Rohith Vemula suicide: Karnataka Dalit rights activists and students speak against injustices

By: Maitreyee Boruah
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Hyderabad, Jan 22:  The tragic and untimely death of Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old Dalit research scholar from Hyderabad, saw several protests in Bengaluru. Students and activists staged demonstrations on the campus of the Bangalore University and in front of the Town Hall in the city recently. Angry protesters were seen holding placards and shouted slogans demanding justice for Rohith.

Rohith hanged himself on Sunday (January 17) after being expelled by the authorities of the Hyderabad Central University, his alma mater.

Rohith Vemula

The debate on injustices meted out to Dalits by the upper castes has started picking up, especially in university campuses across the country.

"The students from the Dalit community face a lot of difficulties in educational institutions across Karnataka. Be it their admission procedures or living conditions in hostels, we have witnessed a systematic discrimination faced by the students of the minority communities," Venkatesh M, president of Dalit Bahujan Movement in Karnataka, told OneIndia.

"Most of the Dalit students studying in higher educational institutions come from rural areas. They are poor students. Moreover, because of the caste-based discrimination prevalent in our society, these students face a lot of problems. Even teachers are biased towards Dalit students. We have received several complaints related to injustices faced by the Dalit students. Situation becomes worse when they face violence," added Venkatesh.

According to statistics, 17.15 percent of the state's total population belongs to the schedule caste communities. A total of 6.95 percent people belong to the schedule tribe communities.

"It is a huge number. We can't ignore the problems of minorities if we want an all-round development of the nation," said Y Mariswamy, a Dalit rights activist and state organizer of the Samajika Parivarthana Janandolana (SPJ), an NGO.

"Most of the Dalit students face discrimination in silence. Our legal system does not provide enough scope to deliver justice to these marginalized youngsters," added Mariswamy.

Rohith Vemula

After Rohith's death, allegedly a victim of caste politics, several students in the campus of Bangalore University are openly discussing about Dalit issues.

"I am a Dalit student. Because of my caste I have faced a lot of abuse. Students from upper castes don't socialize with us. Teachers are also often biased towards us, especially when it comes to marking and clearing our project works. Unfortunately, we can't do much about such partiality," said a female student from Bangalore University, who does not want to be named.
Her male friend, who belongs to the ST community and pursuing his PhD from the University, said that reservation was not going to achieve its goal without proper integration of all in society.

"It is a shame that most of our higher educational institutions are not inclusive. Rohith was a victim of caste oppression. We need to end such injustices in modern India," he added.

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