Condemning Caste Discrimination in Higher Education Centres that led to Rohith’s Untimely Death
- Students of Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University
We, the students of Delhi School of Economics organised a protest meeting in solidarity with the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad. It was joined in by students from other departments of the university as well.
The discussion revolved around the presence of caste based discrimination within university campuses and the deadly silence on the matter. It was recognised that Rohith’s investment in progressive politics was crucial in him and others in Ambedkar Students Association being victimised. And the present gathering affirmed its investment in that politics and striving for the kind of change Rohith also aspired for.
We resolved to continue our struggle against saffronisation of campuses and the communal, caste-ist and misogynist core of this political project. We extended our solidarity to the struggles of all marginalised groups and recognised all these struggles to be interlinked. A passage from DR B R Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ was read out to conclude the event.
We also reaffirmed this statement:
The suicide of Rohith Vemula, a young research scholar in the University of Hyderabad, has caused the spilling over of questions that have been simmering for a long time. It has shown the failure of our institutions in addressing systems of social power and inequality; in fact what is out in the open is the way in which these institutions themselves operate and build upon these systems. Related to this is the question of how individuals within these institutions experience these inequalities: some benefitting from them and others suffering within them. In supposed democratic institutions, like universities, where individuals are ideally brought together as equals to pursue higher goals of learning and knowledge, we are in fact divided and placed in hierarchies by imaginary lines of caste, gender, ‘merit’, etc which are all too real and powerful.
Rohith’s suicide is the most recent in the shameful list of suicides by Dalit students in institutions of higher education (it is estimated that 18 Dalit students killed themselves between 2007-2011). While many in the university have never known the feeling of being discriminated against or excluded, for many others it is what shapes their experience of the university. Rohith’s suicide raises questions for all us because we continue to live in and reproduce conditions that made living unbearable for him. While it is unwarranted to claim to know or judge the reasons for someone ending her/ his life, the atmosphere at the University of Hyderabad preceding his death points to an institutionalised targeting of him and his friends. Rohith’s scholarship had been blocked for months when he and his friends were suspended by the university on trumped up charges of assault. Denied entry into public spaces in the university, forced to vacate their hostel rooms, faced with an institutional boycott: they were not being punished so much as they were being ‘taught a lesson’. This aggressive stance of the administration reflects exclusion and boycott which are essential to the way caste is practised in the most regressive of social setups- the exact opposite of universities!