Hyderabad scholar suicide: Story so far

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Hyderabad, Jan. 21 (ANI): The Hyderabad scholar suicide story so far:

January 21, 2016: Former union minister and Congress leader Kumari Selja asks Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak up about the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula and find out why it happened.

January 21, 2016: Hyderabad University revokes the suspension of the remaining four students.

January 21, 2016: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visits Hyderabad University. He flays the Centre over Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s clarification over the death of a Dalit scholar and says the issue is not about Dalits but ‘injustice’. “We strongly condemn the caste angle given to Rohith Vemula’s death by Smriti Irani. Yesterday, Irani’s statements were shameful, she was lying,” said Kejriwal.

January 20, 2016: Ten professors belonging to the SC/ST community resign from their administrative posts in the University of Hyderabad, in response to the ‘fabricated statements’ made by Smriti Irani.

January 20, 2016: Just after Smriti Irani’s press conference, Congress Member of Parliament Hanumantha Rao dismisses her charge that he had written a letter demanding a ‘probe’ to be ordered into rampant suicides by Dalit students at the University of Hyderabad.

“On 17th November, I wrote a letter to Smriti Irani regarding the issues being faced by the students and employees at the university. I said that there was misappropriation going on and that seven students had committed suicide in three semesters. I also wrote that there were cases of rape and kidnapping occurring regularly besides allegations of illegal transfer of university land. I never said that there were any anti-social elements in the university. All I did was explain the irregularities at the university.”

January 20, 2016: Political leaders throng the University of Hyderabad campus. TMC leader Derek O’Brien, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury, YSR Congress Party leader Jagan Mohan Reddy, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi visited the campus to express their solidarity with the students.

January 20, 2016: Smriti Irani asserts at a press conference that the suicide of Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit versus a non-Dalit confrontation and adds that attempts are being made to ‘ignite passion’ in the case of the Dalit scholar’s death across communities. She also said the suicide note being circulated in the media was not the real one.

“This is not a Dalit versus non-Dalit issue as some people are trying to portray. There has been a malice attempt to ignite passions and present this as a caste battle it is not. This is an issue which is being investigated by local police and sub-judice in the high court. We requested the police to give us the copy of the suicide note so that rumors can be laid to rest. I hold that note in my hand and it does not mention any university official, any national political organization or any MP. I quote him, ‘to the ASA (Ambedkar Students Association) family, I am sorry for disappointing you, you loved me very much but there is some bad water in us. I wish all the very best for the future’, this is the only reference to any organization in the suicide note that we have procured from the local police.”

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January 19, 2016: The two-member fact-finding team sent by the HRD Ministry to take stock of the situation at the University of Hyderabad met with chants of ‘go back’ by the protesting students.

January 19, 2016: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visits University of Hyderabad and interacts with protesting students.

“The institution, instead of operating fairly, instead of letting them speak, has used its power to crush them. The vice-chancellor and the minister in Delhi have not acted fairly. And the result is that, a student who had come here to learn, was put in so much pain that he had no other option but to end his life. The conditions that led to his suicide were created by the vice-chancellor were created by the VC, the minister and the institution,” said Gandhi.

January 18, 2016: A nation-wide outrage by the students was witnessed. The students demand action against University of Hyderabad Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao, Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya and ABVP leader Sushil Kumar.

The agitators also demanded a compensation of Rs. 50 lakh for Vemula’s family. The students clashed with the police personnel as the death sparked outrage on campuses across the city.

The protest did not limit to the state, but rocked the entire nation, including the national capital.

Similar protests were witnessed in Chennai where the police detained several students from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to bring the situation under control.

The students also protested in Pune and Bangalore to express solidarity with their colleagues of the Hyderabad University.

January 17, 2016: Rohith left the camp to spend the day in the NRS hostel room. Commits suicide after writing a moving suicide note using the blue banner of ASA for hanging. Vemula was known for his active participation in student politics. However, post the disciplinary action initiated against him by the varsity administration, he had grown extraordinarily silent. And his letter went like this:-

“Good morning,

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. 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.

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Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.”

There have been massive student protests in Hyderabad and in other cities over Rohith’s death. The protesters and opposition parties allege that the five Dalit students were subjected to caste discrimination.

January 6, 2016: Five Dalit students, including Rohith, were asked to vacate their accommodation in January 2016 and were asked to find different quarters for themselves. Their living spaces were locked by the hostel administration. One of the reasons cited for this was that the students opposed the death sentences awarded to Yakub Memon.

The students protested by sleeping in the open.

October 20, 2015: A letter was addressed to Vice Chancellor Appa Rao and he was asked to ‘look into the matter personally and get the facts provided at the earliest to enable the Ministry to submit a reply to the MoS’.

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September 24, 2015: A reminder was sent to the Registrar of the University of Hyderabad requesting the information mentioned in the September 3, 2015 letter. The letter was sent by Subodh Kumar Ghildiyal, Deputy Secretary to the Government of India. A similar letter was sent to the University on October 6, 2015.

September 21, 2015: Appa Rao was appointed as new vice-chancellor of the University of Hyderabad (UoH).

September 3, 2015: Ramji Pandey, US (Desk-U), HRD Ministry wrote to Hyderabad University Registrar.

“It is requested that issues raised by Hon’ble MoS may kindly be examined and facts may be intimated to the Ministry to enable us to submit reply to MoS”.

August 17, 2015: Secunderabad MP and Minister of Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatraya wrote a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani. The letter mentioned that the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) held protests against the hanging of Yakub Memon.

The letter read:

“Hyderabad University, a central university, located in Hyderabad has, in the recent past, became a den of castiest, extremist and anti-national politics. This could be visualised from the fact that when Yakub Menon was hanged, a dominant students’ union, that is, Ambedkar Students’ Association has held protests against the execution. When Shri Sushil Kumat, President, ABVP in the campus protested against this, he was manhandled and as a result he was admitted in the hospital. What is more tragic is that, the University Administration has become a mute spectator to such events… The purpose of my writing this letter is only to highlight the affairs in Hyderabad University.”

August 4, 2015: Sushil Kumar was admitted in Archana Hospital in Madinagudaon. The registrar’s affidavit stated that he had only suffered some scratches on his left shoulder.

ABVP, however, claimed that Kumar had to be hospitalized as he was vomiting blood and complaining of pain in the lungs – result of the assault by Dalit students.

August 3, 2015: Susil Kumar, President of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), filed a police complaint stating that he claimed that he was roughed up by 40 members of ASA. The complaint resulted in a court case and two university inquiries.

According to Kumar, he had written a Facebook post where he described Rohith and his friends as ‘goons’, prompting a late-night visit from them which, he said, erupted into such a serious assault on him that he was hospitalised on the ‘same day’.

According to the medical reports, Kumar was admitted two days later and operated on for appendicitis. (ANI)

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