The Indian American Muslim Council
(IAMC – www.iamc.com
), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has expressed shock and outrage over the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula
at Hyderabad University. Mr. Vemula and four other members of Ambedkar Students Association were victimized and subjected to relentless harassment by the University officials. Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and the Vice-Chancellor of the University Appa Rao Podile along with a BJP legislator and two student leaders face charges of abetting Rohith’s suicide, under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Rohith Vemula and his associates were clearly targeted for raising issues that were inconvenient not only for upper caste outfits and University officials, but also for the blatantly anti-Dalit and sectarian BJP administration at the Centre. Their harassment by the University on flimsy grounds included discontinuation of the monthly stipend since July and suspension from the University since September last year.
This incident also exposes the role of Smriti Irani’s Human Resource and Development (HRD) Ministry. This is the second instance where Smriti Irani’s Ministry is found exerting overbearing political pressure and interference in University affairs. The IIT Madras decision to ban the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) followed the receipt of a letter from Smriti Irani’s HRD Ministry. In this case, Smriti Irani’s HRD Ministry sent five letters to the Hyderabad university for action on Labour Minister Bandaru Dattareya’s complaint regarding “anti national activities” on the campus and the alleged “violent attack” on an ABVP leader. The involvement of a Union Minister in ensuring University officials remained hostile to Rohith and his fellow ASA members, and the Vice-Chancellor’s role in the tragedy has been called out in the charges brought against the minister and the Vice-Chancellor by the police.
In an earlier letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Rohith had written, “Please give us poison at the time of admission itself instead of humiliating us like this.” Rohith’s suicide note
also points to the psychological trauma he was going through on account of the continued harassment and intimidation.
“Rohith Vemula’s suicide is a chilling example of the deeply entrenched caste-based oppression in India,” said Mr. Umar Malick, President of Indian American Muslim Council. “His death is not only an occasion for profound sorrow but also a call to action for all who care about human rights and religious freedom. Continuing caste-based oppression in modern India and anti-minority repression are the bitter fruits of Hindutva,” added Mr. Malick.
While the charges against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and the Vice-Chancellor of the University are a step in the right direction, justice could be elusive unless there is mass outrage over Rohith’s suicide, as well as sustained action by civil society institutions. IAMC has urged all people of conscience, in India and across the world, to recognize caste-based oppression as a form of racism.
–American Muslim Council
is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslim
s in the United States with chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our website at: http://www.iamc.com