Sunday, 31 January 2016

The double tragedy of Rohith Vemula

  Carl Sagan's widow has written a heart felt letter expressing her sorrow at the suicide of Rohith Vemula.
  Not being familiar with conditions in India, the lady naturally thought that Rohith had died because of prejudice- perhaps that of obscurantist Hindu priests against Scientifically inclined young people from working class backgrounds.
  'To read his (Vemula’s) suicide note and to learn the details of his predicament is to get a vivid inkling of the actual cost of bias to our civilization."
The problem here is that Vemula had received a generous Government scholarship to pursue a PhD program which included some Scientific and Mathematical courses. He chose to switch to Sociology. Still, had he concentrated on his studies there was nothing stopping him from becoming a writer- if not one like Carl Sagan precisely- then still someone who wrote clearly and engaged with alethic material.

  It so happened that the University he was studying at had previously curbed the power of the Students Union because of serious bloodshed on campus. Since the political situation in the State has improved, the administration should have handed back power to the students. If they had done so then the dominant group could have beaten or harassed the weaker groups to their hearts' content without the police getting involved or any one getting suspended or being forced to quit their hostel. This was a terrible injustice, no doubt, but it was one of a purely political kind. The right of students to beat each other rather than do research is absolutely fundamental to Indian democracy. American Universities have discriminated shamelessly against Indian students- like the great Lalit Modi- and expelled them for trivial reasons- e.g. kidnapping and beating a student in connection with a drug deal gone sour. The bias displayed by the Americans did not however prevent Lalit Modi, on his return to India, from making a great contribution to civilization. Why was Rohith prevented from making a similar contribution? The answer is he killed himself. Ironically, this desperate action of his may end up benefiting his mother and siblings- his brother, a 'Geoscientist', and his mother, a graduate, may get Government jobs- surely, an unusual outcome for a Student activist.

  Carl Sagan's widow writes- "If we could somehow quantify the totality of lost contributions and innovations as a result of prejudice, I believe we would find it staggering.'
  Prejudice, similar to that displayed by the American University to Lalit Modi, resulted in Rohith being censured, rather than celebrated, for some alleged beating or threatening behavior aimed at a rival. But, if student leaders don't beat each other who will? Do you think President Obama will send Marines to do the job? Will Angela Merkel suddenly descend from a cloud and start laying about her with her rolling pin? I am sorry, you have a very naive view of Late Capitalism if you continue to indulge in such day-dreams.
  Prejudice and Bias prevented Rohith from continuing to make a contribution to civilization by beating his fellow students. His suicide was a double tragedy- his no less brilliant peers lost a chance to contribute to civilization by beating him.
"Is it possible that the attention paid to Rohit’s story will lessen its chronic repetition? I am trying to find something hopeful in an otherwise heartbreaking example of needless suffering and squandered potential.'  
 Rohith's tragedy has highlighted the role of student organizations like the Communist SFI- which he accused of casteism- and the Ambedkar Students Association which is now dominant in his University thanks to an alliance with the SFI.

 ASA, SFI, anything and everything exist for their own sake. Seldom the interest of a person and this organisation match. To get power, to become famous or to be important in between boundaries and to think we are up to changing the system. Very often we overestimate the acts and find solace in traits. Of course I must give my credit to both groups for making, introducing me to wonderful literature and people.” - See more at:

  Clearly, we should not feel any prejudice or bias against the ASA or the SFI just because they may appear to an untrained eye to have some sort of cognizable ideology but accept them as potentially equal to the Trinamool Youth Congress or even more disreputable Caste based Mafias.

  Vemula's death does have political implications quite separate from vindicating the inalienable right of PhD students to beat each other. These are

1) The wedge between Educationally Backward Classes and 'Dalit' Scheduled Castes. Vemula's father is OBC but his mother identifies as Dalit.  The same caste may be OBC in one State and S.C in another. On top of that, caste identities can be fluid. In this case, Vemula's mother was 'adopted' into the OBC caste of her husband but separated from him because of domestic violence. She raised her children in an exemplary fashion by her own efforts- her 'adoptive' mother, a highly educated woman, appears to have used her as a servant merely.
  Had Rohith brought a court case to claim the Dalit status of his mother (who was underage when married off), he might have won and established a valuable precedent.
   However, since Rohith entered in the General category, he could also fit the role of an OBC martyr, which is why his father now claims he was murdered by the Dalits. As a matter of fact, a modus vivendi is possible whereby Dalits claim Rohith for their propaganda abroad while the parties vying for the OBC vote claim him for their own in the domestic sphere.

2) The scandal that Govt. funded Universities feather-bed a class of student-politicians while the vast majority of students struggle to pay inflated fees for second rate instruction in private medical or engineering colleges.
 People like Vemula, who could have studied something worthwhile, received double the manufacturing wage to swan around repeating worthless Kancha Iliah type nonsense and either beating ineffectually or, more reprehensibly, not beating fellow students at all. When, for some reason, his monthly payments were delayed by red tape, he killed himself. This shows the bankruptcy of the student elite. Beating fellow students is a moral duty and healthful recreation, not something conditional on getting a hefty stipend. Incessantly repeating worthless nonsense is optional but this business of reading Carl Sagan (I've checked, it isn't porn at all) shows the low caliber of the fellow.

3) The student wing of the ruling party is licking its lips at the thought of capturing Rohith's University. The truth is the majority of students are Hindu and don't like Muslim terrorists and don't want to get a reputation as beef eating nihilists. Once Student Unions gain autonomy they will realize they can beat their fellow students with impunity and will do so with vim and vigor as part of their contribution to Civilization.

4) Indian youth has a choice between Hardik Patel and Rohith Vemula. Patel is in Jail- i.e. is enrolled at the most prestigious and best possible Research Institution concerned with 'making a contribution to Civilization'- whereas Rohith hanged himself after his stipend got held up. Older people like myself- who believe all these young fellows nowadays are Nancy boys simply- may take a dim view of the future. The day may come when our youth does not beat each other up with vim and vigor. Even the art of uttering obscene insults is declining. On my last visit to the village, I was distressed to see elderly men whose skulls had not been fractured by their hefty sons wielding agricultural implements. This is the main reason more and more Hindus are abandoning turban and flaunting their bald patches for all to see. Verily this is Kali Yuga.

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