a matter of days before the media moves on.

On one point I will agree with the Minister - with a different intent though. That the tag of caste be removed from this issue. Not many in his peers could have matched what Rohith expressed in his note. Many see it as a literary work - extracts are already quoted in many articles by poets and writers already. He needs no crutch and stands where he wanted to - as a unique, passionate and meritorious mind. One wonders what he could have achieved.

If there is one thing I would like to remember Rohith as, it would be as a bright, young scholar with wonderful dreams and great stories and aspirations. (For those who might want some more relief, the Times of India reported that Rohith's admission was under general merit quota though he chose to retain his SC status.)

Not as a Dalit scholar.

Not as an apology. Simply because there is nothing to apologise for. If there have to be any apologies, it is the other way round.

1 comment:

Team BlogAdda said...

Congratulations! Your post was selected for Buzzing Blogosphere on Jan 25, 2016 at BlogAdda

Please view your post here: