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Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula Suicide: Victims of Silence

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Bengaluru, July 31: Lately, the arid casteist atmosphere of the country has us feeling the country might have regressed to the dark ages where justice has been outlawed and injustice is reigning supreme.

The suicide of Payal Tadvi a 26-year-old second-year MD student at Mumbai's TN Topivala National Medical College was another name in the long line of victims of caste violence.

Caste discrimination has been the forefront of insidious issues that have plagued this country for centuries, and yet, we as a society have failed to rid the discriminatory practice. It does beg the question, Why? The answer lies in our silence.

By sitting silently, while young souls like Rohit Vemula and Payal Tadvi are subjected to systemic discrimination and bullying, we have inadvertently extended our moral complicity in the act itself.

Payal Tadvi and Rohith Vemula Suicide: Victims of Silence

In 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. Scholar and aspiring writer from the University of Hyderabad took his life unable to bear the casteist discrimination in the university space. For months he was put through a humiliating wringer of bias and injustice based on the status of his birth.

He was suspended from university campus following a complaint by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leaders, who accused him and five others in the university of assault. But it was not until he succumbed to the injustice dealt on him, the country decided to take stock.

We've somehow set death as the barometer for the divine intervention of our moral conscience. Payal Tadvi sought the help of university authorities to no avail. Her pleas were all but ignored.

It took her death and a suicide note for the societal outrage to seep through the walls of apathy towards casteism.

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Walking unawares in a world filled with social evils. Walking unawares, when mob justice is on the rise and social conscience is on the fritz. Walking unawares, when appalling injustice is wrought on the marginalized. Walking unawares with a passing knowledge of the injustice.

Walking unawares, in a country where casteism is running rampant claiming victims at an alarming frequency. Walking unawares with a misguided notion that the country has defeated the archaic practice of casteism and emerged equals on the other side.

That's the real evil that plagues this country. Walking unawares and chiming in with "it's 2019, is this still a thing?" Yes, it is very much still a thing.

Rohith formula, Dr. Payal Tadvi, the 50 who died cleaning sewers in the first six months of 2019 alone are all blaring signs that discrimination based on the status of our births is gaining momentum in the country.

The right question to pose would be, Why is casteism still a ubiquitous practice in the society?

We are still in a middle of this discourse because wittingly or unwittingly we've all exercised our entitled privilege to plead ignorance and turned the other cheek when the issues of casteism rear it's ugly head. It is this situational ignorance that has stoked the embers of casteist practices in the country.

It appears as if we've all swallowed the Blue Pill. In the 1999 movie Matrix, Neo is offered the choice between the Red Pill and the Blue Pill. The Red Pill represents the harsh truths, the reality, the depravity, the seedy underbelly of humanity and the blue pill is ignorance.

Our greatest failing as citizens of this country is not our failure to stop the wheels of bigotry but unwittingly setting it in motion with our silence.

We have at one point or another categorically denied audience to the plights of the minority.When we stop listening, stop seeing, stop acting, we've offered complicity to the heinous crimes.We are not just mute spectators, but passive participants. Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi's death should not be in vain.

The tragic deaths should serve as ethical triggers for the country, where people are often subjected to threats, discrimination, and humiliation based on the status of their birth.

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