We are deeply saddened that in a secular democratic country like India a young promising doctoral research student from the University of Hyderabad took his life because he realized that his life was defined by his identity as a Dalit. His birth, he claimed was a “fatal accident” that had disadvantaged him from as far back as he could remember.
For a young person to take his life is certainly a drastic step to remind our country that Dalits continue to be treated as sub-human and deprived of rights enjoyed by others who enjoy a higher status by virtue of their birth.
While India makes vast strides in the economic sphere it is indeed shocking and tragic that such socially exclusionist attitudes continue to thrive in an institution of higher learning which is expected to propel our country into the future where human rights are respected and every citizen is treated equally. The treatment Vemula received from the authorities of the university because of the political interference and intervention of the Ministry of Human Resource and Development is abhorrent to say the least.
We declare that untouchability and caste politics has no place in a secular, democratic country like India and every institution must ensure that Dalits will be treated with respect and protected from the cultural hegemony of caste elites who continue to cast the grim shadow of caste over their education and job opportunities in the country.
We are opposed to all forms of intolerance, clamping down of divergent views, opinions and dissent; as well as the interference and meddling of political parties in university affairs that politicize the university spaces as this threatens the secular and democratic fabric of our country and do not have a place in 21st century India.
Rohith Vemula’s suicide has brought to the fore caste-based and other forms of discrimination on university campuses in India. Dalits and persons relegated to the margins by their caste, gender, religion, ethinicity and sexual identity (hereinafter referred to as ‘marginalized groups’), are subjected to discrimination on university campuses in admisson, evaluation of academic performance and even in administrative operations. The biases that keep surfacing in educational campuses continue to thwart the dreams of Dalits and marginalized groups in the academic spaces in India are clearly seen in the case of Rohit who was forced to take his life because his life struggles seemed to be so futile in the face of the opposition he faced in the University.
We call upon the State to ensure that his mother is no longer harassed but given all the support and financial dues that Rohit was entitled to.
We call upon all right thinking citizens to stand up and oppose any kind of acts of violence and injustice meted out to Dalit and marginalized groups. We call upon all Indian citizens especially those who profess to represent us in parliament to take an oath to put an end to violence against Dalits and marginalized groups and ensure that they enjoy all the rights that are enshrined in the constitution of our country on an equal footing with others.
Finally we commit ourselves to continue to work to rid ourselves and our country people of a discriminatory and exclusionist mindset, to promote opportunities for every citizen of India to pursue their dreams, attain their aspirations to make India a truly free, secular and democratic State.
Indian Christian Women’s Movement Streevani 1 & 2, Lotus Building, Neco Gardens, Viman Nagar, Pune – Maharashtra. India 411 014
6th February, 2016.