Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 18.02.16

9 yrs after losing arms, Dalit activist awaits helping hand – The Hindustan Times

http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/9-yrs-after-losing-arms-dalit-activist-awaits-helping-hand/story-WR6Dh0zMPnIz5AruKEQ4fN.html

Media institutes fail as bridges for Dalit journalists – Tehelka

http://www.tehelka.com/2016/02/media-institutes-fail-as-bridges-for-dalit-journalists/

Firozabad: Inquiry begins into Dalit girl’s ‘suicide’ over ‘harassment’ by Rajasthan police – The Indian Express

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/firozabad-inquiry-begins-into-dalit-girls-suicide-over-harassment-by-rajasthan-police/

Report sought on fund misuse –The Times Of India

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/Report-sought-on-fund-misuse/articleshow/51034231.cms

Centre reviews execution of law –The Asian Age

http://www.asianage.com/india/centre-reviews-execution-law-803

Dalits still left out – The Indian Express

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/rohith-vemula-discrimination-against-dalits-still-left-out/

Campus rising –Front Line

http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/campus-rising/article8232712.ece

Please Watch:

Ravish Kumar on the need for the media to question authority

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn2OpRMLF8Y

 

Note: Please find attachment for DMW Hindi (PDF)

The Hindustan Times

9 yrs after losing arms, Dalit activist awaits helping hand

http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/9-yrs-after-losing-arms-dalit-activist-awaits-helping-hand/story-WR6Dh0zMPnIz5AruKEQ4fN.html

Ifrah Mufti, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh

Nine years after Bant Singh lost his arms and a leg in a murderous assault, the Dalit farm-labour activist and revolutionary singer of Jhabbar village in Mansa district continues to wait for the Punjab government’s promised compensation of 5 acres and a government job for wife.

In these years of struggle, he has become a hero to landless peasants.

On Wednesday, he captivated the youth at a college festival here with his presentation of Sant Ram Udasi’s song motivating the Dalits of Punjab to rise against deprivation.

Punjab and Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki was present to honour him for his bravery, but Bant Singh took the opportunity to remind the state government of its promise through a memorandum to the VIP, in which he has described his struggle to survive without the financial aid assured in 2006.

The activist’s wife and son were with him.

“I have lost my limbs, but not my tongue, and that is enough for me to spread my word around. I will continue to fight and sing about the struggle of my life,” said Bant Singh after he recited Udasi’s song: “Asi jar najulm di chhadni, sadibhave jar narahe (We will uproot oppression, even if they eliminate us along with root). He was family’s only breadwinner but since the brutal incident 9 years ago, his wife has been taking care of the house by working as labourer despite fighting partial paralysis.”

“My daily earnings of ` 150to-200 are inadequate to feed the family. Kitnesaalon se bas intezaarkarraheinhain, sarkarkitaraf se koi madadnahimili (We have been waiting for years for the official help that never came,” said his wife, Harbans Kaur.

The money given to Bant Singh after the attack went into making a pucca house, putting his eight children in school, and getting five of them married. The children couldn’t complete their education.

“We were forced to remind the governor in writing about the other promises,” he said.

Fought for justice

Fighting threats of violence, Dalit labourerBant Singh had brought justice to his minor daughter gangraped by upper-caste, politically connected, rich farmers of his village. It was a rare victory for a Dalit in court against upper caste men. For his brave struggle, they cut his three limbs in 2006. Armless, he became the voice of labour activists against oppressive landowners. The-then Congress government in Punjab awarded his Rs10-lakh compensation, and later, the family was promised government job for a member, besides 5 acres of Panchayati land.

Tehelka

Media institutes fail as bridges for Dalit journalists

http://www.tehelka.com/2016/02/media-institutes-fail-as-bridges-for-dalit-journalists/

An anti-reservation post by an IIMC student on Facebook opens up the long buried caste debate across media institutes in the country

On 17 December, around 100 students of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) assembled at theamphitheatre of their picturesque campus in south Delhi. It was part of a discussion- cum-condolence meeting forUniversity of Hyderabad research scholar RohithVemula.

Such debates, although essential for the vibrancy of a media institute, are unusual for IIMC, where bureaucrats from the Information & Broadcasting Ministry keep a tight check on political activities.

The day after, a student of Hindi journalism posted an anti-reservation rant on Facebook, which prompted 17 students to write a letter to the IIMC  administration over its “casteist” content.

Upon being questioned, the student apologised for the choice of words used in his post but said that he stands by his views. Referring to an earlier incident on campus, when a copy of the Manusmriti was burned in the hostel as a mark of symbolic protest, he says that his sentiments were hurt by the book burning, although he does not believe in it.

An anti-reservationist, Manusmriti- respecting sentiment in IIMC is especially dangerous since, although there is no evidence that IIMC realises this, the institute is a crucial conduit for Dalit students wishing to enter mainstream media.

IIMC , which has centres in Delhi, OrissaMaharashtraMizoram,Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala is the only public institution offering adiploma course in journalism. Each year, the institute takes the stipulated quota of SC/ST students and offers them scholarships.

In private journalism institutes, the cost of study is too high (upwards of Rs 4 lakhs for a diploma course in journalism).Chennai based Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) is the only private institute which offers fellowships for SC/ST students. However, even there, only 4 seats are allotted out of around 200, coming to a paltry 1.5 percent.

“Ninety percent of ACJ’s student population is upper caste and elitist and consists of people who have no idea of what their caste privileges are,” says KarthikeyanDamodaran, an ACJ alumni who later worked in The Hindu. “However the staff members are very conscious about the caste question and inequality. Their curriculum is set up in a way that has themes and discussions on caste, inequality, marginality and multiple identities.”

It is, of course, possible to enter media directly without holding a journalism degree. This, however, requires networks to which Dalit students seldom have access to.

In 2006, Anil Chamaria, Jitendra Kumar and YogendraYadav executed a survey which found that not one of the key decision makers in national media belonged to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes.

The survey found that although Hindu upper caste men constitute only 8 percent of the population, they occupy 71 percent of decision making positions in national media.

The Indian Express

Firozabad: Inquiry begins into Dalit girl’s ‘suicide’ over ‘harassment’ by Rajasthan police

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/firozabad-inquiry-begins-into-dalit-girls-suicide-over-harassment-by-rajasthan-police/

Police had gone to NaglaDhuli village in connection with a theft case, claims girl’s two brothers were accused.

By: Express News Service | Lucknow | Updated: February 15, 2016 8:21 am

FIROZABAD POLICE Sunday began inquiry into an alleged suicide of a 19-year-old Dalit girl who was found hanging at her house in NaglaDhuli village three days ago.

According to the family, Julie, a graduate student, took the extreme step after being allegedly harassed by a team of Rajasthan police which had gone to her house Thursday in connection with a theft case.

Officers of NaglaKhangar police station in Firozabad said although no suicide note was recovered from the spot, the girl was found hanging Thursday by her family members who claimed that the step was the result of the “raid” by officers of Rajakhera police stationfrom Rajasthan’s Dholpur district earlier that day. Police said the post-mortem report has confirmed the death was caused by hanging.

Sub-inspector Ram Babu Singh said some policemen from Rajasthan had visited NaglaDhuli village Monday and arrested one Abhishek, the victim’s neighbour, in connection with a theft case.

On Thursday, the officers returned to the village and went to the girl’s house in the afternoon for “investigation” and returned after questioning. At the time, only Julie and her younger sister were present in the house, the S-I added.

As news about Julie’s death spread, locals gathered outside her house and demanded action. On Saturday, the victim’s family members, who belong to the Jatav community, and some locals met Firozabad’s Superintendent of Police Ashok Kumar, requesting him to initiate action against the police team which had “raided” the house and also “harassed” the girl.

The SP confirmed that an inquiry into the allegations made by the girl’s family has been started, adding, so far they have “not found any evidence” hinting any wrongdoing by the officers of Rajasthan police.

Meanwhile, the in-charge of Rajakhera police station in Rajasthan, Sita Ram, rejected the allegations of harassment .

“The team had gone to Firozabad in connection with two theft cases lodged on January 24. Miscreants took away three buffalos after hitting a woman and an elderly man. We have CCTV footage of Abhishek who has been arrested. Our team went to the village on Thursday to arrest the girl’s two brothers, Sanju and Deep, the other two accused in the case. They were not present in the house. Our officers have denied all the allegations made by the girl’s family,” he said.

The Times Of India

Report sought on fund misuse

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/thiruvananthapuram/Report-sought-on-fund-misuse/articleshow/51034231.cms

TNN | Feb 18, 2016, 09.08 AM IST

Thrissur: The Thrissur vigilance court on Wednesday ordered the Scheduled Castes development department director to submit a report within 15 days on the charges of misappropriation of funds earmarked for the development of the Varavoor SC colony in the district.

Vigilance inquiry commissioner and special judge S SVassan issued the order while considering a petition filed by activist V C Murali, who claimed that a fund of Rs 1 crore had been earmarked for the development of the colony under the ‘self-sustaining villages’ scheme.

The petition has listed the SC development department director, district SC development officer, SC development officer of the Vadakkanchery block panchayat and Forest Industries Travancore Ltd as the respondents.

Various activities like renovation of houses, construction of roads, culverts, pavements, electric posts and implementing drinking water schemes had been envisaged in the project. However, the respondents claimed more than 50% of the funds even though only some bare minimum work had been undertaken, the petitioner alleged.

The Asian Age

Centre reviews execution of law

http://www.asianage.com/india/centre-reviews-execution-law-803

Feb 18, 2016 | ,New Delhi

Facing flak following the suicide by dalit scholar RohithVemula, the Centre on Wednesday reviewed the implementation of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015.

The meeting, chaired by social justice and empowerment minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, deliberated on ways to ensure proper implementation of the law. The ministry is mulling framing rules for implementation of the law which came into force from January 26. “Despite the deterrent provisions made in the PoA Act, continuing atrocities against the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had been a cause of concern. Also there is a rise in such cases,” said MrGehlot, adding, “There were several crimes which did not fit into the provisions of the earlier Act following which we amended the Act to deliver greater justice to the people belonging to such sections.” He elaborated that the government is in the process of framing rules for the implementation of the Act. “The objective of the meeting is to take suggestions from the states regarding the same and seek details of action taken against cases of crime against the SC and ST members. The aim is to ensure the Act was being implemented in true letter and spirit.”

The new law mandates a greater responsibility on state governments and Union Territory administrations to augment infrastructure and human resources implementation.

The Committee is likely to deliberate on steps to be taken by concerned states and UTs to effectively implement provisions. The new law provides for stringent action against those compelling any member of SC or ST communities to carry human or animal carcasses or do manual scavenging.

The Indian Express

Dalits still left out

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/rohith-vemula-discrimination-against-dalits-still-left-out/

Discrimination against Dalits is rising despite stronger laws.

Attitudes of police, judiciary must change

Written by Christophe Jaffrelot | Published:February 18, 2016 12:04 am

The Dalit mobilisation that is gaining momentum in the wake of RohithVemula’s suicide reflects structural issues that he was well aware of. Certainly, reservations have given birth to Dalit entrepreneurs and a Dalit middle class benefiting from government jobs. But in spite of this, or because of this, anti-Dalit attitudes have been on the rise.

The number of registered cases of anti-Dalit atrocities, notoriously under-reported, jumped by 17.1 per cent in 2013 (compared to 2012) according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The increase was even more dramatic between 2013 and 2014 — 19.4 per cent. The word “atrocities” needs to be fleshed out here, otherwise it will become another bureaucratic, abstract euphemism.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (the PoA act), gives a list of “offences and atrocities”.

Someone is guilty of one of these “offences and atrocities” if he or she forces a Dalit or an Adivasi “to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance”, “forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or parades him [sic] naked or with painted face or body”, dispossesses him “from his land”, compels him to do “bonded labour”, “exploits her sexually”, “corrupts or fouls the water” he or she is using, denies him or her “right of passage to a place of public resort”, forces him or her “to leave his house, village or other place of residence”, etc.

This list is surprising, not only because of its detail but also because the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar had already taken care of most of these issues. Article 17 abolishes untouchability, Article 23 prohibits bonded labour and Article 15(2) stipulates that no citizen should be subject to restriction with regard to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of entertainment, the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort on the grounds of caste. In 1955, the Untouchability (Offences) Act reasserted that Dalits should not be prevented from entering any public place. Then, in 1976, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was passed. In 1989, why did a new, detailed law have to be made that listed instances of “offences and atrocities”? Because none of the previous legislation had made any difference.

The PoA Act has not made a huge impact either, as evident from the figures mentioned above. Atrocities have continued, unbearably. In October 2014, a 15-year-old boy was burnt alive by an upper-caste man in Mohanpur village (Rohtas district) because his goats had eaten his paddy crop. In June 2015, two Dalit boys were killed in an altercation because they were short of Rs 4 in a flour mill of Allahabad. In October 2015, two kids of three and eight were burnt alive in their house in Ballabgarh village (Haryana) after an argument with local Rajputs. In May this year, a 21-year-old Dalit man was killed in Shirdi (Maharashtra) because he was playing a song in praise of Ambedkar.

In parallel, Dalit women continue to be victims of violence and rape, the same way as Mahasweta Devi, who turned 90 this month, described them decades ago in her short stories.

What has been the response of the state, lately? A new law was passed. Last month, the Indian Parliament made the existinglegislation even more sophisticated. This law provides stringent action against those who sexually assault Dalits and Adivasis and occupy their land illegally; it also declares as an offence garlanding with footwear a man or a statue, compelling to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses or do manual scavenging.

Will that make any difference? Not if the police and the judiciary do not change their attitude. In spite of the fact that the PoA Act has introduced special courts for speedy trials, the conviction rate under this act has remained very low and has declined even — from 30 per cent in 2011 to 22.8 per cent in 2013 (more recent data are not available). And the percentage of “pending cases” has increased from80 to 84 per cent.

But to have a case registered under the PoA Act is in itself a problem. On average, only one-third of the cases of atrocities are registered under the PoA Act. The police is reluctant to do so because of the severity of the penalties likely to be imposed by the act.

Many Dalits do not know their rights anyway and cannot fight a legal battle that is costly in terms of time and money. The 2011 Census offers a poignant picture of the socio-economic condition of the SCs, which explains their vulnerability. Out of the 4,42,26,917 Dalit households in India, 74 per cent live in rural areas, where the per-household land area they own on an average is less than 0.3 ha — most of them are landless. A total of 2,06,16,913 Dalit households live in one room and 1,39,24,073 in two rooms. Only 22 per cent of the Dalit households live in larger homes. And only 34 per cent of them have toilets in their premises. More than 50 per cent Dalit households use firewood as their main fuel for cooking.

The literacy rate among Dalits is rising, though. In 2011, their literacy rate crossed the 66 per cent landmark (8 percentage points below the non-SC/STs). But educated Dalits want more — to join the university system. Some of them have succeeded in doing so, but they often face frustrating experiences when they are discriminated against in the very institution that should promote social mobility. RohithVemulawas one of them. There are many others. Take the case of Senthil Kumar from Jalakandapuram (near Salem). This son of a pig-breeder joined Hyderabad University, just like RohithVemula, and got a PhD scholarship in physics in 2007. But he committed suicide in 2008 — victim of the local atmosphere — after failing his exams and losing his scholarship. Today, the children of his family don’t want education — his mother even “hates education”. But can a country progress if a fifth of its population does not have full access to higher education? What kind of development (today’s key word in India) will that be?

The writer is senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/ CNRS, Paris, professor of Indian politics and sociology at King’s India Institute, London, and non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Front Line

Campus rising

http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/campus-rising/article8232712.ece

RohithVemula’s suicide has led to an unprecedented political mobilisation of students. The ASA and other student organisations at the University of Hyderabad are spearheading what has become a nationwide movement for an urgent overhaul of India’s higher education system.

By KUNAL SHANKAR

THE Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) at the University of Hyderabad (UoH), of which RohithVemula was the vice president before his death, was formed in the crucible of reservation politics—on April 14, 1994, the 103rd birth anniversary of India’s first Law Minister, BhimraoRamjiAmbedkar. The early 1990s were tumultuous years, not only because India had embarked on the path of economic liberalisation but also because it was witness to a burst of pro- and anti-affirmative action groups in the country’s colleges. At that time, Prime Minister V.P. Singh’s government was attempting to implement the Mandal Commission’s recommendations on reservation in government jobs and higher education for discriminated communities almost a decade after they had been made.

Atrocities against Dalits

There were successive incidents of atrocities against Dalits in Andhra Pradesh and loud anti-reservation campaigns led by affluent dominant-caste students. The Dalit counter to this was initially weak but gained momentum in later years. At the UoH, or Hyderabad Central University (HCU, as the institution is popularly known), a vociferous movement opposing affirmative action began with the formation of the Anti-Reservation Commission Forum. Riots broke out on Hyderabad’s streets, public transport was vandalised and the city shut down for days. Upper-caste students would polish shoes on the roadside and sweep public areas, meaning to portray how they felt that identity as a marker and not just “merit” would make a mockery of the education system. In response to this, a small group of Dalit students formed the Progressive Students Forum (PSF) in 1990. The precursor to the ASA, it was formed at a time when virtually no student politics other than politics relating to reservation existed on HCU’s campus.

Keshav Kumar, one of the founding members of the PSF who is now a professor of philosophy in Delhi University, said: “Even talking about caste was militancy then because it was never discussed openly. Dalit students would not even secure 50 marks after enrolling. They would be compelled to leave the course within the first semester. The biggest problem was the psychological trauma of not having the cultural language to deal with other students. English was the biggest barrier. There was no money for food.” Evaluation was a serious problem: deliberate under-scoring by teachers was high. After the intervention of the PSF, things began changing. “We took up all issues collectively. We would approach the administration as a group; there was no vertical leadership. That’s what democratised the students’ spaces on campus,” said Kumar.

But as Andhra Pradesh was on the edge following a slew of atrocities against Dalits, the idea began gaining ground that there was a need to have a more organised association with its own political and theoretical voice that would go beyond just celebrating Ambedkar’s birthday to responding effectively on issues. The 1985 Karamchedu and the 1991 Tsunduru Dalit massacres were still open wounds.

At Karamchedu in Prakasam district, close to the district headquarters of Ongole, eight Dalit men fleeing a marauding Kamma mob were hacked to death on July 17, 1985, because a young boy from the community had “committed the indiscretion” of talking back. In Tsunduru in Guntur district, 13 men were killed on August 6, 1991, for an incident at a cinema theatre in which a Dalit boy refused to apologise when his feet touched a Reddy man sitting in the seat in front of him.

Formation of the ASA

The large-scale arrest of HCU’s Dalit students soon after the killing of the police officer Kota Srinivas Vyas in January 1993 was the final trigger for the formation of the ASA. Vyas founded the Greyhounds police force, whose purpose was to rid Andhra Pradesh of naxalism. The Greyhounds gained notoriety for staging encounter killings of naxal leaders across the State. On January 27, 1993, a naxal activist gunned down Vyas during his routine jog at Hyderabad’s LalBahadur Stadium. The police picked up several students of HCU—which was then known for its left-wing student politics—including Dalits who had never been part of any political movement.

GallaVenkataRatnakar, a Mala Dalit who saw some of his friends getting picked up, decided along with nine others that something needed to be done to stop the arrests. He invited to HCU a lawyer/activist professor from Guntur, Kathi Padma Rao, who had gained prominence for aiding the Dalits of Karamchedu. On April 14, 1994, at a meeting on the HCU campus, the ASA was born. Ratnakar is now a professor in the Hindi Department at the Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University.

Ratnakar said that after Rohith’s death the issue had gained international recognition, but there was a problem of a different dimension: “While the English media have powerfully backed us, the regional Telugu media is against us. So the fight should be more local than international.” But most Indian Central universities by virtue of their funding patterns, course curriculum and admission process, and even their geographic location, tend to be cut off from local politics. For example, HCU is located at the north-western tip of Hyderabad on a massive 800-hectare compound.

However, the political acuity the members of the ASA have shown despite their troubles—from using the Right to Information Act to obtain copies of the letter Union Labour Minister BandaruDattatreya wrote to Minister of Human Resource Development SmritiIrani and the latter’s five reminders to the university on action taken, to the formation of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Social Justice—has been a transformation they themselves did not see coming.

The ASA and 14 other student organisations at HCU are leading what has become a nationwide movement for an urgent overhaul of India’s higher education system to make it more representative of the country’s diversity, not just in numbers on college campuses but to go beyond that and recognise the myriad insidious ways in which caste discrimination manifests itself and to address them effectively. It has prompted global academics to write an open letter to Prime Minister NarendraModi demanding justice for Rohith’s family and a reversal of the budget cuts made in the higher education sector. This single issue has united national opposition leaders ranging from Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary SitaramYechury and Delhi Chief Minister and AamAadmi Party leader ArvindKejriwal.

Overnight after Rohith’s death, the symbolic “vellivada” (which means outside area in Telugu), the shopping complex at HCU where Rohith and the four other Dalit students who were suspended were camping out, became a political campaign office. A makeshift tombstone that had been erected to memorialiseRohith gave way to a permanent structure the day after his death. Seating arrangements, a help desk with printouts of everyday events, and a donation box (all the expenses were being borne by the ASA and the other student organisations), all appeared within a matter of four days.

For days, indeed weeks after Rohith’s death, the shopping complex resembled the Speakers’ Corner at London’s Hyde Park. One dignitary after another from every walk of life —lawyers, bureaucrats, writers, artists, politicians and academics —some who had been invited by the JAC for Social Justice and others who had come on their own, visited HCU to lend their support to the students who went on strike after Rohith’s suicide. Rahul Gandhi even sat on a day-long hunger strike on January 30 to commemorate Rohith’s 27th birthday.

The unity of the students and their constantly changing tactics to push their demands have ensured that at every turn, those who confronted them, right from SmritiIrani in New Delhi to the HCU management, have been on the defensive, their oft-repeated defence being that Rohith’s death is not a Dalit versus non-Dalit issue. But this defence does not ring true and has instead exposed the government’s counter strategy of portraying the ASA as “anti-national”, in particular, the group’s position on the hanging of the 1993 Mumbai serial blast convict YakubMemon.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development also tried in vain to create divisions within the main faculty union, the University of Hyderabad Teachers Association (UHTA). Prompted by Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, a non-office bearer called meetings to press teachers to recommence classes and thereby weaken the UHTA’s support for striking students. This was swiftly countered by the majority of the faculty, who felt that the students were justified in their demands.

Modi’s government has also been working hard to malign Rohith’s family. Their caste credentials have repeatedly been called into question.

The Central government is keenly aware that Rohith’s suicide like nothing else that has occurred before in Modi’s tenure—the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, the murders of rationalists and the return of state-conferred awards by writers and academics that followed —has touched the ruling party’s soft underbelly when it comes to support from the oppressed castes.

Moreover, it cannot deny the letters sent to HCU, which SmritiIranicharacterised as routine treatment of “VIP” requests. All this has dealt a body blow to the SanghParivar’s Dalit outreach initiatives spelt out on December 11 last year, when the RashtriyaSwayamsewakSangh asked all its members in its 52,000 shakhas (daily gatherings) across the country to “adopt a Dalit family, socialise with them, which would include meals and reciprocal home visits”.

None of these attempts has been able to deflect attention from the fact that once in power, the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre has repeatedly made questionable faculty and administrative appointments in higher educational institutions, such as the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and the English and Foreign Languages University and HCU in Hyderabad.

Besides, the AkhilBharatiyaVidyarthiParishad, the BJP’s student wing, has felt emboldened to flex its muscles nationwide, as in the case of its protests at the Hyderabad-based Osmania University against Dalit students’ annual beef festival or through the levers of power, as at HCU. The striking students at HCU have so far achieved the “indefinite leave” of Appa Rao Podile and of his replacement, acting Vice-Chancellor Vipin Srivastava, and are in no mood to relent.

March to Parliament

After over two weeks of lockdown following Rohith’s suicide on January 17, HCU finally reopened, but the issue has gone much beyond that. His suicide has led to an unprecedented political mobilisation of students nationwide.

From the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and universities in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab, hectic preparations are on to mobilise support for a nationwide event across colleges on February 20, which is to be observed as International Day of Social Justice.

Then there is to be a march to Parliament before the end of this year’s Budget session, which begins on February 23, to press for the reversal of fund cuts in higher education and an expansion of the term “discrimination” in the modern context to include, but not be limited to, caste, women and sexual and religious minorities. The issue has already become the Modi government’s biggest political hurdle, which it will find hard to cross.

The credit for the political acumen, organisational coherence and preparedness, and clear tactical positioning with social groups and other movements needed for such a student mobilisation goes to untiring and passionate leaders like Rohith. Rohith would have liked to have witnessed this political flurry.

His friends miss him, for he had the ability to unite divergent groups, such as the transgender community, on a wide range of issues.

KarthikBittu, a PhD scholar and a transman at the Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences, said: “Rohith, once he noticed injustice, could not unsee it or ignore it. For him, the personal was very much the political.”

News monitored By AMRESH & AJEET

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