The death of an educated young man from an oppressed community, who committed suicide, is saddening and disgraceful in today's era. His Suicide note is used as proof by groups with Hindutva leaning, as if the atrocities he faced didn’t push him into suicide.
To disgrace Rohit even after his death, by saying that he was anti national and thereby meaning indirectly that he “deserved” it, is outright, REVOLTING. To be silent during these atrocities will be tantamount to supporting the voices of oppression.
Who was Rohit Vemula?
Rohit Vemula, was hailing from Gurazala near Guntur, Rohith’s father Manikumar works as a security guard at a private hospital while mother V Radhika is a tailor — he had an elder sister and a younger brother. Just at the age of 28-years, Rohith was a double Junior Research Fellow before enrolling for Ph.D in the prestigious Hyderabad Central University in science technology and society studies for the last two years.
He got his admission to the University of Hyderabad on general merit quota. And although he declared himself as a member of a Scheduled Caste in his admission form, he never felt the need to furnish it. He was well-read, meritorious, brilliant. He was a man of action and an inspiration to co-activists. And from his experience, he was also aware of the structured alienation that Dalits face from society. He had a bright future, but it didnt turn so, the reason being the following events he encountered in his college.
The BJP and its leaders want you to judge Rohit for the few minutes he wrote his suicide note, by shouting the lines - No one is Responsible. Is it worth to reduce a man's decades of life, his struggles, his oppression, just to his suicide note..??
What happened in the University
Hyderabad University has been brewing with trouble for the past year with ABVP (defacto BJP Student’s Wing), ASA (Ambedkar Students Association) and Telangana SFI clashing over different issues. Events such as the Kiss of Love, beef festival and a memorial for Yakub Memon were opposed by the ABVP. Apparently Vemula was suspended after a fight broke out between ASA (of which Vemula was a member) and AVBP. Later, ABVP president Sushil Kumar had put up a post calling ASA members ‘goons’ after the student’s organisation screened Nakul Shawney’s documentary titled Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hai.
The ABVP reportedly disrupted the screening and called it anti-Hindu. The post didn't go down well with ASA supporters. Kumar, also a PhD student when confronted and asked to explain his FB post had apologized in a written statement and the matter seem to have ended.
The next day Kumar, ABVP President, along with his brother who is a member of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, went to a private hospital and got admitted. It has come to notice now that ABVP Kumar, who the BJP leaders in their TV shows were shouting as if he was severely assaulted, had a private hospital report of blunt trauma abdomen along with appendicitis. Medically blunt trauma has nothing to do with appendicitis, nor was the blunt trauma any severe that it caused injury to internal organs.
But with fabricated story BJP MLC, Mr. Ramachandra Rao met the Vice-Chancellor along with some of his party cadre. He insisted the Vice-Chancellor should take action against the Dalit students, terming them as anti-national. BJP leader and Union Cabinet Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya sends a letter to Smriti Irani branding students of University of Hyderabad as casteist and anti-national, appealing to her to take action against students affiliated with Ambedkar Students' Association. Smriti Irani or Ministry of HRD writes back to the Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellor executes it, not once but with many back to back reminders even adding a "VIP reference", creating pressure on the University to punish the culprits for the "fabricated" assault.
An Enquiry Committee was setup by Professor R.P Sharma, former Vice-Chancellor, under the chairmanship of Professor Alok Pandey. The Enquiry committee submitted its report, which concluded that there was no incident of assault, their admission in hospital was for appendicitis not related to the assault itself.
But ironically the final decision of the college board was completely opposite to what the Enquiry Committee concluded. They suspended all the 5 dalit students. They were banned from entering hostels, the administration building and other common places in groups, and were restricted from participating in the Students' Union elections.
Rightly so Punia the chairman of the National SC/ST commission said: “There is absolutely no proof that he was involved in any scuffle, even the security staff said that the allegations leveled against him were false. Despite all that, he was suspended.”
After being expelled, the students put up a make-shift tent near a shopping complex while protesting against the college authorities and were agitating demanding the resignation of Vice Chancellor Prof Appa Rao.
Letter of - Intent of Suicide
Vemula had written a letter to the Vice Chancellor right after his expulsion. In the letter, Vemula said: "Please serve 10 mg of Sodium Azide to all Dalit students during admission. Supply a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalit students...I request your highness to make preparations for the facility "EUTHANASIA" for students like me. "
Rohit's having no access to his stipend and his family struggling to support him, borrowed money from his friend. Almost every day, he used to say that his money was stuck. Even hours before he hanged himself, Vemula told his friends he did not have enough money to give them "even a small treat". The Letter of - Intent of Suicide is very clear that, his contemplation of Suicide was related to the atrocities faced by dalits and minorities.
Few days later, Rohit hanged himself in the hostel room and a suicide note was found by the police.
Suicide is time of extreme stress, despair & depression
Suicide is often carried out as a result of despair, depression, etc . Depression could well be due to financial difficulty, bullying, extreme stress etc. For a nation where a farmer dies every 4 minutes, we know all the reasons why suicide happens.
Medically, a person during the act of committing suicide is in a high state of mental stress and confusion. If it is believed a person who intentionally kills himself, i.e. commits suicide, he/she is not of sound mental condition and a suicide note cannot be considered as a dying declaration under the Indian Evidence Act, when the major pre requisite of admissibility of dying declaration is 'the person making the dying declaration be in fit mental condition'.
It has been held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in 'Laxmi v. Om Prakash& Ors., AIR 2001 SC 2383," that if the court finds that the capacity of the maker of the statement to narrate the facts was impaired, or if the court entertains grave doubts regarding whether the deceased was in a fit physical and mental state to make such a statement, then the court may, in the absence of corroborating evidence lending assurance to the contents of the declaration, refuse to act upon it'.
Rohit was in a state of extreme stress due to the above incidents, including financially. More than his Suicide Note, importance should be given to his aspects of life and also his "intent of suicide" note which were all written in better frame of mind. Even if he had written that No one is Responsible, his life says that many are responsible for his death, including the leaders who pressurized directly or indirectly which led to the circumstances leading to his death.
Is No one Responsible for his Death – Legally?
The suicide note has become a showpiece for BJP to wave it and exonerate their leaders highlighting Rohit’s words where he said “No one is Responsible”. Even according to Supreme Court of India, incidents leading to Suicide can be given more importance than the suicide even if it has words like no one is responsible.
In the Supreme Court of India, criminal appellate jurisdiction criminal appeal no. 1266 of 2013 Naresh Kumar - Appellant versus State of Haryana & ors. - Respondents - upheld the Judgement of punishment for dowry death of the accused even though the suicide note of the wife has similar words.
Noting in point 10 the court said:
“We may now refer to the suicide note. It, inter alia, states: “All the doors are closed for me. Besides this, no other way is available to me and I adopted the way which I liked.” The tenor of the suicide note clearly shows that the deceased was in helpless condition and she found no other way to come out of the situation. The suicide note cannot be taken to be encyclopaedia of the entire situation in which the deceased was placed. It is not possible to infer from the said note that the deceased was happy in her matrimonial Page 6 Criminal Appeal No.1266 of 2013 home.
Mere mention that nobody may be held responsible, while also stating that all the doors were closed for her and she had no other way available (except to leave the world), is not enough to exonerate the appellant. When a young married girl finds herself in helpless situation and decides to end her life, in absence of any other circumstance, it is natural to infer that she was unhappy in her matrimonial home. A suicide note cannot be treated as conclusive of there being no one responsible for the situation when evidence on record categorically points to harassment for dowry. One cannot lose sight of the fact that unfortunately the menace dowry deaths still exists in our society and has been subject of expert studies.
My Birth is my Fatal Accident
By the way his Suicide note has lot of words other than "No one is Responsible". Rohit referred to his birth as a "fatal accident". Being born as a Dalit is curse which he was fighting all his life. He regretted that even after achieving so much, a man is not treated well. He clearly mentioned about his financial situation and the loans which he couldn't repay.
Is being born a Dalit, not come with its share of difficulties...?? Was he not oppressed in the college along with other Dalit students..?? Didnt the incidents including his suspension and debarring from the hostel have any affect on his financial situation..??
What Dalit Leaders have to Say
Ambedkar Students Association - Hyderabad Central University says, "From the entire episode it is clear that, Dalit Research Scholars were victimized on account of political pressure from BJP and right-wing forces prompting these actions of the present Vice-Chancellor, who negated the natural principles of Justice and violated the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in a rushed attempt to show his allegiance to BJP and ABVP."
Chittibabu Padavala his friend writes: “One of the reasons for which Rohith and others were persecuted by the administration is that he was seriously organising campaigns and programs to highlight persecution of, and discrimination against Muslims and worked to bring Dalits and Muslims together to combat it, on campus level. If these activists are not Dalits and their fight was not against Hindutva fascism, this false case and persecution of Dalit scholars would have attracted national and international attention and outcry. “
Kavita Krishan of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), wrote highlighting how HRD has been involved in Anti-Dalit activities, "Utterly shocked to learn of the suicide of Rohith Vemula, one of the five Dalit students victimised by HCU at ABVP and BJP Govt instigation for organising a beef festival. Rohit and I had a conversation on Facebook just on Dec 18, and now a month later, he's gone. This is unconscionable, it's institutional murder. The MHRD must answer - first Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle then FTII and then HCU - Dalit students and protesting voices being victimised for their political and social opinions and activism - and now it's claimed a life."
Rohit’s fight is our fight Now
But then our former television actress turned politician – Smriti Irani HRD Minister, gave out a well-played out statement where she said, “The government has no role to play. I am compelled to come out today because there has been a malicious attempt to present this as a Dalit versus non-Dalit issue to ignite passions. I would also like to point out that the suicide note of the student does not mention any political organization or MP except Ambedkar Student Association of which he was himself a member,”
No Madam, you told us your fears, and the fears are justified, because, Rohit's Life in the University, his Letter of Intent of Suicide and Suicide Note show that your Government played a Role and it is a Dalit vs Non Dalit issue, which led to his Suicide.
But Rohit didn’t die before creating thousands of Rohits among the oppressed minorities. His fight against upper caste will be their fight too.
Like your own party leader Sanjay Paswan said - The stake holders of power politics must take serious note of Rohit Vemula episode or be ready to face wrath, revenge, revolt, reactions.
[Dr Ajmal is a Medical Practitioner and after obtaining Diploma in Islamic Banking and Finance, has been involved in Islamic Finance. He is Passionate about Islam, Politics and Issues connected to the welfare of Mankind & Muslims at large. He opines on current affairs through his social media regularly. Some parts of the article has been composed verbatim from various online sources, most of them are referred below and if anyone is missed unintentionally they deserved to be referred.]