Mubarak Ali Baloch
India’s social milieu is weird extending preferred treatment with societal perks and privileges to some castes and reducing others in social status. Hindu Brahmin and Maharaja population enjoy cherished status in caste system ridden social structure. Besides, Muslims being majority in minority population are treated with marked suspicion and considered as second rated citizens. There are a number of Hindu castes like Brahmins, Kashtriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. The quadruple stratification of Indian society discriminates between high and low castes. This is called Verna System. Dalits who form 16% of Indian population are considered as untouchables in India’s caste hierarchical status. Within Dalit community there are a number of sub-divisions. Some are leather workers, street sweepers, cobblers, farmers and others are scavengers. One estimate suggests that majority of bonded labour stands around forty million are Dalits. Dalits are quite backward as they are marginalized, oppressed and subjugated. The principle of untouchability applies on this community specifying where they are allowed to live and not allowed to live, go, sit, eat, marry stretching to minutia of all aspects of life.
In November last year four Dalit students were expelled from Hyderabad Central University. The act of expulsion is reflective of abominability towards them being from low caste. A letter followed by six reminders from the office of Union Minister for Human Resource Development Ms Smriti Irani was received by varsity authorities asking about the details of brawl between Dalit and high caste students. Ms Smriti infact wanted to plead the case of high caste Hindu student. To apparently appease Ms Irani varsity administration expelled four Dalit students from hostel without launching proper enquiry into the matter. Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D research scholar and Dalit by race was one of them who got expelled from the hostel of the university. They were also barred from visiting public spaces in the university. He argued against his expulsion from the hostel but was not listened to. Being under the spell of dejection he ended his young and promising life by committing suicide. The suicide note he left behind is full of moving words. Suicide of Rohith is a slap on the face of the so-called democracy of India. Infact a scholarly approach is seen in the suicide note wherein he clearly hints towards injustice with low caste population. His words are indicative of social injustice and lop-sided dispensation leaving out the Dalits. In fact he has highlighted the extreme ostracism in the Indian society. The obtaining story is that Rohith Vemula had a brawl with an office bearer of ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad Associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevat Sangh). Rohith with four other Dalits were expelled from the hostel and were barred from visiting the public spaces. This was decided by Executive Council of university ratified by Appa Rao Podile, vice chancellor of university. Other day Joint Action Committee (JAC) hooted away Prof T.V Rao and Prof Vinod Pavarala two senior faculty members who wanted to hold talks with protesting students. As a matter of fact vice chancellor tried to please Union Minister Human Resource Development Ms Smriti Irani. The latter in a letter hotly pursued the details about the brawl which took place between the Dalit students and one office bearer of ABVP. This made the vice chancellor to come hard on Dalit students compelling Rohith to end his life. Irani, known for her aggressive articulation is now on defensive. Protesting students are demanding removal of vice chancellor, compensation to parents of Rohith Vemula and end to step-motherly treatment to Dalit students.
Besides, Rohith’s Junior Research Fellowship was also withheld for seven months. The punitive action against Dalit research scholars was taken without looking into the actual reason which caused the brawl. Rather they were punished for being from the low caste community which usually does not hold any social importance.
Rohith was enrolled as Ph.D research scholar on his meritorious performance in interview and was pursuing research related assignments with scholarly zeal. After his expulsion from hostel he with four of his other fellows had fixed a make-shift tent outside the hostel and was putting up there since November last year.
India being claimant of the largest democracy and stable economy has yet to provide social justice to its own population. In fact India’s socio-cultural milieu is ridden with depressing stratification upholding few castes and treating others lowly. Rohith Vemula, the brilliant research scholar was ostracised in view of his low caste he belonged to. He aptly remarked against discrimination with low caste population in the suicide note he left behind. “My birth is my fatal accident……. I’m happy dead than alive”.