Comprehending Rohith Vemula
To those ranting “Anti-national” jibes on Social media about Phd Scholar, #RohithVemula from the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide last Sunday evening, let us try and understand what Rohith Vemula stood for:
1. We may disagree with Rohith’s protest against Yakub Memon’s hanging, but here’s the thing:
Remember that whether a democratic nation can carry out “Capital Punishment” is already a Global debate. More than 100 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. . He says on Yakub Memon hanging,” If death penalty is the only punishment we can offer to the convicted people, we must stop calling OUR NATION democratic. So, Rohith just stood towards ‘that’ side of the debate on ‘Capital Punishments’
His ‘Anti-Terrorism’ credentials are very much evident through his FB posts where he vehemently criticizes ISIS, Patriarchy in Saudi Arabia or where he expresses strong grief and solidarity towards the Indian Jawans martyred in 2008 Mumbai Blasts or more recently in Pathankot. His words, “26th November marks the 7th Anniversary for the grisly attacks on Mumbai killing 173 people. The terrorist attacks motivated by extremist religious ideology left the nation in huge shock and it questioned our basic understanding of combating terrorism. The attacks were a demonstration of how dangerous the mix of chauvinistic nationalism and religious bigotry could be. On this day it is important for everyone of us to resolve against any extremist ideology, illogical hatred and depending upon religion to make our daily choices.”
2. We may disagree with his support to Beef-Festival, but here’s the thing (In his own words from his FB post):
” First of all, I am not one of those who think beef eating is eternally emancipatory. And I am not also a cultural apologist.Something is a psuedo-scientific thing, I would not wish it to be continued on the name of cultural tradition. Coming to the core aspect of my ranting, beef eating in public is not an act of reclaiming something from the history. It was to show resistance for those contemporary forces in today’s India (Well, must be said the Always’ India, no?) who think that they can control the others’ way of life. Beef eating is an element of culture of resistance which must concern everyone rather than an exclusive Dalit resistance culture.
Eating beef and celebrating beef eating is an act of solidarity with all those who are getting murdered on this reason nation wide. If we fail to see the fact that the BJP-RSS-VHP scheme of anti-beef campaign is essentially a tool to persecute Muslim minorities in this country, we would regret for being the mute spectators of another mass unrest in OUR COUNTRY. The whole cow myth is less anti-Dalit today and more of anti-Muslim propaganda.”
3. You may disagree with the initial Inquiry Committee’s report which said:
“The Board could not get any hard evidence of beating of Susheel Kumar either from Krishna Chaitanya or from the reports submitted by Dr.Anupama. Dr.Anupama’s reports also could not link or suggest the surgery of the Susheel Kumar is the direct result of the beating.”
The above matter though is being currently investigated, therefore we must wait till the facts are completely established on this.
Finally, you may disagree with his various viewpoints, but let us hold-on and understand what Rohith stood for throughout his short life. Rohith’s ultimate ‘struggle’ through all his actions as an activist of ASA was to use his own words from his suicide note and another post was for:
a) “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. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living”.
b) “The shift of my political identity from Marxism to Ambedkarism is a conscious move into building a new future on the basis of more humane, more inclusive society”.
.. and many more of his posts only reveal that he always dreamt to work for an INCLUSIVE, IDENTITY-LESS society which Babasaheb Ambedkar always aspired. Rohith had his own brand/idea of Nation & Nationalism which Babasaheb explains as below:
Dr. Ambedkar’s idea of nation is not only of a political or geographical entity, having a map and a flag. He didn’t subscribe to the popular definition of nation something as “large group of people living in one area with their own government, language, traditions, etc. (Cambridge Dictionary).” For him idea of nation has to have a philosophical and spiritual connotation with welfare, equity and fraternity as central themes. While explaining his idea of nation he had quoted French philosopher Ernest Renan saying that “A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute the soul, this spiritual principle. The actual consent, the desire to live together.”
Therefore, before we brand Rohith as “Anti-National” etc, let us introspect whether are we not guilty of being intolerant towards a viewpoint or action which does not go well with our understanding of Nation or Nationalism or Humanity?
We may say that Rohith committed suicide because of the events, the Social Boycott through the external influences and the might of political powers viz: MLC, MP, Union Ministers etc that followed in the campus. However, the fact is that he took such a step for more “FUNDAMENTAL” reason, principles and concerns about the society around, quite evident through his letter. How the VALUE OF MAN who deserves to be TREATED AS A MIND and a glorious thing made up of star dust has been reduced to some IMMEDIATE IDENTITY throughout his various lifetime experiences. We must admit that there has to be something wrong with the campuses and society around when we have the alarming figures available on Dalit students committing suicides due to PREJUDICE around. By the way, Rohith wasn’t a mere student but a Phd Scholar who achieved the Phd seat without using his SC status. So the ‘incompetence’, ‘reservations’ argument for suicides does not hold in case of Rohith but only the argument of Prejudice he faced does. This is evident when he suggests to VC for a Rope, Sodium Azide, Euthanasia to Dalit students “With a dire, to use If they feel like reading Ambedkar”. Clearly, he appears disturbed with a fact that one cannot survive (due to caste-prejudice) with Liberty in the University if one asserts the views of Ambedkar in open. Rohith finally lost the hope about the fundamental ideas of human life and the world which he aspired for. This is evident from below words in his suicide note:
“I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art”
As they say, Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. While quitting from this world, Rohith manifests that he was a Great mind, one, by NOT blaming “PEOPLE” (even enemies) and two, NOT any EVENTS but three, purely his IDEAS about the human life & his world-view behind his decision to depart from his life.
People (driven by some ideologies around) who in a way are celebrating Rohith’s death, the only thought which comes to mind is “Maut bhi jinki aanko me ashk nahi laati, kaise maan le ye insan ki aulaade hain”. However, poetic response to radical jibes is less engaging hence less democratic approach towards dissent, hence the above piece..
The students from all social backgrounds have stood-up now, for this is not an issue of one caste, one person, and one incidence. This is the issue of Human rights and about Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice.
Let’s hope and wish we ‘Understand’ (if not agree with) Rohith apart from the ideological debates around, at least after he is gone, to use his words again..”in search of another world from the shadows towards the stars, HAPPY DEAD THAN BEING ALIVE”.
By Pratik Tembhurne
One Last time,
JAI BHEEM, Rohith !