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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Serial killing of dalit or tribal students? Rohith Vemula isn’t the Last Victim of Caste Hatred


Mainstream, VOL LIV No 6 New Delhi January 30, 2016

Serial killing of dalit or tribal students? Rohith Vemula isn't the Last Victim of Caste Hatred

Saturday 30 January 2016by A K Biswas

It is a grave misfortune of a nation of 1.25 billion people that their HRD Minister is a lair, a damn lair. Her press briefing in the evening of January 19, 2016 on the suicide of Rohith Vemula is a bundle of lies, distortion and falsification. She has no parallel; nor morals. She has forfeited her credibility as a Union Minister in charge of a portfolio that has responsibility to train minds, enlighten lives and dispel the darkness of ignorance and orthodoxy. Her press briefing was aimed to acquaint the media with facts—'verified by police' obtained from 'the ground', according repeated and tall claims. She repeatedly told that the Proctorial Board that decided to punish the five Dalit scholars of Hyderabad Central University had at its head a Dalit. This claim made before the nation on camera is out and out false. She has underlined a game-plan. If a Dalit has to be harmed, keep another Dalit in the loop. If so, the blame can be apportioned on the poor Dalit or tribal. This was demonstrated in the last Lok Sabha session of the UPA-II. The Samajwadi Party had pressed in a Dalit MP, Nagina, of Bijnour, UP to obstruct the Constitution Amendment Bill to guarantee reservation in promotion of Dalits and tribals in government service!

In her press briefing the HRD Minister, in tone and tenor, besides body language, was an incarnation of arrogance. She was intolerant besides being theatrical in her utterances. Nobody believes her claim that the scholar, Rohith, was not a Dalit. It is an issue of Dalit verses non-Dalit. The victims of the system are all Dalits. And we are sure Rohith is not the last or the only one. Over ten Dalits, who were students of the Central University, have committed suicide in the past. Universities, IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, and institutes of excellence offering education and training in skill in medicines, engineering, management symbolise graveyards for Dalit and tribal students. And the country's apathy and insolence does not recognise that the Dalit and tribal students are unwelcome for higher education and research in the nation's institutions of excellence. Here is a list of 18 victims between 2007 and 2013, though it is not conclusive at all.1

1. M. Shrikant, final year, B. Tech, IIT Bombay, January 1, 2007;

2. Ajay S. Chandra, integrated Ph.D, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore, August 26, 2007;

3. Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, January 27, 2008;

4. Senthil Kumar, Ph.D, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad, February 23, 2008;

5. Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, April 19, 2008;

6. G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, January 2, 2009;

7. Ankita Veghda, first year, B. Sc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, April 20, 2009;

8. D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, August 13, 2009;

9. S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, November 4, 2009;

10. Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, November 5, 2009;

11. Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visves-varaiah Technological University, Bangalore, January 30, 2010;

12. Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical Univer-sity (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, January 31, 2010;

13. Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, March 3, 2010;

14. J.K. Ramesh, second year, B. Sc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, July 1, 2010;

15. Madhuri Sale, final year, B.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, November 17, 2010;

16. G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, January 30, 2011;

17. Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year, B.Tech, IIT, Roorkee, February 13, 2011; and

18. Linesh Mohan Gawle, Ph.D, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, April 16, 2011.

Caste arrogance has not exhausted itself after taking precious and talented lives of these victims within the given period cited above. The faculties, students and non-teaching staff of the educational institutions carry their home-grown hatred and prejudice against the vulnerable to their workplace. The academic institutions, therefore, are virtually graveyards for Dalit and tribal students. Large number of the victims of caste hatred were from Andhra Pradesh. This State is ahead of many States in technological empowerment. But it is not attitudinally ahead of Haryana or Bihar or UP. Education does not change the Indian, say, Hindu, supremacist attitude toward society.

The case of Pradeep Kumar, a Khatik pursuing mechanical engineering in the Kalpana Chawla Institute of Technology, Hissar, Haryana, underlines the sick mentality of the upper caste. He was murdered by two of his Jat classmates at the college gate when he was entering the campus on the fateful day. Reason? A media report screamed thus: "A topper's murder throws light on caste in Haryana classroom".2 The same daily quoted his father, Ram Lal, as saying: "He did not want to go to college that morning. They had told him on Saturday that a pistol would be waiting for him." The victim's apprehensive father accompanied him to the college. He saw his son being killed by one of the two beasts firing from the revolver before his eyes at the collage gate. Pradeep had had cleared four of six semesters topping in each which they did not relish. And they wanted to silence him for ever. Merit actually proved to be his curse. Here the Dalits have a fabulous dilemma—if they are average or poor in studies, they face a barrage of invectives and insults for entry based on reservation; if meritorious, bullets await to greet them. Pradeep is a case in point.

Jaspreet Singh was a brilliant student doing his final year in the Government Medical College, Chandigarh. He cleared it but three of his teachers, Rajesh Kumar, Amarjeet Singh and Arun Kumar Aggrawal, blocked his upward mobility by forcing him to fail in Community Medicine. These three had threatened Jaspreet to fail again and again. They did it religiously. Seven months after his suicide, a three-member group of senior professors re-evaluated Jaspreet's answer-sheets and found that he had cleared the subject. What a price of hatred delivered to the Dalit medial student! His sister, a heartbroken student at the injustice to his brother, doing her Bachelor of Computer Application, too committed suicide.

In the AIIMS, Delhi, Bal Mukund Bharti, a Dalit, committed suicide in the face of mounting and sustained persecution, humiliation and discrimi-nation there. There were/are several cases of harassment, discrimination and humiliation against Dalit and tribal students doing medicine in the nation's so-called pride. And a probe committee headed by Prof. S K Thorat, former Chairman, UGC, underlined the arrogance, non-cooperation and boycott of P. Venugopal, the then Director, AIIMS for the inquiry into allegations of discrimination and harassment against Dalit students. In a documentary available on YouTube, called The Death of Merit, Balmukund's parents recalled that teachers would "torture him and tell him that he had come on reservation". A teacher directly told him: "You can never become a doctor." "They don't like me because of my caste," Bharti told his father, and wanted to change his name— "He was a Chamar from Madhya Pradesh." For all Dalits or tribals who either commit suicide or not have similar stories of suffering and humiliation. They are unwelcome in the portals of educational institutions per se. Rarely any get justice. Who are therefore "casteist, extremist and anti-national"?

All Dalit students, boys or girls, who, defying all powerful roadblocks, social, psychological, financial or physical, on their upward movement through their colleges or universities pursuing medicine, engineering, accountancy or manage-ment, when the show signs of promise and potential, symbolise hopes and aspiration not only of the family but also of their community as a whole. Snipping them off by the quirk of upper-caste madness or hatred suddenly creates a vacuum of irreparable dimension in the family or community to which the victims belong, sparking trauma and sending powerful negative signals. They become apprehensive that their children are neither safe in those high temples of higher learning. Indeed the country uniformly as well as unambiguously demonstrates its revulsion against Dalits and tribals climbing the ladders of knowledge for ultimate emancipation. A brigade of assassins like Germany's Gestapo during the fascist regime is in place everywhere to blast, thwart or scuttle Dalit or tribal aspirations by means criminal or extra-constitutional. They do not want the underdogs to be seen beyond their spheres ordained by their whims that reflect their scriptural doctrines preforming dirty professions in sewers, graveyards, streets, fields for the pleasure and happiness of upper-caste masters and lords. They want the Dalits and tribals as slaves only.

Is Fellowship for Dalits or Tribal Students a Source of Corruption?

Scholarships for Dalit or tribal students are not paid on time. These are delayed inordinately. Rohith did not get his scholarship for over seven months @ Rs 25,000 per month. He has left behind arrears amounting to Rs 175,000. Chronic delay in releasing scholarship to Dalit/tribal recipients is routine not only for Dalit fellows pursuing M. Phil or Ph.D in universities across India but also for every recipient in schools, colleges or universities across the board. Let me share my personal experience. Some three-four years back I was in Patna University to attend a seminar. In course of interaction with about two dozens of Dalit/tribal research scholars, I gathered that an organised racket was at work. Their monthly UGC scholarships were not released until and unless a substantial amount was paid as bribe to their respective supervisors. Release of funds is subject to their recommendation. This recommendatory power is used as a weapon to hurt the interests of Dalit scholars. So, the scholars under inescapable circumstances fell in line and met their supervisors' lust.

I wanted to conduct a survey of the extent and dimension of abuses. I, therefore, designed a questionnaire and circulated amongst them to seek their feedback. I had assured them of perfect and foolproof confidentiality with respect to information they would share with me so their identity and interest remained a closely guarded secret. Some of the scholars filled up the questionnaire but none put down in black and white what they spoke verbally about the payment of bribe to their supervisors.

May I share my experience of doing dissertation in Patna University leading to the award of Ph.D and seen how my supervisor, a Professor of Economics of Patna University, was nothing less than a bully. (Readers, if any, may glance through my communication "Where should reform in higher education begin?"http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article3340.html) The dissertation was, in no way, intended to yield any financial benefit to me. But the power of recommendation by the supervisor is a handle to harass, victimise, intimidate or coerce the Dalit or tribal scholars for financial gains. This is not limited to bribe. The sufferers know more.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar had befittingly underlined the difficulty of liberating the underdogs in the following words: "In the fight for Swaraj you fight with the whole nation on your side...[but to annihilate the caste], you have to fight against the whole nation—and that too, your own. But it is more important than Swaraj. There is no use having Swaraj, if you cannot defend it. More important than the question of defending Swaraj is the question of defending the Hindus under the Swaraj. In my opinion, it is only when the Hindu society becomes a casteless society that it can hope to have strength enough to defend itself. Without such internal strength, Swaraj for Hindus may turn out to be only a step towards slavery." We have got independence. We have not liberated our Dalits and tribals from the thraldom of upper-caste Hindus.

 We expect a fair investigation into the case by men of proven integrity. Let the government institute a Fast Track court to try the case. The whole case from investigation to trial and award of punishment under supervision of the Supreme Court to guard against and frustrated undesirable interference of powerful elements. The entire process of investigation of the crime, prosecution and sentence should be completed within six months, if not early.3

Footnotes

1. The Milli Gazette, 'Dalit students committing suicide in last 4 years in premier institutions', Published Online: May 17, 2011, Print Issue: May 16-31.

2. The Indian Express, Hisar, Friday March 02, 2012.

3. The case of rape and murder of Nirbhaya was adjudicated with great promptitude.

The author is a retired IAS officer of the Bihar cadre and former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur.

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