ONE year has gone by since the sad demise of Rohith Vemula and still justice seems delayed and surely justice looks denied. The collective efforts by the central government, the state KCR-government and even the TDP government to iteratively nullify the national SC commission report certifying Rohith as dalit, and initiate fresh investigations after investigations to declare him not a dalit out-rightly shows the casteist nature of their involvements as organisations working in our society. These organisations are a podium to shelter and withhold individuals with upper caste and casteist mentality and ensure an organised attack on the voices of the dalits, the minorities and the marginalised. In recent times, the reward given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dr Appa Rao Podile, the prime accused in the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, is an example of how hell bent they are in eradicating the organised voices of the dalits, the minorities and the marginalised. Although Appa Rao might have got promoted in ranks in the war against the untouchables but so did Hilter in his war against humanity, once.
Though little could we achieve after the reinstating of Appa Rao, but the consistent efforts of the Students’ Union of the University of Hyderabad (which comprises SFI, DSU, BSF, TSF, TVV) could ensure the establishment of an anti-discrimination cell. Even though it is not exactly how the students’ community had wanted, but surely it looks as a promising milestone in our struggle for social justice.
When the ruling class is your oppressor, the path to social justice can never be a bed of roses. Recognising the importance of caste sensitisation within the campus, the Students’ Union took the initiative to organise a lecture session by Bezwada Wilson and Sukhadeo Thorat on January 12, 2017. Although the programme was a huge success, which experienced an enormous participation from the students’ community, but the administration simultaneously did go to a large extent in order to ensure the event from not happening. The casteist agenda of the administration becomes more evident from these incidents when you observe that it is citing outsider reason as an excuse to prevent ICSSR chairman Prof. Sukhadeo Thorat and the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson from entering the campus; but parallely allowing AVBP to bring casteist intellectuals from outside and organise an event that serves the larger agenda of safeguarding the brahminism of the administration and the Hindutva student outfit, AVBP. During the programme, Wilson highlighted the need to save Indian democracy from the constant attacks of the right wing BJP government. He also mentioned that the BJP government has unleashed a series of attacks on the educational institutions and that the students must put up a valiant battle resisting these attacks. He also congratulated the students of the University of Hyderabad for bringing up the issue of caste discrimination in higher educational institutions to global attention. Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat, on the other hand emphasised on the need for a policy in the form of Rohith Act to ensure a caste-discrimination free environment for the students. He again and again stressed on the point that the students should try and mobilise for bringing in policy protections.
On January 17, marking the first death anniversary of Rohith Vemula, the Left and Ambedkarite student organisations held a one day programme demanding justice for Rohith Vemula. The programme received huge appreciation and larger participation from the students’ community. It gave space to the Una dalits, the families of Akhlaq and Najeeb and finally Raja Vemula, brother of Rohith Vemula and Radhika Vemula, mother of Rohith Vemula to share their experiences of caste discrimination. While all the speakers congratulated the students of University of Hyderabad for standing up with the struggle of Rohith Vemula and carrying it forward right from the point he left it, but the experience shared by Radhika Vemula moved everyone to the core. The humiliation inflicted upon her, starting from the constant interrogations by the state to prove that her son was not a dalit, debarring her from entering the institution which was responsible for the death of her son, detaining her while at the same time police escorting his father (who left her and her sons to gutters) to garland the stupa of Vemula, have been enormous but she made it very clear that she is ready and also asked the students community to join along with her in the collective fight against social injustice.
It is the need of the hour to steadfastly resist the casteist brahminical forces like the BJP and Sangh Parivar. The chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has also been providing tacit support to the BJP and helping them to get away without any punishment. It is clear that the oppressors are united, it is the need of the hour for the oppressed to unite pushing aside their ideological differences to achieve justice for Rohith and social justice in general.