ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death by Discrimination

Systemic discrimination on caste lines in India's higher education institutions remains unaddressed.

Rohith Vemula, a young Dalit research student of the University of Hyderabad who was also a leader of the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), took his life in a friend’s hostel room on 17 January 2016. Rohith’s death comes after almost six months of political and administrative persecution by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Bharatiya Janata Party-led union government, and the opportunist pandering of the central government by the University of Hyderabad administration.

Rohith, along with four others, D Prashanth, P Vijay Kumar, C Sheshaiah and V Sunkanna, had been accused of attacking the ABVP campus president on the intervening night of 3 and 4 August 2015. An enquiry by the chief proctor let both groups off with a warning to desist from violence. However, for some “unexplained” reasons, the university instituted another proctorial enquiry which found these five students guilty and recommended punishment which was finally ordered through an executive committee resolution on 16 December 2015. As media exposes have shown, the office of Smriti Irani, Minister of Human Resource Development, sent four letters to the university demanding to know what action had been taken against these students. This was a follow-up to a letter from Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment, claiming that the University of Hyderabad had “become a den of casteist, extremist, and anti-national politics,” and that the ABVP activist was beaten for disagreeing with ASA’s protests against Yakub Memon’s hanging.

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