Dalit scholar’s suicide: Can India ever get over its caste prejudices?

A Dalit Phd scholar named Rohith Vermula studying in the University of Hyderabad killed himself on Sunday (17th January 2016)night, 2 weeks later after being suspended by the hostel authorities along with his four friends on the accounts of his Caste!
The students were and still are on a protest strike in front of the hostel since the expulsion that followed an argument full of rage and violence and this has heated up the Universities across India and the Media too.

The suspension, following the suicide and the protests met condolences and sympathy from many but at the same time it highlights the brutal face of caste discrimination still prevalent India.

Though banned by the law, discrimination today is seen as an Outdated issue but one can’t deny the fact it is still exists in society in lanes of rurality and this incident shown in big education institutions too.This caste bifurcation is there everywhere. From schools to colleges, homes to workplaces, it determines who we make friends with and whom we fall in love with, whom we support and whom are we oppose.

From the very Primary level in Academics we are fed into our brains about Caste, Dalits & discriminations and we grow up somewhere keeping that thing in some corner of our mind. The erasure of Dalit and Bahujan icons starts right from the primary and middle class textbooks that are replete with references to upper caste leaders and reformers – Mahatma Gandhi, Raja Rammohun Roy, Vidyasagar, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and many more.

Lower Caste students are made to sit on the floor, face humiliations of School Staff, are served mid day meals separately, are made to use different utensils and what not. And what results is that the Dalit students drop outs.

If somehow, they survive schools, Students availing reservation are still humiliated, looked down to with nasty looks and statements, are treated unequally even in the most reputed institutions forcing them to go into depression and commit suicides.

That is why any conversation around caste in our colleges end up centreing around reservations, and the response is always to frame quota students as “less intelligent”, “less worthy” – carrying on the same project of dehumanising lower-caste lives started a millenia ago.

The death of Rohith Vemula has added to this still prevailing horror in our society. Honouring the life of a young student murdered by an oppressive system should mean no less.Sympathy and mourning over his death won’t support the situation.All one needs to do is to wake up and look into one own self and ask Does the caste and the family one is Born in a matter of one’s own choice?

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