The fact that politicians are discussing Rohit Vemula being Dalit more than his death speaks volumes of what our society has become!
“When a girl named Nirbhaya was brutally raped and killed, did anyone question her caste? Then why is Rohith’s caste under question here?” asks Radhika Vemula, the mother of Rohith Vemula, the research scholar who committed suicide on January 17 at the Hyderabad Central University. All she wants to know is why there is such a hue & cry of her son’s caste?
Aiming to project himself as champion of Dalit rights, Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal wasted no time in flying to Hyderabad to express his solidarity with protesting students. Scratching below the surface of his facade one sees only hypocrisy.
The Rohith Vemula case has been dotted with half-truths, unclear facts and the rush of political vultures and greedy student organisations, keen to exploit the tragedy for their selfish ends. Even his caste background is under scanner.
Imagine the trauma of the mother, given no space to grieve for the death of her 25-year-old son, rather being forced to give explanation about her caste to one and all.
Self-Proclaimed Messiah of Dalit Rights
While Kejrwial has been positioned as ‘Messiah of Dalit right’ by Aam Adami Party, public at large is questioning his own intentions. What right he had to indulge in politics over Rohith Vemula’s death when he killed the trust that the Dalits had reposed in him?
It will be interesting to know how many times did Kejriwal or his cabinet or his party even mention the cause of the Dalits all this while, since he became Delhi CM?
Time and again, Kejriwal has championed the rights of socially weaker and neglected sections of society. They were the ones who supported him wholeheartedly and contributed majorly to AAP’s victory in last Delhi assembly elections. AAP attracted the Safai Karmacharis (Sweepers) most as he promised to do away with contractual work saying their jobs would be regularized.
The broom (Jharu) is main instrument of their livelihood and AAP’s poll symbol struck an emotional chord with them. He also promised medical insurance to Safai Karammcharis. Besides, Dalits were promised interest free loans for setting up small enterprises.
All of these proved to be farce and poll-gimmicks, as it has been almost a year since Kejriwal took charge and none of the promises has been delivered.
It is extremely hypocritical to talk about the Dalit question in Hyderabad today when Kejriwal government has come up with absolutely no affirmative action whatsoever when it comes to giving a fair representation to Dalits in cabinet or for that matter in the party structure.
Arvind Kejriwal had expressed serious outrage after the Dadri incident but he failed to compose even a single tweet about Malda violence. Truly secular, Kejriwal, as portrayed through his twitter account, would have strongly reacted against the Malda. But perhaps he would not, because his new-found affection for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is driven by political arithmetic and vicious anti-Centre chemistry.
God sent Opportunity
Rohith Vemula’s suicide note eloquently stated the sad affair of political opportunism, when he painfully expressed –
“The value of a man was reduced to his identity… to a vote, to a number, to a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind, as a glorious thing made of stardust in every field. In studies, on streets, in politics and in dying and living“
To all the politician seeking cheap publicity – ‘Any tragedy unexploited is an opportunity lost’. For them, death of a bright student was God-sent opportunity serving dual purpose – one, giving them opportunity to corner ruling party as reflexive anti-Dalit and second, garnering undue sympathy of Dalit voters.
Hence, we find Arvind Kejriwal who has practiced the art of throwing secular arrows on Narender Modi’s dartboard, unable to resist the temptation of jumping into the cauldron with alarming promptness.
Calling it not ‘suicide’, but ‘murder’ and demanding an apology from Modi, the Kejriwal has since been burning in the fire of righteous anger.
The suicide-note of Rohith suggests that he was disillusioned by the overall socio-political realities of India. The unfortunate suicide by Rohith is the manifestation of a set of complex issues that cannot be boiled down to an issue of a particular caste. But that is exactly what our politicians and intellectual elites are doing.
Contrary to the vision of a casteless, plural, democratic polity- minority and caste especially Dalit identity politics are recently becoming common platform for agitations and dissent. The way politicians are trying to exploit the suicide of a meritorious student for political gains, is a reflection of their opportunistic hyperbole.
Given the horrendous nature of event, it is time we moved from identity politics to a politics of identification. The focus should be on identifying the triggers of progress and their manifestation!
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