Rohith Vemula case: Are issues of Dalit marginalization raised too seldom and too late?

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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

The tragic death of Rohith Vemula Chakravarthi, a second year PhD scholar at the Hyderabad University, has once again brought to the fore issues related to Dalits, their marginalisation in the country and the politics surrounding it.

The 25-year-old Vemula committed suicide on Sunday after he and four other Dalit students were barred from parts of the university, allegedly after the intervention of the human resources development (HRD) ministry, following a tussle with the students’ wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The students were termed “casteist, extreme and anti-national” in a letter to the University be a Central minister. “My birth is my fatal accident” lamented Vemula in his suicide letter. (Read more here )

The tragedy, however, came to light as letters exchanged between the HRD ministry and the Hyderabad university emerged, with Smriti Irani and Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya now facing allegations of coercing Vemula into committing suicide through political pressure, and because he belonged to a segment of the backward class who indulged in left wing politics.

As the case came into limelight, issues like the marginalization of backward classes in educational institutes, harassment of students belonging to weaker sections by stopping their stipends etc, are being raised. There are demands of Irani’s and Dattatreya’s resignation and debates on how the state of affairs have not improved for the backward classes after all these years.

But the question is—are these issues raised only when something as tragic as a suicide takes place? And are we too oblivious to the everyday marginalization of Dalits and wake up only when it’s too late?

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