On the coming 17 January, it will be one year since Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder in the HCU. He, along with four more activists of the Ambedkar Students Association, was suspended from the University after ABVP (student wing of RSS) filed a complaint against them. Political vendetta and targeting was clear: no less than Smriti Irani, the then MHRD, intervened on the basis of the ABVP’s complaint. Two union ministers (Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani) instructed the HCU administration to dance to the tunes of ABVP. This resulted in the punishment of five Dalit students, violating all norms of enquiry and justice. Rohith Vemula, who made it to a Central University defeating formidable structural discrimination that Dalits in this country face to access higher education, was pushed to death.
An unprecedented upsurge followed. Students from universities all across the country demanded #JusticeForRohithVemula. We demanded punishment of the HCU VC, Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya for misusing their office to fulfil RSS’ agenda. We demanded that a Rohith Act be passed to make caste based discrimination in educational institutions a punishable offense.
Rather than listening to the demand of a Rohith Act, the then MHRD hit out from the floor of the Parliament to Rohith and his comrades. BJP-RSS-ABVP started a full-fledged campaign to vilify Rohith, denying his Dalit identity and his subsequent victimisation.
Today, students in Indian universities are facing exactly what the RSS-BJP-ABVP want to hide. Today, students in our universities are in a battle against the RSS’s road map of converting universities to prisons where ideas are curtailed, dissent is crushed and struggle for universal right to quality education, equality and freedom of expression is silenced:
- Rohith was pushed to his death in HCU. And Najeeb Ahmad, the JNU student who has been missing since more than two months, was subjected to violence and threats to his life by ABVP goons before he disappeared. Threat, violence, disappearance: this is RSS’s dream project for minorities in India. And pliant University administrations are shamelessly aiding and abetting this project. The JNU administration framed Najeeb himself as an accused, and has only issued token ‘punishments’ to the ABVP goons who assaulted him in full public view. JNU VC has instead served notice to those students who protested against the ABVP, demanding justice for Najeeb.
- Nine students from marginalised sections have been suspended by the JNU VC without even any chance of defending themselves being given. The VC who himself violated procedures and forcibly imposed his agenda on the AC meeting has suspended these students alleging disruption of the same.
- A Dalit school going student was beaten by his classmates in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. His crime? He scored well in exams which according to casteist norms, Dalits are not supposed to do.
- Five Dalit students and activists of EFLU Hyderabad have been charged with defamation from a faculty member because they complained of caste-based discrimination. Systematic Push Out of students from marginalised sections from universities continue. And now talking about it is deemed ‘defamatory’.
- Eight Dalit students of the BBAU, Lucknow have been rusticated by the puppet administration of the university. These students are Ambedkarite activists who have been a part of the BBAU students’ agitation to defend reservations in the university and against RSS takeover of University spaces.
- Seven students of BHU have been rusticated for sitting in hunger strike demanding 24×7 library facilities in the university. The BHU VC, who takes pride in identifying himself as a RSS sympathiser, has seen a ‘violation of BHU tradition’ in this demand. To convert a central university into RSS’s dream laboratory, the BHU administration imposes atrocious sexist rules on women students. Police action on students and explicit threats by the VC are the new normal.
- UGC has come out with a dangerous notification (5th May, 2016) which instructs universities to allot 100% weightage in viva-voce in entrance exam. If implemented, this would mean denial of admission to students from marginalised backgrounds. Subjective biases based on social prejudices determine viva marking unlike comparatively more objective evaluation in written. JNU VC has recently forcibly imposed this on the admission process. If not resisted, this would be the reality in all our universities.
Wherever students are asserting the idea of a university as a space that rejects caste-based hierarchy and communal division, that defends the right to free speech and critical thinking, that upholds the idea of quality and accessible education for all – they have been attacked by RSS’s agents inside universities. The ABVP has attacked AISA activists and vandalised Pinjra Tod’s programs in DU. They have attacked students remembering Ambedkar on his anniversary in Allahabad University.
These goons have been given full protection and patronage by administrations who are puppets of the RSS. While the RSS is in a war mode against knowledge, rationality, justice and equality inside universities, students all across the country are not ready to leave an inch in their struggle to defend azaadi from casteism, communal violence, sexist rules and witch-hunt of political expressions.
When we are approaching one year of struggle demanding #JusticeforRohith, let us once again rise up in rage to demand a Rohith Act. Let us intensify the agitation against RSS’s takeover of University spaces.