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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rohith Vemula suicide: Don't try to 'crush' Indian youth, Rahul - First Post

Feb 2, 2016 22:37 IST


Bandlapalli, Andhra Pradesh: Continuing his broadside against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused it of attempting to impose the "failed RSS ideology" on everyone and alleged Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula was "crushed" by the ruling dispensation.

He also took on External Affairs Minister Minister Sushma Swaraj over her reported statement that Rohith was not a Dalit.
"Your government crushed FTII students and beat up JNU students. Why all this is happening because you are trying to impose one ideology on youth of the country. He (Rohith) alleged that you were trying to finish off the education system at universities and IITs.

"You are attempting to forcefully impose the failed ideology of RSS on everyone. Just try to do it and see what
the youth of India will do to you. You will see Rohith in every school, college and university. Don't try to crush
Indian youth. This is my advice to Central government," he said.

"Our students in colleges and universities are being suppressed. Rohith Vemula was made to commit suicide. Why...
because he was expressing his views. He did not harm anyone.

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He did not kill anyone. But the Indian government crushed him," the Congress Vice-President said at a public rally held to mark 10 years of UPA's flagship MGNREGA programme.

"And now a minister of Central government says he was not a Dalit. Sushmaji, it is not the question of whether Rohith was a Dalit or not. The question is of a youth of India, who wanted to study and learn, was killed by Indian government," the Amethi MP asserted.

Earlier, activists of ABVP, BJP's student wing tried to disrupt Rahul's speech by raising slogans and holding placards but police personnel immediately intervened and took them away from the public meeting venue.

The Congress leader had last week visited Hyderabad Central University to express solidarity with students protesting the suicide of Rohith.


PTI

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

JNU student's suicide threat is another reminder of the pressures on Dalit scholars - Scroll.In


In the absence of financial and social support from universities, students from backward communities are often compelled to give up on their education.
Mayank Jain  · Today · 11:30 am


Photo Credit: Akhil Kumar

“If you will not provide my remaining SRF [senior research fellowship] of one year within one week, then I will make suicide in front of administrative bloc, JNU, New Delhi. For this death, you and JNU will be responsible.”

On the eve of Republic Day, Jawaharlal Nehru University vice-chancellor SK Sopory received a letter from a Dalit scholar at the institution. In his letter, Madan Meher threatened to commit suicide if he did not get an extension on his doctoral research work and the remaining funds owed to him as part of his research fellowship.

The incident shook the academic community, especially given that it took place just a week after another Dalit student, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide in Hyderabad University, alleging that he had not received his fellowship money in seven months.
Now, many other students are speaking up against what they believe to be a caste bias at some of the country’s most prestigious universities.

Common cause
In Meher’s case, his letter prompted the JNU authorities to provide an assurance that they would look into the matter and resolve it shortly. What remains unresolved, however, is the continued pressure on students from backward communities to continue with their studies, even as universities continue to dilly-dally on providing them with adequate funds or supervisors for the purpose.

Just a day after Meher’s letter came to light, nine more Dalit students from the same department – Center for International Politics Organization and Disarmament – alleged that they were being harassed and discriminated on the basis of caste.

The Union human resource development ministry directed the university to look into the grievances of scholars and resolve them swiftly. But the central ministry itself has been facing criticism for its decision to withdraw and review the non-National Eligibility Test fellowships that are availed by more than 35,000 students in central universities across the country.

Students on campus, meanwhile, claim that these are not isolated cases. They say that Dalit scholars are by now accustomed to facing the brunt of an “insensitive system” that refuses to acknowledge the difficulties faced by first generation scholars. These individuals often face societal and financial pressures, thus prompting them to give up on their education much earlier than they would have liked.

“Scholarships and fellowships have always been a big issue across universities and JNU is no different when it comes to stigmatising and harassing students from the backward communities,” said Ishan Anand, a PhD scholar at JNU and a member of the Democratic Students Federation. “Every one in ten students in the campus is likely to be Dalit, but the caste bias which has persisted since decades refuses to go. There are various ways in which it is carried out, but Dalit students who often hail from weak financial backgrounds are the worst hit when their fellowships are stopped or delayed.”

Anand, who is not a Dalit, faces difficulties of his own. He claims that his fellowship money is often delayed by months. He said that apart from grant delays, there is the legwork and paperwork that all students have to endure, making life only more difficult for them.

“I can think of supporting myself, but many of our peers send money home and survive on these funds, and any sort of cutback is basically a nudge for them to get out of education and find a job that can pay their bills,” Anand said.

Anand’s claims resonate in the case of Dalit scholar Senthilkumar, who killed himself at the University of Hyderabad in 2008. There were claims that his distress was because of his scholarship being stopped just weeks earlier. He was using the money to help his family back in his village. Of the three other students apart from Senthilkumar who were not appointed supervisors, two ended up dropping out.

An uneven field
According to academicians, reservation and quotas for students from backward minorities has resulted in a surge in the number of seats available for Dalit scholars. The number of teachers hailing from the disadvantaged backgrounds has also increased. But as it turns out, gaining entry to universities is only the first obstacle.

“Over the last two decades, we have seen more Dalit students being admitted and at the same time, the nature and number of fellowships have improved to be able to support these students,” said Professor K Satyanarayana, who teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. “However, the system is designed such that discriminatory practices seep in despite best efforts, and those from the margins stay on the margins.”

Satyanarayana explained that teachers in major public universities in the country are still finding it tough to come to terms with the reality of a Dalit scholar being as deserving as a normal student.

“Fellowships are available to all in most cases, but if it is being used as a tool for punishment as it happened in Rohith’s [Vemula] case, then we are just defeating the purpose,” he said. “Instead of being provided with remedial classes, more grants and support to continue their studies, Dalit scholars who underperform are punished with curtailment of avenues. 

Teachers are complicit too since there’s hardly any secrecy about a person’s caste background and it is used by them to mock and shame students in classrooms at times.”

Satynarayana’s words find echoes among many Dalit scholars in the country’s campuses. According to Subhanshu Singh, who is pursuing his M.Phil in political sciences at JNU, SC/ST students are regularly given lower marks in viva tests than their general category peers.

“This is a common practice, which can be established over the years and across departments that, those scholars moving from M.Phil to PhD are often marked on their caste rather than their abilities,” said Singh. “They presumably try to weed out Dalit students thinking of them as undeserving, while those from the general category are marked on their abilities and performance and not their lineage.”

There were also claims of bias at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, where a study group modelled on the philosophies of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Periyar was banned last year. Students allege that the campus is overwhelmingly upper caste and hasn’t strictly followed reservation norms while admitting students and hiring faculties from various categories.

“The norm of 49.5% reservations for faculty hailing from backward castes is constantly flouted at many IITs including this one,” said Azhar Moideen, a student at IIT-M. “We have collected data and it constantly shows that students and teachers from the Dalit communities are missing from the campus.”

Moideen, however, said that fellowship grants work much better at the IITs as compared to other universities because of its autonomy and a central grant that doesn’t differentiate.

“All students benefit from fellowships here irrespective of their surnames,” he said. “There’s hardly any delay or bureaucracy in receiving funds as opposed to Junior Research Fellowships or Senior Research Fellowships in central universities. The key at IITs is that they fund everyone and then decide on evaluating students rather than the other way round.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Delhi cops assault students protesting over Vemula's suicide| Video Monday 01 February 2016 07:29 PM... - Manorama On Line



Read more at: http://english.manoramaonline.com/news/just-in/delhi-police-assault-student-protesters-rohith-vemula-suicide.html

Policemen try to stop students as they march towards the office of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)...

New Delhi: Delhi Police on Monday drew flak as a video emerged in which male police constables can b...

Read more at: http://english.manoramaonline.com/news/just-in/delhi-police-assault-student-protesters-rohith-vemula-suicide.html

Teaching shops of India: Are Tamil Nadu college campuses turning into suicide dens? - IBN Live

Posted on: 09:05 AM IST Feb 01, 2016 


Even as the nation rose up in protest against the untimely death of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide in Hyderabad, a string of student suicides went almost unnoticed in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. CNN-IBN delved deep into the murky education sector to find out why Tamil Nadu's campuses are turning into suicide dens.

On January 23, a suicide pact came to light in Tamil Nadu's Villupuram district. Three young students - Priyanka, Saranya and Monisha - were found in a well near the SVS College of Yoga and Naturopathy where they were studying.


Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction of being a close second to Maharashtra in terms of the number of suicides in 2014.

An alleged suicide note signed jointly by the three young girls spoke of harassment at college, exorbitant fees and lack of infrastructure, facilities and teachers.


Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction of being a close second to Maharashtra in terms of the number of suicides in 2014. Chennai in fact has topped the suicide charts amongst metros for four years in a row.

The percentage share of total suicides in 2014, according to the NCRB data, is 12.4% in Maharashtra and 12.2% in Tamil Nadu. In 2013, the percentage share of suicides in both Maharashtra as well as Tamil Nadu was 12.3%, while in 2012, Tamil Nadu was at 14% and Maharashtra at 13.4%.

With lakhs of students jostling and vying for the top spot, academic life is no longer much fun.

KS Antonysamy, Director-Public Relations, Loyola College Chennai, said, "Speaking about pressures on students, mainly it's academic pressures – scores, placement qualification, reluctance to take examinations. There's psychological pressure of peer group as well, when students, especially disadvantaged ones from rural areas, want to fit in. Finance is also a pressure, for it is tough for many students from villages to pay and stay in hostels."

The suicide epidemic regularly sweeps through premier institutes like the IIT Madras. In 2015 alone, two students took their own lives out of sheer academic pressure. Since 1981, over 75 students have committed suicide in all the IITs, according to media reports. Of the 75 cases of suicide, 20 were in Kanpur, 13 each in Kharagpur and Madras, 11 in Bombay, six each in Delhi and Guwahati, while five were in Roorkee.

According to Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, a Mental Health Expert with the World Health Organisation, even the IITs are not spared and the number of suicides that take place can be blamed on the education system.

After battling various such pressures, a student finally graduates, only to find the he or she is unemployable, because the quality of education is said to be so poor in Tamil Nadu.

Serial killing of dalit or tribal students? Rohith Vemula isn’t the Last Victim of Caste Hatred - Main Stream Weekly

Saturday 30 January 2016, 

It is a grave misfortune of a nation of 1.25 billion people that their HRD Minister is a lair, a damn lair. Her press briefing in the evening of January 19, 2016 on the suicide of Rohith Vemula is a bundle of lies, distortion and falsification. She has no parallel; nor morals. She has forfeited her credibility as a Union Minister in charge of a portfolio that has responsibility to train minds, enlighten lives and dispel the darkness of ignorance and orthodoxy. 

Her press briefing was aimed to acquaint the media with facts—‘verified by police’ obtained from ‘the ground’, according repeated and tall claims. She repeatedly told that the Proctorial Board that decided to punish the five Dalit scholars of Hyderabad Central University had at its head a Dalit. This claim made before the nation on camera is out and out false. She has underlined a game-plan. If a Dalit has to be harmed, keep another Dalit in the loop. If so, the blame can be apportioned on the poor Dalit or tribal. This was demonstrated in the last Lok Sabha session of the UPA-II. The Samajwadi Party had pressed in a Dalit MP, Nagina, of Bijnour, UP to obstruct the Constitution Amendment Bill to guarantee reservation in promotion of Dalits and tribals in government service!

In her press briefing the HRD Minister, in tone and tenor, besides body language, was an incarnation of arrogance. She was intolerant besides being theatrical in her utterances. 

Nobody believes her claim that the scholar, Rohith, was not a Dalit. It is an issue of Dalit verses non-Dalit. The victims of the system are all Dalits. And we are sure Rohith is not the last or the only one. Over ten Dalits, who were students of the Central University, have committed suicide in the past. Universities, IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, and institutes of excellence offering education and training in skill in medicines, engineering, management symbolise graveyards for Dalit and tribal students. And the country’s apathy and insolence does not recognise that the Dalit and tribal students are unwelcome for higher education and research in the nation’s institutions of excellence. 

Here is a list of 18 victims between 2007 and 2013, though it is not conclusive at all.

1. M. Shrikant, final year, B. Tech, IIT Bombay, January 1, 2007;
2. Ajay S. Chandra, integrated Ph.D, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore, August 26, 2007;
3. Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, January 27, 2008;
4. Senthil Kumar, Ph.D, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad, February 23, 2008;
5. Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, April 19, 2008;
6. G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, January 2, 2009;
7. Ankita Veghda, first year, B. Sc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, April 20, 2009;
8. D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, August 13, 2009;
9. S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, November 4, 2009;
10. Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, November 5, 2009;
11. Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visves-varaiah Technological University, Bangalore, January 30, 2010;
12. Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical Univer-sity (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, January 31, 2010;
13. Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, March 3, 2010;
14. J.K. Ramesh, second year, B. Sc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, July 1, 2010;
15. Madhuri Sale, final year, B.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, November 17, 2010;
16. G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, January 30, 2011;
17. Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year, B.Tech, IIT, Roorkee, February 13, 2011; and
18. Linesh Mohan Gawle, Ph.D, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, April 16, 2011.

Caste arrogance has not exhausted itself after taking precious and talented lives of these victims within the given period cited above. The faculties, students and non-teaching staff of the educational institutions carry their home-grown hatred and prejudice against the vulnerable to their workplace. The academic institutions, therefore, are virtually graveyards for Dalit and tribal students. Large number of the victims of caste hatred were from Andhra Pradesh. This State is ahead of many States in technological empowerment. But it is not attitudinally ahead of Haryana or Bihar or UP. 

Education does not change the Indian, say, Hindu, supremacist attitude toward society.

The case of Pradeep Kumar, a Khatik pursuing mechanical engineering in the Kalpana Chawla Institute of Technology, Hissar, Haryana, underlines the sick mentality of the upper caste. He was murdered by two of his Jat classmates at the college gate when he was entering the campus on the fateful day. Reason? A media report screamed thus: “A topper’s murder throws light on caste in Haryana classroom”.

2 The same daily quoted his father, Ram Lal, as saying: “He did not want to go to college that morning. They had told him on Saturday that a pistol would be waiting for him.” The victim’s apprehensive father accompanied him to the college. He saw his son being killed by one of the two beasts firing from the revolver before his eyes at the collage gate. Pradeep had had cleared four of six semesters topping in each which they did not relish. And they wanted to silence him for ever. Merit actually proved to be his curse. Here the Dalits have a fabulous dilemma—if they are average or poor in studies, they face a barrage of invectives and insults for entry based on reservation; if meritorious, bullets await to greet them. Pradeep is a case in point.

Jaspreet Singh was a brilliant student doing his final year in the Government Medical College, Chandigarh. He cleared it but three of his teachers, Rajesh Kumar, Amarjeet Singh and Arun Kumar Aggrawal, blocked his upward mobility by forcing him to fail in Community Medicine. These three had threatened Jaspreet to fail again and again. They did it religiously. Seven months after his suicide, a three-member group of senior professors re-evaluated Jaspreet’s answer-sheets and found that he had cleared the subject. What a price of hatred delivered to the Dalit medial student! His sister, a heartbroken student at the injustice to his brother, doing her Bachelor of Computer Application, too committed suicide.

In the AIIMS, Delhi, Bal Mukund Bharti, a Dalit, committed suicide in the face of mounting and sustained persecution, humiliation and discrimi-nation there. There were/are several cases of harassment, discrimination and humiliation against Dalit and tribal students doing medicine in the nation’s so-called pride. And a probe committee headed by Prof. S K Thorat, former Chairman, UGC, underlined the arrogance, non-cooperation and boycott of P. Venugopal, the then Director, AIIMS for the inquiry into allegations of discrimination and harassment against Dalit students. 

In a documentary available on YouTube, called The Death of Merit, Balmukund’s parents recalled that teachers would “torture him and tell him that he had come on reservation”. A teacher directly told him: “You can never become a doctor.” “They don’t like me because of my caste,” Bharti told his father, and wanted to change his name— ”He was a Chamar from Madhya Pradesh.” For all Dalits or tribals who either commit suicide or not have similar stories of suffering and humiliation. They are unwelcome in the portals of educational institutions per se. Rarely any get justice. Who are therefore “casteist, extremist and anti-national”?

All Dalit students, boys or girls, who, defying all powerful roadblocks, social, psychological, financial or physical, on their upward movement through their colleges or universities pursuing medicine, engineering, accountancy or management, when the show signs of promise and potential, symbolise hopes and aspiration not only of the family but also of their community as a whole. Snipping them off by the quirk of upper-caste madness or hatred suddenly creates a vacuum of irreparable dimension in the family or community to which the victims belong, sparking trauma and sending powerful negative signals. 

They become apprehensive that their children are neither safe in those high temples of higher learning. Indeed the country uniformly as well as unambiguously demonstrates its revulsion against Dalits and tribals climbing the ladders of knowledge for ultimate emancipation. A brigade of assassins like Germany’s Gestapo during the fascist regime is in place everywhere to blast, thwart or scuttle Dalit or tribal aspirations by means criminal or extra-constitutional. They do not want the underdogs to be seen beyond their spheres ordained by their whims that reflect their scriptural doctrines preforming dirty professions in sewers, graveyards, streets, fields for the pleasure and happiness of upper-caste masters and lords. They want the Dalits and tribals as slaves only.

Is Fellowship for Dalits or Tribal Students a Source of Corruption?

Scholarships for Dalit or tribal students are not paid on time. These are delayed inordinately. Rohith did not get his scholarship for over seven months @ Rs 25,000 per month. He has left behind arrears amounting to Rs 175,000. Chronic delay in releasing scholarship to Dalit/tribal recipients is routine not only for Dalit fellows pursuing M. Phil or Ph.D in universities across India but also for every recipient in schools, colleges or universities across the board. Let me share my personal experience. Some three-four years back I was in Patna University to attend a seminar. In course of interaction with about two dozens of Dalit/tribal research scholars, I gathered that an organised racket was at work. Their monthly UGC scholarships were not released until and unless a substantial amount was paid as bribe to their respective supervisors. 

Release of funds is subject to their recommendation. This recommendatory power is used as a weapon to hurt the interests of Dalit scholars. So, the scholars under inescapable circumstances fell in line and met their supervisors’ lust.

I wanted to conduct a survey of the extent and dimension of abuses. I, therefore, designed a questionnaire and circulated amongst them to seek their feedback. I had assured them of perfect and foolproof confidentiality with respect to information they would share with me so their identity and interest remained a closely guarded secret. Some of the scholars filled up the questionnaire but none put down in black and white what they spoke verbally about the payment of bribe to their supervisors.

May I share my experience of doing dissertation in Patna University leading to the award of Ph.D and seen how my supervisor, a Professor of Economics of Patna University, was nothing less than a bully. (Readers, if any, may glance through my communication “Where should reform in higher education begin?” http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article3340.html

The dissertation was, in no way, intended to yield any financial benefit to me. But the power of recommendation by the supervisor is a handle to harass, victimise, intimidate or coerce the Dalit or tribal scholars for financial gains. This is not limited to bribe. The sufferers know more.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar had befittingly underlined the difficulty of liberating the underdogs in the following words: “In the fight for Swaraj you fight with the whole nation on your side...[but to annihilate the caste], you have to fight against the whole nation—and that too, your own. But it is more important than Swaraj. 

There is no use having Swaraj, if you cannot defend it. More important than the question of defending Swaraj is the question of defending the Hindus under the Swaraj. In my opinion, it is only when the Hindu society becomes a casteless society that it can hope to have strength enough to defend itself. Without such internal strength, Swaraj for Hindus may turn out to be only a step towards slavery.” We have got independence. We have not liberated our Dalits and tribals from the thraldom of upper-caste Hindus.

 We expect a fair investigation into the case by men of proven integrity. Let the government institute a Fast Track court to try the case. The whole case from investigation to trial and award of punishment under supervision of the Supreme Court to guard against and frustrated undesirable interference of powerful elements. The entire process of investigation of the crime, prosecution and sentence should be completed within six months, if not early.3

Footnotes
1. The Milli Gazette, ‘Dalit students committing suicide in last 4 years in premier institutions’, Published Online: May 17, 2011, Print Issue: May 16-31.
2. The Indian Express, Hisar, Friday March 02, 2012.
3. The case of rape and murder of Nirbhaya was adjudicated with great promptitude.
The author is a retired IAS officer of the Bihar cadre and former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur.
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Rohith’s suicide: Teachers on fast - Asian Age

Jan 29, 2016 | Pti | Hyderabad

Three teachers of Hyderabad Central University on Thursday sat on a one-day hungerstrike demanding that vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile be removed and in-charge V-C Vipin Srivastava step down, in order to resume academic and administrative activities.

The protest by teachers comes a day after a second batch of students on an indefinite fast demanding justice for dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, who allegedly committed suicide on January 17, were shifted to hospital following concerns over their health condition.

A teacher from the Osmania University also joined the protesting teachers in the fast on HCU campus under the banner of SC/ST Teachers’ Forum and other concerned teachers.
Earlier, a group of seven students had also been taken to hospital following their deteriorating health condition. The agitating students on Wednesday refused to hold talks with Mr Srivastava, who came to the protest site. They alleged that Mr Srivastava was equally responsible for the “wrong affairs” and demanded that he step-down from the responsibility of interim V-C.

Meanwhile, the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, spearheading the agitation over Rohith’s suicide, said that students would intensify the “struggle” till all their demands are met.

Their demands include Podile’s resignation, and also Srivastava’s from the post of in-charge VC, “sacking” from Union Cabinet of HRD Minister Smriti Irani, employment to a family member of Rohith and Rs 50 lakh compensation to his family.

The selection of Srivastava as interim VC was earlier opposed by the students and SC/ST staff forums as they claimed he headed the Executive Council sub-committee whose decisions were “responsible for the death of Rohith” and that he was one of the accused in the death of another Dalit student in 2008.

Students of most universities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana yesterday boycotted classes in solidarity with the agitators as they sought “justice” for Rohith.

JPC members want to visit universities
Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, in his letter to the HRD ministry, called the University of Hyderabad a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics” and complained that the ministry had been a “mute spectator” to the attack on the ABVP activist. Both HRD minister Smriti Irani and Mr Dattatreya have been under attack by the Opposition, which has also demanded that both resign.


At the joint parliamentary committee meeting, members also raised strong objections over the absence of the secretaries of the petroleum and telecom departments, and decided to approach LS Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to complain about the secretaries allegedly “undermining” parliamentary panels. They also sought her approval for a tour to the University of Hyderabad and IIT Madras, that have been in the news lately over alleged atrocities. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss issues related to the implementation of reservations in BSNL and bodies under the petroleum ministry. But since the secretaries were not available, the panel could not take up the listed agenda.


HRD names ex-HC judge for Rohith death probe - Asian Age



A student shouts slogans demanding resignation of Smriti Irani during a protest. (Photo: PTI)

The HRD ministry Thursday named former Allahabad high court judge Ashok Kumar Roopanwal to probe the circumstances that led to dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad recently. HRD ministry sources said Justice Roopanwal will review the entire sequence of events and its circumstances and establish facts and correctives. The one-man judicial commission has been asked to submit its report within three months, it is learnt.

Earlier, a fact-finding committee set up by the ministry gave its report on developments at the university, after which it was decided a judicial commission would be set up. The scholar’s death led to protests by students in several parts of the country.
The joint parliamentary committee on SC/ST welfare, chaired by BJP MP Faggan Singh, has voiced concern over Vemula’s suicide and has proposed sending a delegation to the University of Hyderabad, and also to IIT Madras to examine complaints of injustice/discrimination against dalit students.

Vemula’s suicide sparked a political row across India as a written complaint by Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya against the alleged attack on an ABVP activist in August, where he called the university a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”, led to five letters from the HRD ministry.
Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, in his letter to the HRD ministry, called the University of Hyderabad a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics” and complained that the ministry had been a “mute spectator” to the attack on the ABVP activist. Both HRD minister Smriti Irani and Mr Dattatreya have been under attack by the Opposition, which has also demanded that both resign.

At the joint parliamentary committee meeting, members also raised strong objections over the absence of the secretaries of the petroleum and telecom departments, and decided to approach Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to complain about the secretaries allegedly “undermining” parliamentary panels. They also sought her approval for a tour to the University of Hyderabad and IIT Madras, that have been in the news lately over alleged atrocities against dalits.

The agenda of the meeting was to discuss issues related to the implementation of reservations in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and bodies under the petroleum ministry. But since the secretaries were not available, the panel could not take up the listed agenda.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Suicide focus on old rule - Telegraph India

Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, Jan. 28: After the suicide of a Dalit PhD scholar in Hyderabad, the Centre is rushing to implement its three-year-old rule that all higher education institutions should appoint an ombudsman to hear the grievances of victims of discrimination.

Senior officials in the UGC said they had no idea how many colleges and universities have implemented the notification that requires them to appoint a faculty member not below the rank of associate professor as anti-discrimination officer.

Government officials said they would ask all centrallyfunded technical institutions, including the IITs, IIMs and the NITs, to implement the UGC's 2012 regulations to check discrimination.

"Certain institutions like IITs do not directly come under the control of the UGC. They are unlikely to have implemented the regulation. We are going to write to all the institutions under the control of the ministry to enforce the regulation," said a senior official.

The Union HRD ministry today set up a judicial commission headed by former Allahabad High Court judge Ashok Kumar Roopanwal to probe the sequence of events leading to the January 17 suicide of Rohith Vemula in the University of Hyderabad. One of the mandates of the commission is to find out if the university had enforced the 2012 regulations.

Faculty and administrative sources at the university said it had set up a grievance committee but had not appointed an anti-discrimination officer.

The commission's mandate has in effect brought other central universities and centrally funded institutions under scrutiny. Neither the UGC nor the HRD ministry has ever reviewed the implementation of the regulations that came into effect on January 19, 2013.

No university or college can deprive a student or a group of students of access to facilities on the basis of caste, religion, language, ethnicity, gender or disability, the regulations say.

Institutions will ensure students are not discriminated against by stopping fellowship. Institutions are barred from segregating some students from others in classrooms, playgrounds and other common areas.The anti-discrimination officer is to initiate follow-up action, including a fact-finding inquiry, after getting a complaint of discrimination.

In Hyderabad, five Dalit students including Rohith were suspended from the hostel and barred from common areas on the campus except their academic departments and libraries. They were accused of attacking an ABVP leader on the campus.Sources in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University said they have set up Equal Opportunity Cells headed by senior faculty members to address grievances of victims of any kind of discrimination.

However, most central universities and medical institutions are unlikely to have put in place the anti-discrimination mechanism, said Dalit rights activist Gurindar Azad from the NGO Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion.

"In most of the institutions, the students are directly going to the SC Commission for redressal of grievances because there is no institutional mechanism," he said.

Manish Kumar, a post-graduate medical student at Vradhaman Medical College here, said the college has no in-house forum to address complaints of discrimination.

Kumar is one of 20-odd Dalit students who failed repeatedly in the first year of the MBBS course between 2006 to 2011. They approached the SC Commission, which ordered an inquiry under academic Balchandra Mungekar.

"The Mungekar committee concluded caste-based discrimination in the college. After that we passed," Kumar said.

A powerful letter to Rohith Vemula's friends and family from the mother of Aniket Ambhore, who committed suicide. He was a Dalit, too - India Today

  • Aniket Ambhore was found dead in the IIT-B campus in September 2014.
  • Authorities called it a freak accident, but Aniket's parents suspect he committed suicide since he was subjected to caste discrimination.
  • After Rohith Vemula's suicide, Aniket's mother writes an open letter to Rohith's friends and family.




New Delhi, January 29, 2016 | UPDATED 18:43 IST

On September 4, 2014 Aniket Ambhore, made a leap he rather shouldn't have, and that ended in his death. He was a student of Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, pursuing a dual degree in electrical engineering and communication and signal processing. Aniket was found dead in the campus, and the officials maintained he slipped and fell off the sixth floor of hostel building number-13.


Aniket's family saw no reason to believe the incident was a 'freak accident', but did accept he was worried due to backlogs. Aniket's fathertold the Times of India that since Aniket had taken admission under the SC/ST quota, he had to face derogatory comments and frequent taunts, both from fellow students and staff members. Aniket's parents Sunita Ambhore and Sanjay Ambhore submitted a 10-page testimony to the IIT-B director explaining various forms of caste discrimination their son faced in the campus. An inquiry committee was setup by the institute to inquire about his death. Despite persistent demands, the report of this committee has not been made public till date, nor was it shared within the IIT-B community.

On January 17, Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old PhD scholar, committed suicide hanging himself inside a hostel room in the Hyderabad Central University campus, and left a note that said no one is responsible for his act. But friends and family say Rohith was forced to end his life due to constant harassment from authorities since he was a Dalit.

Here's a letter from Sunita Ambhore, Aniket's mother, to family and friends of Rohith. (SIC)
23 January, 2015

To the family and friends of Rohith,
After going through the last letter written by Rohith Vemula, I am feeling very restless, very suffocated. A researcher who in the name of punishment did not receive his fellowship for seven months and was thrown out of the hostel, all in an attempt to break him to his core.

Though Rohith has not blamed anybody in his letter, it is very heart wrenching. I can see the similarities between the thoughts of the two, Aniket and Rohith, and I am trying to understand what pain they must have gone through. Aniket did not leave behind any letter, but from the sentences scattered here and there in his diary, in poetries I found that both of them had the same state of mind towards the end of their lives.

Aniket also talked about equality, and even supported and whole heartedly empathized with the struggles of transgender or his 'Saathi' friends. He also had a lot of concern for his parents. He was struggling to find answers about caste, reservation, god etc. He was fighting against the discriminatory mindset which he had to face ever since he started preparing for IIT entrance exam.

When a person gets tired of fighting with powerful forces, only then is he overcome with an emptiness, which can be seen in my son's and Rohith's life. This is frightening for one who is sensitive, thinks a lot and wants to realize his dreams. Such people due to their nature do not blame others but come to a point when they are unable to go on any more, they feel empty.

Why would Aniket think so much? We always saw him laughing, performing mimicry, singing. What was there in IIT that my son forgot to smile. After his death the doctor told us that Aniket was confused. But Science and Mathematics were his favorite subjects from the beginning, then how could he have become confused?

In IIT, Aniket must have suffered the emptiness and hidden insult a lot. This was not in a direct but an indirect way, for he faced it in everyday discussions and in the name of advice, sometimes by peers and sometimes by faculty members.

Not only IIT but other prestigious higher educational institutions also possess this egoistic way of thinking.
Those who befriend students who come to these institutes through reservations keep saying, "Look, you and I have a similar economic background, yet you have received special facilities because of your caste...reservation is wrong" and other such things.

That is why Aniket had started searching for the roots of caste. Vedic religion, books and such knowledge are shown to be true and given a scientific form in these prestigious institutions and their ideas are drilled into the heads of the students even now. But when the students face a problem due to caste bias, there is no support system that the institute provides. There is no counseling for these problems, they are not even recognised as a problem, but put across as a fact that a category student has to face.
Availing reservation is treated as a crime. If you have availed of reservation then you are expected to face the arguments and judgments of people, this is the mentality of the 'savarnas'. Aniket and other children are not treated empathetically, their problems are instead framed as issues of low academic ability, parental pressure, high self-expectation so that savarnas do not have to deal with the actual issue on hand.

Aniket had lost his identity. "Who am I" - why would such a question trouble him? Why did Aniket become concerned about graha, stars, soul - supreme soul or the other world after coming to IIT?

We don't know where his positive thinking, creative mind and his smile disappeared. Our only crime was that we sent him to IIT-B with a category certificate. If he had studied in ordinary institutions then at least he would not have to listen to so many discussions and advice which weakened his mind.

That he is incapable, who gave such a feeling to my able, sensible, jolly Aniket?

We have not yet received any replies to the letters we sent to various important official authorities like MHRD and Scheduled Castes Commission. After our request, IIT Bombay did set up an inquiry committee but no changes were brought about in its institutional functioning, nobody has even informed us about the inquiry report. Perhaps they do not think it necessary to give answers.

We feel very small in our own eyes. But Rohith's incident has once again highlighted the matter. Both Aniket and Rohith faced different conditions, but the reason they had to struggle was the same. I don't know till when will our children fight this hidden casteism. We too are fighting it.

Students, agitation is the only remaining hope!

Perhaps only the students will be able to wake up the dormant system. We are waiting to see some solace for the pain suffered by Rohith's family and the Dalit society.

Aniket's mother,
Sunita Ambhore

"Perhaps only students will be able to wake up the dormant system!"

Photo: Aniket's and Rohith's Facebook profiles. 

Rohith suicide: Joint Parliamentary Committee team likely to visit HCU - Deccan Chronicle

PTI
Published
Jan 28, 2016, 6:17 pm IST

The delegation will interact with dalit students and will submit a report to both Houses.


 Late Rohith Vemula (Photo: DC)
New Delhi: Voicing concern over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a dalit scholar in Hyderabad University, a Parliamentary panel has favoured sending a delegation to the institution and also IIT-Chennai, to look into complaints of injustice and discrimination against dalit students.
At a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes chaired by BJP member Faggan Singh on Wednesday, members also raised strong objections over the absence of Secretaries of Petroleum department and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
The Committee decided to approach Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to complain about Secretaries allegedly "undermining" Parliamentary panels, besides seeking her nod for undertaking the tour to Hyderabad university and IIT-Chennai, which have been in news on the issue of alleged atrocities against dalits.
The agenda of the meeting was to discuss issues related to implementation of the reservation policy in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and organizations under the Petroleum Ministry.
However, since Secretaries of both department could not make it citing some engagements with Government, the panel could not take up the listed agenda.
Resenting it, the members asked why did the Secretaries not attend the meeting even as the agenda was circulated in advance and there was an important issue to be discussed.
This happened days after strong objections were raised in a meeting of another panel to the absence of Home Secretary, who was called by the Committee to give presentation on Chennai flash floods. Two Trinamool Congress members had even walked out from the panel meeting then.
"It is being noticed that Secretaries skip panel meetings on crucial occasions on one or the other pretext. This cannot be taken lightly. After all, a Parliamentary panel is considered mini Parliament.
"Members raised strong objections to the absence of Petroleum and Telecom Secretaries from the meeting yesterday after which the Chair gave the assurance the issue with the Speaker and apprise her how the position of Parliamentary panels is being undermined by them," said a member of the Committee on the condition of anonymity.
While the main agenda could not be taken up, members including D Raja from CPI, Jesudasu Seelam from Congress and Ravindra Babu Pandula of NDA ally TDP raised the issue of Vemula's suicide.
They are understood to have said that a delegation of the committee should visit the Hyderabad University and IIT Chennai so that the message goes to the nation that the Parliamentary panel is sensitive towards dalits.
Referring to a ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Chennai last year on the basis of an anonymous complaint, a member said that the issues of discrimination against dalits need attention there as well, the sources said.
The delegation will interact with dalit students and members of the faculty on various facets of caste-based discrimination. The panel will then submit a report to both Houses of Parliament.
The Committee might visit some other educational institutions where issues of caste-discrimination had been raised.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi

Pressure to succeed blamed for youth suicides - Gulf News




Students in Kolkata complain of inordinate peer and family pressure that often drives them to see death as an escape

Monisham, Priyanka and Saranya

Published: 17:20 January 27, 2016


Kolkata: The pressure to succeed in various board and competitive exams is pushing students to suicide, which they often believe is the only escape route they have, experts say.

The death of three girl students at a naturopathy college in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district is shrouded in mystery, with police registering a case of suicide and parents calling it murder. 

The bodies of T. Monisha, A. Saranya and V. Priyanka — all students of SVS Naturopathy and Yoga College — were retrieved from a farm well near the college on Saturday evening. Villupuram is located around 170km from Chennai.

“There is enormous pressure on us to perform both at the board and various entrance examinations, which are often described as make-or-break by our parents,” said Sudip Mallick, an engineering student at Jadavpur University.

“None of these exams are easy, as in India exams are conducted not to know what we know but what we don’t know. Along with it comes peer pressure which often becomes unbearable pushing many to commit suicide,” he added.

According to police, a case of suicide has been registered as the three students ended their lives allegedly after the college management demanded high fees, although it lacks basic facilities.

Many students cite Farhan, the character of famous Bollywood movie Three Idiots, as a perfect depiction of their lives.

In the movie Farhan wanted to become a wildlife photographer, but was pushed to engineering since, a path his father had decided on from the moment he was born.

“The story is so true for most of us. Since my grandfather was a doctor and so are my parents, my life was sealed at the moment of birth,” said Rishav Dasgupta, a medical student in Kolkata.

“The whole world had come to a conclusion, including my teachers, that all I can become is a doctor. But somewhere I wanted to become musician, but did not even have the chance to spell it out.”

Others narrate the horrifying moments when they even contemplated suicide. In India, one out of every 12 students is said to have planned committing a suicide at some point.

Dipak Sanyal (name changed) recalls the horrifying moments when he attempted suicide for not having cracked a campus interview with a US based company in IIT-Kharagpur.
“Looking behind, it all seems silly. But at that point it seemed like the only escape route,” he said.

“Everyone was rooting for me to crack that exam which would be the icing on the cake for my brilliant academic results and the hard-work that my parents had put in.
“It was seen as the perfect gift a son could give to his parents for all the sacrifices they had made.”

Now Sanyal, who often gives motivational talks to upcoming engineering graduates on how to deal life pressures says, “After my failed suicide attempt I learnt that there was no bigger joy than that of living life. I could have crippled my parents for life had it gone right.”

Most students Gulf News spoke to shared a similar story, few also talked about the inability befriend girls leading to suicide attempts.

“Being educated in boys school only girls were always distant object of admiration but was always hesitant to befriend in fear of being rejected.

“During college years having a girlfriend is a huge thing and my inability to even talk to a girl drove me to depression,” admitted a final year student of an engineering college.

Rohith Vemula suicide: Joint Parliamentary Committee team likely to visit Hyderabad University - First Post



New Delhi: Voicing concern over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar in Hyderabad University, a Parliamentary panel has favoured sending a delegation to the institution and also IIT-Chennai, to look into complaints of injustice and discrimination against Dalit students.

At a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes chaired by BJP member Faggan Singh on Wednesday, members also raised strong objections over the absence of Secretaries of Petroleum department and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

The Committee decided to approach Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to complain about Secretaries allegedly "undermining" Parliamentary panels, besides seeking her nod for undertaking the tour to Hyderabad university and IIT-Chennai, which have been in news on the issue of alleged atrocities against Dalits.

The agenda of the meeting was to discuss issues related to implementation of the reservation policy in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and organizations under the Petroleum Ministry.
However, since Secretaries of both departments could not make it citing some engagements with Government, the panel could not take up the listed agenda.

Resenting it, the members asked why did the Secretaries not attend the meeting even as the agenda was circulated in advance and there was an important issue to be discussed.

This happened days after strong objections were raised in a meeting of another panel to the absence of Home Secretary, who was called by the Committee to give presentation on Chennai flash floods. Two Trinamool Congress members had even walked out from the panel meeting then.

Also See

"It is being noticed that Secretaries skip panel meetings on crucial occasions on one or the other pretext. This cannot be taken lightly. After all, a Parliametary panel is considered mini Parliament.

"Members raised strong objections to the absence of Petroleum and Telecom Secretaries from the meeting yesterday after which the Chair gave the assurance the issue with the Speaker and apprise her how the position of Parliamentary panels is being being undermined by them," said a member of the Comittee on the condition of anonymity.

While the main agenda could not be taken up, members including D Raja from CPI, Jesudasu Seelam from Congress and Ravindra Babu Pandula of NDA ally TDP raised the issue of Vemula's suicide.

They are understood to have said that a delegation of the committee should visit the Hyderabad University and IIT Chennai so that the message goes to the nation that the Parliamentary panel is sensitive towards dalits.

Referring to a ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Chennai last year on the basis of an anonymous complaint, a member said that the issues of discrimination against dalits need attention there as well, the sources said.

The delegation will interact with dalit students and members of the faculty on various facets of caste-based discrimination.
The panel will then submit a report to both Houses of Parliament.

The Committee might visit some other educational institutions where issues of caste-discrimination had been raised.

PTI

IIT Gandhinagar has a 'PAL' to welcome newcomers - Pagal Guy


26 January 2016


Increase in the number of suicides by students has become a major concern for engineering institutes in India. Many students have succumbed to the competitive pressure they experience in these institutes. The recent incident of discrimination leading to the death of Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar from Hyderabad, has sparked a debate of student suicide and discrimination they face in the campus. To help students adjust to the rigorous academic life at the IITs, an initiative called Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) is being conducted by IIT Gandhinagar (IITGn).

PAL is an initiative where senior students of the institute assist newcomers adapt to the atmosphere at IITGn. Two psychologists have been appointed by the institute to identify students who may require assistance by having interactive sessions with them. These students are provided a tutor to help them overcome their discomfort. Tutors are students from the second and third year. Each tutor has two first year students to take care of.

"It is important to develop a good rapport between the students and their tutors. Tutors should not just be able to help newcomers become independent by end of first year, they should also help them deal with academic pressure on their own," says Professor Kabeer Jasuja, who is the brain behind PAL initiative.  

Under the watchful eyes of the faculty members, tutors are given freedom to assist the newcomers. Garima Chaudhary, a second year student at IITGn who is also a PAL tutor, said, "Our interactions are informal in the beginning. The help provided is not limited to academics; we acquaint them to all activities that take place in the campus."
   
Prof. Jasuja added, "Most of the students who benefit from PAL are first generation students in their family. They face problems coping with English, which is the medium of instruction at IITGn." Shubham Kumar, a first year student who hails from Jharkhand, said, "We are staying away from our family for the first time. With a senior to guide us, we feel assured. The tutors don't just comfort us, they also respond to the queries our parents have."
 With increasing number of students falling prey to hectic schedules, an initiative that encourages a healthy interaction amongst the students is worth emulating in engineering institutions.

Upper castes commit atrocities, force SCs to commit suicide: P L Punia - INDIAN EXPRESS



He also demanded that Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya should be tried for abetment of suicide.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | New Delhi | Published:January 27, 2016 12:38 am

Stating that the Scheduled Castes face all kinds of atrocities by upper castes who drive them to commit suicide, SC Commission chairperson P L Punia has said the only way to improve the condition of the community is through quality education. 

Commenting on the suicide of Dalit Scholar Rohith Vemula, Punia said he had already sought an action taken report from the Telangana administration. He also demanded that Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya should be tried for abetment of suicide.

“This society is represented by the upper castes. They commit atrocities (on SCs). Their behaviour, their treatment…they force them to commit suicide,” he told The Indian Express. “In the last 10 years, 11 students from Hyderabad committed suicide. Besides, you find such suicides at AIIMs, IIT-Kanpur,” he said, asking why only Dalits commit suicide.

Demanding action against Dattatreya, he said the SC students of Hyderabad Central University “were suspended under political pressure from ABVP, supported by Mr Dattatreya”.

“I don’t agree with his statement that he just forwarded the letter he had received. He wrote that the Hyderabad university campus had become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national activities. He also complained to the HRD ministry, which wrote four successive letters to the university,” said the SC panel chief.

Punia, who visited Hyderabad a day after the incident, has sought prompt investigation of the FIR against Dattatreya, V-C and three others. “Besides abetment to suicide, the FIR also has charges under SC/ST Act,” he said, that this “investigation should be over within 30 days”.

Pointing at Dattatreya’s letter in which he termed activities of ASA anti-national, Punia said: “See the mindset, the mentality. This government has an agenda which is not supportive of SC/ST.”

Noting that SCs have little land or business, he said: “The only avenue for them is to educate themselves and try for government jobs, where there is a reservation. What do they do? They are treated as second rate citizens. They (upper castes) treat them shabbily, like animals,” he said.
He pointed out that lack of education is the biggest problem faced by the community. “Baba Saheb (Ambedkar) said educate, organise and then agitate,” Punia said, adding that “less than 4 four per cent of the total SC population complete their graduation”.

“There is a sudden drop in the dropout ratio as you go from secondary to higher education. There is a gap of 9 per cent between total literary and literacy among SCs. SC woman literacy rate is around 59 per cent, in some districts less than 20 per cent.”
He said that the caste divide will end only when there is a “concerted effort, which is missing now”.

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/upper-castes-commit-atrocities-force-scs-to-commit-suicide-p-l-punia/#sthash.vd3yQMF2.dpuf

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Murder By "Suicide": Institutional Murder Of A Dalit Research Scholar - Counter Currents

By Anand Kumar
25 January, 2016
Socialism.in



The India wide protests that have erupted following the “circumstances” orchestrated by the RSS/BJP right wing which lead to the forced death (SUICIDE) of Rohith Vemula. Rohith a Research Scholar coming from the Dalit SC community was pursuing his doctoral studies at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU). His murder by suicide has once again brought to the surface the ugly face of India’s caste ridden hierarchical society. To make matters worse, we have a ruling party that is steeped in an ideology of hate against minorities and the oppressed castes (particularly the Dalits), promoting Brahmanical bigotry every step of the way.

It is not surprising that the HRD ministry under the aegis of ‘Manu’Smriti Irani and another minister hailing from Hyderabad – Bandaru Dattatreya (with an RSS background) had a direct hand in the suspension of the 5 Dalit research scholars. A confrontation between ABVP (RSS/ BJP student wing) and Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) in August last year was blown out of proportion when the ABVP goon Susheel Kumar made false accusations against the 5 students and used his connections with the BJP at the highest levels to teach Dalit students their place in the University.

More than a mere clash of personal differences, the radical politics of ASA was beginning to ruffle more than a few feathers. Not only was it challenging the traditional left politics espoused by the CPI(M)’s SFI, but were increasingly confronting issues like death penalty, LGBT rights, beef politics, minority rights including those students belonging to Adivasi, Northeastern India, Kashmir etc. With over 500 members from different marginalized backgrounds and beginning to find an echo across the campus (even winning an election in 2011-12), this must have set alarm bells ringing in a very much conservative institution. Incidentally, Rohith Vemula saw himself as a Dalit Marxist and left the SFI precisely for the same reason that Ambedkar had once confronted the Stalinist CPI (M)– caste (Lal Salaam to Jai Bhim: Why Rohith Vemula left Indian Marxists).

Hindutva Revival Department under ‘Manu’Smriti Irani
This is not the first time that the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry under Smriti Irani has courted controversy. Last year, the Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle (APSC) was banned at IIT-Madras following an anonymous complaint. Following a social media uproar, this was later revoked. On a more education related issue, the HRD ministry scraped (now reinstated) all fellowships granted to MPhil and PhD students who had not taken the National Eligibility Test (NET). This gave birth to the #OccupyUGC student movement which is very much alive and has linked up with the present protest movement. 

Smirti Irani’s tenure as minister has been anything but controversial. Known more for her roles in the (patriarchal) soap operas than anything concerning education, Irani has gone out of her way to please her RSS bosses.

Worse, Irani’s earlier response in relation to the recent events has only fanned the flames by triggering the resignation of over 10 faculty members from the University. Her assertion such as “not a Dalit vs non Dalit issue”, no blame on any organization/ individual in the suicide letter, following administrative procedure regarding suspension and other defensive arguments are simply packed full of lies. Undue interest was shown by the ministry by sending four letters between September to November to the HCU Vice-Chancellor (VC) regarding the action taken against the students.

The other villain in the plot – Bandaru Dattatreya (MoS for Labour & Employement) is equally responsible for Rohith’s fate. Apart from applying undue pressure on the HRD ministry, his letter to the HRD in August last year labeled ASA and leftist political activities in the campus as ‘casteist, extremist and anti-national’. It has become the habit of the present ruling party to call anyone opposed to the them as anti-national or anti-Hindu. Ironically it is actually the BJP (and the Sangh Parivar) that is in fact the den of extremist, casteist, communal elements that is opposed to all that is progressive or pro-people and has done everything to break the delicate social fabric of the country.
Previous probe findings that had cleared the students was summarily set aside by the newly appointed VC Appa Rao (a BJP appointee and with a past record of discrimination against Dalits) and students were suspended restricting their access to hostel, library, public spaces within campus etc. More crucially their fellowship funds amounting to Rs. 175,000 (in case of Rohith) that were already delayed by 7 months (due to cut backs in social spending in education in the last year budget) was causing them undue financial distress. A Joint Action Committee (JAC) was formed by the student groups and taking a step further Rohith and his fellow comrades decided to protest by sleeping in the open, but the authorities deliberately ignored them.

Rohith’s Story
The short life story of Rohith Vemula, hailing from a Dalit background and raised by single mother, would make anyone cry. The double curse of poverty and still more horrendous experience of being born a Dalit in India can never fully be understand or expressed in words, and yet Rohith overcame all these barriers to securing PhD in a prestigious university under general category, not through the reservation route (which is a major argument used by upper caste elite to further discriminate Dalits students), is no small achievement!

Rohith’s last letter says it all. Even before he took that fatal decision to end his life, we find in his letters not complaints or any display of petty mindedness but a zest for life, wanting to be a science writer like Carl Sagan, echoing one his famous words ‘we are made of star dust ’. The letter stands as a brutal condemnation of the feudal and casteist society that is India, and all that false story build around growth, development etc.

The dignity and magnanimity displayed in the letter should have put the entire ruling political party and its supporters to shame. 

However, all we get to see is their petty mindedness on full display– from shameless characters such as Smriti Irani, Bandaru Dattatreya or BJP party members and the hordes of Sanghi loudmouths online that are casting doubts such as Rohith is not ‘Dalit’ enough, reservation is all to blame, Rohith was indulging in ‘anti-national’ activities, was psychologically depressed and so on. It is this attitude and arrogance of the present government (& supporters) that is filled with bigots and nut-cases that would surely be the cause of its downfall one fine day.

Marking a change in its confrontational attitude, Narendra Modi (PM) finally broke silence after 5 days expressing sadness over Rohith’s death at a student convocation in Lucknow (UP), but was met by students shouting slogans such as ‘Modi Murdabad’, ‘Modi go back’ etc. More specifically he did not say anything about taking actions against all those responsible. But the damage has already been done, BJP has managed to single handedly alienate Dalits, backward castes and youth across the country. This will surely be reflected in the elections to come in the next period especially in UP were Dalit votes matter.

Protest Movement and Beyond
This not the first time a Dalit was forced to take his own life, nine students (from Dalit or backward castes) have taken their lives in the last seven years at HCU alone. There have also been other incidents of Dalit students committing suicide at elite institutions such as IIT’s, AIIMS etc because of caste discrimination. While the previous incidents did not evoke any protests across the country and were mainly confined to the institutions concerned. But this time there have been massive protests in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and also in other smaller metros across India.

The difference is the heightened consciousness of many student groups that have been involved in other face offs with the govt. Protests have not been confined to Dalit organizations alone, but many youth from the upper caste background have also shown solidarity.

The other important factor contributing to this is the string of controversies that have been the hallmark of Narendra Modi’s tenure as PM. Apart from his love affair with the corporate elite at the expense of the majority, the governments covert backing of the Hindutva agenda has polarized the country like never before. (See: Is Modimania On The Wane?)

The FTII student protest lasted for about 139 days and the struggle still continues though in other forms. #OccupyUGC movement despite a formal victory, is still continuing with protests for the last 2 months over certain aspects that has not been clarified by the HRD ministry. So it is not far-fetched to expect this protest to last even longer if the core demands of the JAC are not met. Even if this protest is dissipated, the damage has already been done. And next time around, another controversy of this scale could put a question mark on the longevity of this right wing, communal BJP led government.
On the other hand, the BJP is desperately trying to buy its way out such as the ex-gratia payment of Rs. 8 lakh (which has been rejected by the family of the deceased), ordering a judicial commission inquiry and if the worst comes may even drop Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya or take action against some low hanging fruits like the VC or Susheel Kumar. Unless legally compelled or via mass pressure to act on the JAC’s core demands, the central govt is unlikely to go beyond mere tokenism. How this will play out depends on several factors and crucially on how sensitively/ insensitively this govt handles the situation.

The present situation in India can best be described as radicalization of different sections of the Indian youth and working people on the one hand and communal polarization going hand in hand. Failure to meet expectations and lurching from one major controversy after another, Narendra Modi govt. could unwittingly end up causing a mass upheaval in the country. But it is the leadership of the left forces that is really wanting to take advantage of that enormous class anger to challenge the communal, casteist and capitalist forces that are presently holding the reigns of administration.

Hence, there is a crying need to build a genuinely left, viable mass alternative to challenge the present Capitalist, Communal & Casteist regime and pave way for a Socialist Alternative as urgently as possible.

Anand Kumar is activist a member of New Socialist Alternative and incharge of the Website Socialism.in


Hyderbad Ph.D scholar Rohith Vemula's death raises concern about dalit students in IITs - PagalGuy

24 January 2016


Rohith Vemula's suicide has lead to a surge of protests in the country. Not only IITs but other educational institutes and students have joined forces to condemn his death and the perceived politicization of events. What the protests have also laid thread bare is that not all is hunky dory even in prestigious institutes like the IITs when it comes to issues of reservation.

The recent spate of events asks one question - Reservations can ensure that those from all walks get into government institutes - after that what? If the recent cases are anything to go by the government needs to do much more.  

PaGaLGuY spoke to a handful of students in the IITs who are from the reserved classes, to get a better grasp of the ongoing scenario.

Explaining the discomfort, they told us that post admissions, there are other hurdles to cross. One said that since he had studied in vernacular medium, he had an issue coping with English. "My English is not very good and while conversing with other students or lain studies, it creates a problem." Another said that he had issues participating in club and group activities since 'arts' and 'dance' was not too familiar "Have rarely been part of such activities before joining the IIT, so am taking time to pick up," another student explained. Yet another said that it was easy to feel 'left out' of things but with a some help from peers and faculty, things do get easier.

A post on the facebook page "IIT Madras Confessions" by a student of IIT Madras, posted anonymously, tells the tale of discrimination in the hallowed portals of IITs. Some colleges have taken measures to bridge this gap by conducting special classes to bridge this gap but these are very few. And sometimes there are faculty that help in streamlining processes. 

As reporter, Prof. Sandeep Pandey from IIT-BHU helped a student Mahesh Balmiki pay off his loans. Mahesh dropped out of IIT-BHU, did odd jobs and attempted to sell his kidney under burden of debt. Prof. Pandey on coming to know about the incident arranged for the sum through the Alumni.


For now, however, it is yet to be seen what turn Rohit Vemula's case takes and what solution the Ministry of Human Resource Development brings about.