The milking of the Dalit vote, even in a tragedy

Posted: January 22, 2016 in Politicians, Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

I am horrified by the death of Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide on January 17, 2016, by hanging himself from the fan in the room of his friend at the Hyderabad University. Whatever maybe the reasons for his death, enough has been said and done about the case for me to repeat here. He left a suicide note that has saddened and shocked the very conscience of the nation. And here is where I am even more horrified – by the behaviour of our politicians. I don’t mean all politicians, at least not the ones with a conscience, anyway.

What moved those politicians so much that they almost tripped over each other to be the first to land in Hyderabad? Surely, it couldn’t have been another Dalit student who committed suicide. Nor was it the votes that they could either see slipping away or coming their way. There have been almost two dozen suicides before this one. So, Vemula, for all practical purposes, was just another statistic. So what was it? Two reasons: The first, their visceral hatred for Narendra Modi and second, the fear that if he succeeds in these five years, they might as well pack their bags, lick their wounds, and limp away into the sunset. So, naturally they have to stop him. And I have no issues with that. After all, that is one part of the job of a politician. So all the best to them.

And what better way to do that than to crawl on all fours and prostrate themselves before the students at Hyderabad University, Rohith’s friends and his family. “Hey, remember me, I was there that day in Hyderabad University?” could well be the signature tune of these people in the days to come. I read on Twitter someone describing a politician rushing off to Hyderabad as a vulture. That is too polite. I would call them something else.

Now that Rahul Gandhi is back from Hyderabad University I hope he reads The Hindu of January 19, 2016, which had this to say indirectly about his government, which was in power at the Centre and in the State of Delhi: The Thorat Committee, constituted some years ago to investigate differential treatment of SC/ST students in just one institution, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, had come out with a damning indictment of the way Dalit students were treated. Forced into ghettos in the hostel, discriminated against by teachers, denied access to sporting and cultural activities, SC/ST students in India’s premier educational institutions walk into an environment that’s virulently hostile to them. Not surprisingly, according to one estimate, in the last four years, 18 Dalit students chose to end their lives rather than continue to battle on in these dens of caste prejudice and social exclusion.

Eighteen Dalit students committed suicide in the last four years, most of it during the rule of his party, while he was busy mouthing inanities, or holidaying abroad, or disappearing somewhere without notice. It’s also been happening at AIIMs right under his government’s nose and he did nothing. Another Dalit student, Senthil, committed suicide in Salem in 2008, and Rahul G. Prasad, a final year B. Tech student at IIT-Madras committed suicide in 2015, but Rahul Gandhi and those of his ilk weren’t interested then. Wonder why. And yet, this vacuous upstart, who has raced up the political ladder by hanging onto the saree of his mummy, has the gall to talk about helping the Dalits, Muslims other deprived communities? So the UPA of Manmohan Singh quietly brushed it under the carpet and now their vice president is pretending to be the champion of the downtrodden?

But, it’s not just the politicians this blog is about. I am also thinking of the 13 Dalit teachers who were struck with a pang of conscience or guilt, or whatever, and decided to resign in support five whole days after Vemula’s death. What were they doing for those five days, weighing their options? How considerate of them. More likely, they realised that they were going to be the next target of the students and the HRD ministry for keeping silent through the current unsavoury episode. If they had reacted in time, who knows, things might have been different. I can lay a bet that six months down the line the faculty will be back at their jobs. How? Your guess is as good as mine.

But there is a larger issue. While I completely understand and agree that all those lesser fortunate must be educated, looked after till they can be self-reliant, and be made a part of this country’s mainstream, the way the Congress governments have gone about it is not the way. All that has happened is that in many cases it has become a question of give and take from both sides. And the fallout of this is every marginalised and not marginalised community has now realised that the best way to get jobs and money from the government is to dangle the carrot of votes and watch the politician running to them with freebies. It is unfortunate, but this the reason there is an anger rising against all those who call themselves ‘marginalised’ either through caste, class or economics. I am waiting to see where this ends.

The other group that has really done itself no service is the media of which I have been a part for 30 years. Whatever I leant about the profession, I did on the job and from my seniors. My seniors always taught me that a journalist should be anti-establishment and at the same time be objective. I am afraid, today the media is neither. Their reporting in recent times has been nothing short of disgraceful. I am glad I am out of it.

I hope the parents of the 18 students who have committed suicide earlier get together and file a civil action suit for a few hundred crores (much like the one filed against the Ansals in the Uphaar tragedy) against the various colleges, their faculty, and the respective state and central governments, who have stood by as mute spectators during these tragedies. It’s time someone was made to pay.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.