Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 26.01.16


Vijayawada: Another Dalit student commits suicide – India today


Tamil Nadu Dalit girl suicide: Father of one of the girls demand second post mortem India


Extraordinary life of a Dalit woman sarpanch – The hindu


Rohith’s friends echo his story of struggle: ‘Don’t touch them, don’t play with them… – The Indian express


Activists Protesting Death of Dalit Student Say Minorities Ill-treated in India – India west


India today

Vijayawada: Another Dalit student commits suicide


A Dalit engineering student was found hanging at his rented accommodation in Ibrahimpatnam, near Vijayawada on Saturday night.

Puvala Prem Kumar, 22, studied at Nova Engineering College in the city and was reportedly depressed as he had backlogs at college for the last three years and was finding it difficult to cope academically. He did not leave any suicide note.

Picture for representational purpose only

The fourth-year student of Electrical and Electronics Engineering had lost both his parents in 2013 and 2014. He had become lonely, according to his brother and roommates.

His brother Puvala Nagarjuna said they belong to the Madiga SC community, from Vallur village of Kapileshwaram mandal.


Tamil Nadu Dalit girl suicide: Father of one of the girls demand second post mortem


Chennai, January 25 : Three woman Dalit students of SYS Yoga Medical College at Kallakurichi in Viillipuram, who committed suicide last Saturday has led to a scenario quite similar to the recent suicide case of Dalit PHD Scholar Rohith Vemula. The Father of one of the victims have decided to file a petition in the Madras High Court on Monday requesting for the Post Mortem to be done again for his daughter.

The three women medical students of the Medical College had committed suicide on Saturday night. A suicide note was also found on them, which is also being further investigated . While the Post mortem was underway on the body of 1 student on Sunday, District Collector of Villipuram, Lakshmi informed that she is trying to convince the other two families to permit them on conducting a post mortem.

Earlier on Sunday Evening, Four people from the management of the SVS Yoga Medical College at Kallakurichi in Villipuram was interrogated in connection to the suicide of the three Dalit medical students yesterday. District Collector Lakshmi also confirmed that the four people detained by the police are all part of the management for the reported educational institution. Reportedly, cases of cheating, extortion and abetting suicide have also been registered against them following a few findings.

The bodies of all the three students — E Saranya and V Priyanka, both 18, and T Monisha, 19  were found in a well near the village. The three students, studying naturopathy courses, had earlier filed complaints that the college chairman Vasuki Subramanian  was allegedly engaging in torture and charging high fees. No one paid any heed to their pleas and pleadings despite repeated requests.

The hindu

Extraordinary life of a Dalit woman sarpanch


Nauroti would hardly draw any attention from a passerby except maybe her traditional pallu over the head might draw a curious stare in South India.

A Dalit who never went to school, after being elected sarpanch of Harmada village in Kishangarh Tehsil in Ajmer district of Rajasthan, she trained the government employee panchayat secretary on how to operate a computer and use it in village administration.

“I carried the computer and printer into the office and used it for regular communication and also take out printouts of notices,” the septuagenarian Ms Nauroti told The Hindu on the sidelines of the inaugural session of the 20{+t}{+h}Congress of the National Federation of Indian Women here on Thursday. She also trained a large number of village women in use of computers.

As a sarpanch she managed to overcome the opposition from the dominant Jat community and deliver benefits to the people of the village. A burial ground that was being used as a dumping yard for decades was cleared and a compound wall built around it. She also had a borewell sunk there.

As sarpanch she resumed the land allocated for government health centre and had it fenced for getting the health centre built there. She finished her five year term leaving a surplus of Rs 13 lakh in the panchayat account.

Before becoming a sarpanch as a wage labour she led the mobilisation of 700 labourers and ensured payment of minimum wages, she recalled.

She has been an active member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan from 1981 and participated in the right to information campaign in Rajasthan. It is this campaign that laid the foundation for the Right to Information (RTI) Act passed by the Union government in 2005.

Her story is well known across borders and she has visited China, Germany and the USA among others and is scheduled to travel to Pakistan soon. She reads Hindi newspapers everyday and even logs onto the Internet.

The fact that she has never gone to school she has been disqualified from contesting panchayat elections in 2015. She has filed a writ in the High Court contesting her disqualification on the grounds of not having school education.

I carried the computer and printer into the office and used it for regular communication


Former sarpanch, Harmada (Rajasthan)

The Indian express

Rohith’s friends echo his story of struggle: ‘Don’t touch them, don’t play with them…


Dontha Prashanth, Vijay Kumar, Seshaiah Chemudagunta and Sunkanna Velpua continue to sit in protest at the University of Hyderabad, like they were doing on the day their friend Rohith Vemula committed suicide. The four friends of Rohith, fellow Dalits and PhD students, were suspended by the university along with him.

Apart from the four, Rohith spent his last days with Uma Maheshwar and Ramji Chintagada, also PhD students at the university and members of the Ambedkar Students Assocation (ASA).

As Rohith’s story reverberates across the country, his friends who come from similar backgrounds with similar accounts of struggle fight despair and heartbreak.

Seshaiah Chemudagunta, 27

* Parents were bonded labourers

* Joined UoH in 2009

* Has a non-NET fellowship of

Rs 8,000 a month

The first member of his family to go to college, Seshaiah wants nothing more than to become a professor. “Education is the silver bullet. Look at me, my parents were bonded labourers working for zamindars. Sometimes I had to work too and I was allowed inside the house but could not touch anything. They gave me water and buttermilk, but only poured it from above and into my hands. This was 1995, almost 50 years after Independence,” he says.

The zamindars would also instruct their children — ‘Play with them, but don’t touch them, don’t eat what they offer you’. “I still remember. I still remember,” he says.

For a long while, Seshaiah would even feel guilty for this resentment within him. “I used to think, my parents work for them, I work for them, they give us money, perhaps we should be grateful. That was till I read B R Ambedkar. I decided then that I will fight, for myself and for my community, and I will teach. Hopefully, in 20 years, no child will have to go through what I had to.”

Seshaiah began his PhD in 2013, and his thesis subject is ‘Social exclusion and inclusive policy’. Should he become a professor, his parents, now dead, won’t be around to see it.

Seshaiah remembers Rohith, whom he met in 2010, as their “rising star”. “He was articulate, a brilliant scholar and he did not back down from an argument. Next year, he would have become the ASA president, no doubt about it.”

Vijay Kumar, 26

* Parents are agricultural labourers

* Joined UoH in 2009

* Gets a UGC JRF fellowship of around Rs 25,000 a month, sends most of the money home

Vijay remembers clearly the first time he was treated differently. “After school in Class III, we would play in a small ground. One day upper-caste parents told their children to be ‘careful’ of us. I was a class leader, but children were told to stay away from me.”

He would often wonder why, says Vijay. “I thought it was because they were financially better than us… because they would play with ST children.”

As he grew up, things didn’t get any better. “In Class XI, I worked as a labourer for a Reddy family. I would think, ‘Why do I have to drink water from discarded plastic glasses, while others got a steel tumbler?’.”

He hopes to finish his PhD thesis, on ‘Welfare state and Dalit education’, and eventually become an IAS officer. “Things have to change and that’s why I want to join the IAS.”

Vijay, who met Rohith in 2014, was the one to discover his body. “He was a tireless worker and we saw no sign that he felt the need to take this extreme step.”

Sunkanna Velpula, 36

* Parents are labourers

* Joined UoH in 2005

* Has a UoH fellowship of Rs 8,000 a month. Sends some of it home

The oldest of the six friends, Sunkanna rues his poor grasp of English. “In my village, I was not even allowed to go to school. My parents said it was because we were ‘different’. Eventually, a missionary couple began schooling me and other Scheduled Castes. But even they had to stop because of pressure,” says Sunkanna.

At home, his parents taught him to “never put your foot on a wall”, “never enter a temple”. “I thought something was wrong with me. It was only after I started reading Dr Ambedkar in college that things began to make sense,” Sunkanna says.

When he finally joined school in Class VI, it was the first time he learnt ABC. “Till then, I did not even know there was something called English. I went to a spoken English course in Hyderabad, so (my English) must be okay now,” he says.

Sunkanna completed his PhD in 2015, and is currently waiting for the viva.

Considered a guiding force in the ASA, Sunkanna met Rohith in 2012, when the latter was in the SFI. “Slowly he understood the politics of identity and moved to the ASA,” says Sunkanna.

Uma Maheshwar, 27

* Parents are labourers

* Joined UoH in 2006

* No fellowship

Like his friends, Uma’s memories of discrimination start in school. “I always had to be careful about where I sat or how I spoke. I was told I had to be respectful.”

The shadow of the bias trailed him to university. “I was good in Telugu but English is what is important. When I came to university, I noticed that most students spoke English and the ones who did not
were mostly Dalits. It’s not a coincidence,” he says.

According to Uma, the university was different when he joined. “Ragging was very bad, particularly for SCs. They can be recognised, you know, (from) their shirts or chappals. Upper caste boys would wait to target students like that.” That’s why the ASA is important, he adds. “People were scared of attacking Dalits because the ASA was there to help.”

Uma, who met Rohith more than four years ago, is among those most devastated by his death. In his suicide note, Rohith apologised to Uma, whom he called Umaanna, for committing suicide in his room. Uma sat on a hunger fast following Rohith’s death.

Uma says, “I had a computer and Internet, and Rohith could rarely live without Facebook and the Web.”

Ramji Chintagada, 29

* Father is an excise inspector, mother a primary schoolteacher

* Joined UoH in 2007

* No fellowship

Unlike the others, Ramji had an easier time as a child as he studied at Sainik School. “There only discipline matters,” Ramji says.

But then he came to Loyola College in Chennai for graduation. “One day this fair boy came to me, shook my hand and said I look like him. I asked him what he meant. He said he was a Brahmin, and that we should stick together. When I told him I was from the Mala community, he pulled his hand away and walked off,” says Ramji, now the ASA president.

He met Rohith in 2010, the year he began his PhD. Ramji is the only other person mentioned in Rohith’s suicide note apart from Uma. Since Rohith’s fellowship money had not been coming for seven months, he regularly borrowed money from friends, primarily from Ramji.

“He was the brightest guy I met, I am still not able to process his death,” Ramji says.

Dontha Prashant, 26

* Father is a driver, mother an agricultural labourer

* Joined UoH in 2006

* No fellowship

Dontha loved cricket, and the pitch saw his first encounter with caste. He was in Class VI. “One day, some upper castes were playing with us. This boy said I could play as long as I did not touch him. How can you play a sport without some contact?” Dontha remembers wondering.

But as he grew up, he got used to hearing similar remarks. “Once, while I was waiting for a friend outside his house, I heard his grandmother shouting at him, don’t touch ‘them’,” Dontha says.

In 2011, he became the president of the UoH Students’ Union.

“I’m still recovering from what has happened,” says the PhD student. “Rohith gave none of us a clue that he was in such a frame of mind. In the last few days we often spoke about how our movement had gained little traction.”

India west

Activists Protesting Death of Dalit Student Say Minorities Ill-treated in India


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A group of Indian American activists rallied outside the San Francisco Indian Consulate Jan. 22 to draw attention to the plight of Rohith Vemula, the Hyderabad Central University student who committed suicide a week earlier allegedly because of caste-based discrimination.

Amidst a heavy downpour of rain, the Northern California activists rallied for more than two hours and spoke about the alleged ill-treatment of minorities in India. Similar rallies were planned for the weekend in Boston, Mass; Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich; and Washington D.C.

“We are failing young rising stars like Rohith,” said Bhajan Singh, director of the Organization for Minorities in India, adding: “There are hundreds of Rohiths in India.”

“We hope to bring peace to the soul of Rohith – his sacrifice did not go to waste,” said Singh.

Rohith Vemula, 26, was working on his Ph.D. at Hyderabad Central University. Last August, he and four fellow Dalit students – Dalits are the lowest caste in India’s traditional caste hierarchy – clashed with a group of students supporting the majority BJP party. After the clash, Telengana politician Bandaru Dattatreya, currently the minister of Labor and Employment in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration, wrote to the Minister of Education, allegedly complaining about anti-nationalist activity occurring on campus.

Vemula and the four students were expelled from the college hostel last December and denied entry into the university’s library. The five set up a tent just outside the university campus and lived there until Vemula’s death.

Dalit activists have directly blamed Dattatreya and HCU vice chancellor P. Appa Rao for Vemula’s death.

In his suicide note, Vemula wrote: “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing.”

Vemula’s suicide has sparked outrage across India. Writers and activists proclaim the circumstances surrounding the young man’s death continue a long history of discrimination against Dalits.

Carmel Christy, a visiting scholar from Delhi University currently in residence at UC Santa Cruz, told India-West at the San Francisco rally: “There has been a longtime struggle of keeping Dalits away from the halls of higher learning.”

“Rohith realized he did not belong to a certain segment of society and fought bravely for equality,” she said.

Christy said she had studied at the same university and proclaimed HCU to be one of the more enlightened campuses in India. “I have been part of many such protests in the past,” she said, noting that discrimination against minority students happens on campuses across India – including her own college, Delhi University – but is rarely brought to light. She stated that Appa Rao should be sacked, alleging that the vice chancellor has had a history of not dealing well with Dalit issues.

“The boy is gone. But the system should be changed to make sure there is impartiality in the way all students are treated.”

Benjamin Kaila, one of the organizers of the rally, told India-West the new Narendra Modi administration has brought on a fresh wave of caste-based ideology, but noted that discrimination against Dalits has been a long-standing issue prior to the rise of Modi. Kaila, a Dalit, said he faced discrimination as he was growing up, but didn’t recognize it until he read the works of B.R. Ambedkar, who crusaded for equality for Dalits and women.

“I realized what was happening around me in the name of caste,” said Kaila.

Sundeep Pattem told India-West: “I grew up in Hyderabad thinking caste was a thing of the past. Now I see these young people still suffering.”

“We must completely redefine our nation,” he said.

Steve Macias, also with OFMI, noted that Vemula’s death was “a psychological suicide.”

“The government thinks it is not responsible, but that’s not true. The politics of the RSS with its division of equality between the castes have created this death.”

“This must be a wake-up call,” said Macias. “The politics of the RSS perpetrate a religion of hate towards the most vulnerable members of Indian society.”

At the end of the rally, protestors presented Deputy Consul General Venkata Ramana with a memorandum, seeking a number of reparations including punishment of Dattatreya; the ouster of Appa Rao as vice chancellor; dropping all charges against the five Dalit scholars, including Vemula posthumously and allowing them to return to the university; and giving employment and Rs. 50 lakh – $74,000 – to Vemula’s family.

Indian Consul General in San Francisco Venkatesan Ashok told India-West the memorandum would be delivered to New Delhi.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET


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