Friday, February 5, 2016

Justice for Rohit Vemula Chakrvarthi

“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility… Never was a man treated as a mind, as a glorious thing made up of stardust….. I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty”. (From Rohith’s suicide note)

Rohit Vemula Chakravarthi, Ph.D Scholar (ScienceTechnology and Society Studies) was a student of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) a premier institute. He was a bright student and had got his admission under the general quota and not under reservation even though he belonged to the Dalit community. He wanted to be a writer of Science as Carl Sagan. 

He was also passionate about social justice and democratic issues and actively involved with the Amebedkar Students’ Association (ASA). In the Year 2015 August Mr. Sushil Kumar another Ph.D Scholar of the same University and President of Akhila Bharathiya Vidyaparishad (ABVP), student wing of BJP complained against 5 members of ASA including Rohit to the VC on small altercation that took place between these two groups. The university constituted a committee to look into the matter and cleared them of the charges. 

But the University Authorities reversed its decision in December 2015 and expelled the 5 dalit students from the university and hostel.  This prompted Rohit and his associates to live on the street from January 1st 2016 onwards and they started protesting against the decision of the VC. Rohit was also not paid his JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) for over seven months amounting to Rs.1.75 lakhs. On a letter from the BJP MP, Mr. Bandaru Dattathreya , the MHRD pursued the university to take action against the students for the alleged altercation with the ABVP students. The High Court of Telangana also put pressure on the university on the basis of a complaint filed by the ABVP student leader. Against this background, Rohit committed Suicide on January 17th, 2016 leaving a suicide Note. His death and his suicide note have brought out the struggle he faced owing to his Dalit background in the university and since his childhood. This has erupted into massive Dalit students protests across the nation with solidarity from a wide spectrum of student organizations, teachers and other civil society organisations.

Rohits Mother, his brother and sister are demanding the following

1. The people behind Rohits death must be punished and Justice for Rohit so that no other dalit student should go through such kind of situation.

The students are demanding

1. All the culprits who were responsible for the death of Rohit must be punished under SC/ST POA Act.,
2. Ensure Rs.50 lakh compensation to Rohits family and a Job in the University for his family members.
3. Judicial Enquiry must be conducted to bring out circumstances the lead to the death of Rohit to bring out the facts.
4. The cases against the students filed by the police must be quashed. 

The civil society demands.

1. The state should promulgate Anti-Discrimination legislation in Education. Quality education with equity and social inclusion along Constitutional values and norms should be mandated across schools and colleges. 
2. Budget allocations under the SCSP and TSP should ensure adequate scholarship and other equity facilities for children to continue their education without any break. 
3. SC and ST students and teachers should be made members of school and college decision making bodies. 
4. Civil education on diversity and social inclusion should be made mandatory in all schools and colleges.

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