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

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We Are All Watching

We, as members of the global community of scholars, make an urgent appeal for justice in the most recent case of caste discrimination in an institution of higher education in India—the University of Hyderabad’s prejudicial suspension of five young Dalit students pursuing PhDs. This was ordered under political pressure, without even allowing the young students to speak in their own defence. It directly contradicted an earlier decision made by the university administration itself.

This has now exacted a terrible price. One of the five, a scholar of great promise, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide on 17 January 2016. Unable to bear the despair of having his one chance at a future snatched from him, of his value being reduced, in his own eloquent parting words, to nothing but “a vote” and “an immediate identity,” he took his own life. As scholars, we know that individual actions are never just that. This suicide is not an individual act. It is the failure of higher educational institutions in democratic India to meet their most basic obligation: to foster the intellectual and personal growth of India’s most vulnerable young people. Rohith now joins a longlist of victims of prejudice at premier institutions in the country, where pervasive discrimination drives so many Dalit students to depression and suicide, when not simply forcing them to quietly drop out.

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