Students in Hyderabad University have alleged that a letter written last year by Union Minister for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya to the HRD Minister Smriti Irani led to a sequence of events ending in the suicide of PhD scholar Rohith Vemula. The agitating students want the Minister to be charged with “abetting” the suicide. Police have filed an FIR against the minister under the SC/ST Act. The minister has rubbished the allegations.
Rohith Vemula had been expelled by the authorities of the University and was found hanging in a hostel room on Sunday. He was among five research scholars who were expelled and since then had been agitating outside the campus.
The death shocked students and the wider academic community and was squarely blamed on a clash the students, belonging to the the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) had with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the BJP, last year.
“V Rohith (around 26) was found hanging in the hostel room. He was among the five research scholars who were suspended by Hyderabad Central University (HCU) in August last year and also one of the accused in the case of assault on a student leader,” Cyberabad Police Commissioner C V Anand told PTI.
“He was from Guntur and was a second year research scholar. He committed suicide in his friend Uma Maheswar’s room. He died roughly around 6 pm,” S. Munna, co-convenor of the ASA in UoH told The News Minute.
The entire chain of incidents can be traced back to August 1, when the ABVP disrupted the screening of a documentary on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots at Delhi University, allegedly for being ‘anti-Hindu’. “The ASA held a small protest against the disruption on August 3, following which the university’s ABVP president put up a Facebook post which hurt our sentiments, as he called us goons,” one of the suspended students had earlier told TNM.
The ASA students then claim that a small, non-violent confrontation followed, with the ABVP President tendering an apology letter in the presence of security, and everyone is said to have stepped back.
“This issue took a different shape by the next day morning i.e on August 8 when the ABVP President along with his brother, who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), went to a private hospital and started a drama, that he was assaulted by the ASA. During that time, BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao met the Vice-Chancellor along with some of his party cadre and insisted for action against the ‘Dalits’, terming them as ‘anti-national.’ Following this, an enquiry committee was constituted by Professor R.P.Sharma, former Vice-Chancellor under the chairmanship of Professor Alok Pandey,” the ASA alleges in a Facebook post. The minister’s letter to the Irani followed soon after.
The Proctorial Board, the disciplinary authority of the institute, conducted a probe into the incident, but the students claim that the findings of the committee and its final decision were contradictory.
The five students have been suspended ever since.
On Sunday, mild tension prevailed on the campus after scores of students gathered and held demonstration along with Rohith’s body and raised slogans.
They demanded that police register a case under SC/ST Atrocity Act against Union minister and BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya while alleging that he had written to HRD ministry seeking action against these research scholars.
Later reports also suggest that the police on Monday morning forcibly shifted the body of Rohith from the campus to the Osmania government hospital. Eight students were also said to be arrested.
Rohith’s poignant letter was being circulated on the social media, where many have expressed shock at his tragic death and squarely blamed the administration for its handling of the agitation.
The following is the text of the Rohith’s letter:
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.
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.
Maybe 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,
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.”
The story has inputs from The News Minute.