Feminists India is reproducing two letters, one written by Rohith Vemula himself, before he committed suicide in his friends’ university hostel room and the second letter by a Dalit PHD candidate, Pabitra Das, who has joined the hunger strike organised by students demanding justice for Rohith and other Dalit students
Rohith Vemula, took his life on 17 January, just few months after he was expelled from the Hyderabad Central University. His suicide has sparked outrage across the nation and has been widely perceived as a result of caste-based discrimination Dalit students face in upper caste dominated educational institutions across India. The Hyderabad Central University stopped Rohith’s doctoral stipend and expelled him and other four students of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) from the university hostel. This was after the right wing ABVP student union expressed objection to Rohith and other four Dalit students who had a organised a discussion and protest meet on the hanging of Yakub Memon, a convict in 1993 Bombay bombings.
Rohith Vemula’s suicide note:
I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.
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. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.
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 very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.
All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident
I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense.
May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.
I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.
People may dub me as a coward.
And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.
If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.
Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.
“From shadows to the stars.”
Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.
To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.
For one last time, Jai Bheem
I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.
No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act.
This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this.
Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.” -
- Rohith Vemula
Why I am Joining the Hunger Strike to demand Justice for Rohit Vemula by Pabitra Das
The tragic death of research scholar Rohit Vemula of Hyderabad University has deeply disturbed me. Rohit was a dalit student who had faced so many odds in his life to pursue his dreams. He wanted to be a science writer like Carl Sagan. Yet, he could not fulfil his dream because he was unjustly treated by the Hyderabad University administration. He was forced to commit suicide because of combined persecution by the central Ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani, Hyderabad University VC and the ABVP. They called him “casteist” and “anti-national”. They threw him out of the university hostel by framing false charges against him. All this happened because he was carrying forward the ideology of Dr. Ambedkar, who drafted India’s Constitution and fought throughout his life for the cause of the dalits.
I am also a dalit student, pursuing PhD in Computer Science from University of Calcutta. I come from Baharamuri village situated in the Bankura district of West Bengal. My father is a primary school teacher. I know what it means for a student from my background to make it to higher education. My family had to undergo so many sacrifices to ensure my education. Students like me also face regular discrimination and harassment at various stages. Those from privileged social backgrounds often do not realize how difficult it is for poor dalit students to survive in higher education.
With the injustice done to Rohit Vemula by the BJP Ministers and Hyderabad University VC, the entire dalit student community is feeling humiliated and alienated. The only ray of hope is that students are protesting all over the country against this. The students of Hyderabad University are continuing with the hunger strike, which was started by Rohit Vemula. In Kolkata too, our friend Deborshi Chakraborty has courageously started a hunger strike in solidarity with the struggle. I am joining the hunger strike in front of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University campus from today evening. I am appealing to all my friends and fellow students to extend support to this movement. I also appeal to all progressive student organisations to join in solidarity.
The BJP Minister Bandaru Dattatreya who called Rohit Vemula “casteist” and “anti-national” must resign. The HRD Minister who pressurized the Hyderabad University to throw out Rohit Vemula must resign. The Hyderabad University VC must be removed. Government must take responsibility of Rohit Vemula’s family by giving adequate compensation. Government must discuss the present plight of dalit students in higher educational institutions in parliament and implement measures to stop discrimination and harassment of dalit students.
Let us unite to ensure justice for Rohit Vemula.
Kolkata, 23rd January 2016