Flashback 2016: From Rohith to Kanhaiya, the rise of student politics

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Bengaluru, Dec 26: The country in 2016 saw a new vigour, as youth rebelled against the existing system and status quo. In these 'young' protests, two leading voices--Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar--echoed prominently.

[Also Read: How Kanhaiya Kumar's fiery speech lifted the spirits of Indians]

Angry young men and their agitations

It all started with a heart-rending letter, precisely a suicide note written by Dalit student leader Rohith Vemula from Hyderabad. Rohith committed suicide inside the campus of the University of Hyderabad -- his alma mater -- on January 17.

Rohith Vemula Kanhaiya Kumar

The letter left behind by the 26-year-old was poetic, poignant and honest to the core. The note narrated in detail what discrimination based on caste, creed, religion and gender can do to an individual and force the person to take the extreme step of ending his/her life.

Death of a poet and a rebel

Rohith, as his friends and family say, was a bright research scholar with a promising career in science. However, he was a dreamer too, who wanted to build a class-less society. In his pursuit of justice, Rohith allegedly became a victim of caste politics, which forced him to end his life. His death was dubbed as an institutional murder.


The family and friends of Rohith allege that the 26-year- old committed suicide because of the harassment he faced at the hands of the university's Vice Chancellor Appa Rao and senior BJP leaders, including former Human Resource Development minister Smriti Irani.

Rise of youth against caste bias

Rohith's tragic story found resonance among youngsters studying in various universities across the country. From Hyderabad, Guwahati to Delhi, hundreds of young men and women took to street demanding justice for Rohith. In a couple of days after his death, the 'justice for Rohith Vemula movement' rocked the nation.


Rohith's death became a rallying point for all those who have long been saying that there exists a systematic discrimination of Dalit students in the higher educational institutions across the country.

Making of a youth icon

On the sidelines of Rohith Vemula movement, a young man from Bihar and former president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, made his entry into the national politics. Kanhaiya was arrested by the Delhi police for allegedly raising 'anti-India' slogans at the JNU campus on February 9.


Post his release from the jail, as he was put behind the bars on sedition charges, Kanhaiya made a fiery speech under the open sky in the JNU campus. His speech, where he openly challenged PM Narendra Modi and his government's 'repressive'measures, was broadcasted live on television channels and watched by millions.

Song of azaadi

The student activist raised the issue of azaadi (freedom) and told the nation why we need azaadi in India, not from India.

Kanhaiya emphasised on the exigency to bring freedom from oppression, discrimination, hunger, poverty, corruption, religious bigotry, violence against women and minorities.

"The Modi government is trying to suppress JNU's voice against injustice, but they would not succeed," he said.

Fizzling out of 'young' protests

As we look back now, even after 11 months since Rohith's death, his family and friends are still waiting for justice. The protests and dharnas staged to demand justice for Rohith died a slow death. Kanhaiya too has stopped attending protest rallies and meetings.


Recently, the student leader released his book-- Bihar to Tihar. In fact, recently Kanhaiya skipped the Bangalore Literature Festival, where he was supposed to speak on the topic -- Contrarian Views -- as he has been allegedly facing threats from his opponents.

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