"My birth is my fatal accident, " Rohith Vemula who died by suicide penned his last on January 17, 2016. The research scholar at the University of Hyderabad could not fulfil his dream of becoming a Science writer because of the institutionalised atrocities faced by the marginalised communities.
Belonging to the Dalit community, Rohith Vemula's stint in the educational institution was nothing short of turbulent. The BJP's student wing, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) filed a complaint against Vemula and four other students, after which they were suspended from the university. His research fellowship worth ₹25000 was snatched away from him, leaving Vemula to fend for himself.
Six years later, Rohith Vemula's death still raises uncomfortable questions. Students all around the country look up to him as an inspiration who wanted to fight till his last breath, but his own identity became a curse that the Indian society punished him.
Inspiration For Student Agitation
Like any other young person, Rohith Vemula had ambitious dreams and aspirations. His friends often described him as hard-working and a kind individual. Acutely aware of his caste dynamics, it was never easy for him to make a mark in the Indian institutions deeply entrenched in the draconian caste system.
For Vemula, navigating through his research scholar days was not easy. He faced discrimination at every level, but that did not stop him from fighting against the discriminatory treatment. He was accused of violent behaviour against a fellow student belonging to the ABVP. While the allegation was denied at every level, the university authorities took action and threw him out of the campus.
The research scholar was a part of the Ambedkar Students' Association, which fought for Dalit rights across college campuses. Being an active part of it, Rohith Vemula made his mark and contributed towards the involvement of lower caste students in mainstream college politics.
A Sordid Reality
The poignantly-written suicide note still sends shivers down everybody's spines. "The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind, and as a glorious thing made up of stardust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics and in dying and living," said an excerpt from his letter.
In the letter, he described himself to be 'empty'. It sheds light on the caste disparity still prevalent in several Indian institutions. From educational institutions to workplaces, a person from the lower classes is still regarded as inferior, despite the inclusive policy many boast of.
However, slowly and steadily, the country is becoming accepting in nature. Rohith Vemula has inspired student agitations that continue to fight for a just and equal Indian society. While there is progress, there is still more to avenge Vemula's death, which resulted from institutionalised harassment.
Also Read: Rohith Vemula's Suicide: Right Answers For The Wrong Questions, Series Of Events Explained