Friday, 22 January 2016 | Priyadarshi Dutta | in Edit
Rohith Vemula was only the latest in a long line of Hyderabad college students who committed suicide. Yet, the politicisation of his death has less to do with this tragedy and more to do with his Dalit activism
The suicide of 26-year old Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula, a Dalit research scholar at the Life Science Department of the University of Hyderabad, is tragic, to say the least. But it would be ironic to turn it into another example of ‘Modi-sponsored intolerance’. There were apparently seven cases of suicide, mostly by Dalit students, in the UoH when the Congress was in power, both at the Centre and the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh. These, for certain reasons, did not become national issues.
The UoH is not the only university in Hyderabad that is battling the problem of suicide. Osmania University has also been struck by the scourge. Narayan Educational Institute, founded by Andhra Pradesh Urban Development Minister P Narayana, has become notorious for multiple cases of suicides. In September 2015, workers of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad conducted a dharna against this institution in Visakhapatnam. Earlier, in June 2013, the Andra Pradesh Human Rights Commission had set up a panel over a girl’s suicide in Narayana Junior College.
After P Raju, a student of Integrated Master of Arts in the UoH committed suicide on March 19, 2013, Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court NV Ramana and Justice Vilas Afzulpurkar initiated a suo motu petition on the problem of suicides in the State. The Chief Secretary, Principle Secretaries of Home and High Education, Collectors of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts, Police Commissioners of Hyderabad and Cyberabad, Chairman of University Grants Commission, and Registrars of 10 universities in Hyderabad were summoned to give their statements and opinion on the suicide menace. The court also called for a copy of the report prepared by the Neerada Reddy Committee, which was set up in 2000 to study the reasons behind spate of suicides in corporate college hostels in Andhra Pradesh. The suo motu petition also led to a conclave of the Vice Chancellors of Hyderabad universities. But nothing concrete seems to have come out of those efforts.