26, Jan 2016
Tuesday, 26 January 2016 | Meera Ramachandran | in Oped
Rohith Vemula’s suicide should compel us to debate if universities and colleges should allow students to group themselves under labels that reflect political affiliations or caste, religious and community identities
While there have been many suspensions, many suicides, irrespective of class and caste by students all across the country, few have received such extensive media coverage as the recent suicide of a young Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula, at Hyderabad University. Nor has the political class flocked to the site, to fish in troubled waters in such hordes as after the suicide of Rohith Vemula. So, what has caused the present hysteria?
Rohith Vemula’s suicide has caused so much heart-burn due to two factors. First, some letters were written by two Union Ministers, Mr Bandaru Dattatreya and Ms Smriti Irani, on the issue. Second, the affected student was a Dalit.
These two factors, when seen in combination, provide rich fodder to chastise the Modi Government and engage in identity politics the twin weapons that the media and the Opposition love to wield. But how far are these factors really crucial to this case?
It is a well-known fact that the head an institution, be it a college or a university, funded either by the Union or State Government, usually sits not just on a hot but a scorching seat. Political pressure in areas of student admissions, staff and faculty appointments, and law and order issues is significant. As the people’s representatives and given their position within the electorate, politicians will inevitably respond to redresses, brought to their notice, by trying to intervene or by asking for an enquiry. But the buck for all actions, taken within the institution, stops with the head of the institution.