HYDERABAD: Dalit scholar of University of Hyderabad (UoH) Rohith Vemula, who wanted to measure the spaces from shadows to the stars is no more, but his death has started a mass movement. On January 23, huge gatherings of people were at Lamakaan to extend their solidarity to him. Starting from students, bloggers, IT professionals, teachers, homemakers and other people from different walks of life came for ‘Solidarity Meet for Rohith Vemula’ and spoke up for him, some recited poems, a few sang songs while some broke down while speaking up for him.
The open forum started as Anant Mariganti, teacher, geographer and executive director of Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL) took to the dais saying, “We can’t say that what is happening in South Africa will happen in Hyderabad as well given the different contexts. All universities and teachers are facing the same kind of challenges in our country. But how do we open the black box? We can only do so by telling stories about ourselves and what kind of world are we going to live in.”
People on dais were Salim Basha, member of Minority Commission, Prof Vinod Jairath, Prof Sujatha and activist Srikanth along with other speakers. The mood of the speakers focused primarily on the loopholes in the education system and how when any atrocity happens people choose to remain quiet.
Prof Vinod Jairath shared his experience as a teacher, “Our entire education system is so wrong. Students who are bright in their own ways but are not guided to or prepared to fit into the system. The way students can be handled is painful.” To this Anant added, “The most unusual thing with Rohith was that he was excellent in English who could philosophise life. There was very powerful politics behind the suicide of Rohith Vemula.”
Another speaker, Prabhakar, began, “Serious attempts are being made to divert attention from the key issue of lynching of Aklaq.” To this Sriknath added, “Rohith’s value is only measured with the intensity of his pain. Men, if treated as minds, wouldn’t be losing their lives. So far 18 SC students lost their lives in 16 universities within four years of time.” Anant summed up the discussion opening it up for Q&A, “For any kind of social justice we have to confront casteism. And why did the burden of casteism fall on Rohith’s shoulders only?”
Participating in the Q&A session head of Saving Our Urban Lakes (SOUL) Jasveen Jairath said, “There are caste systems even in Old City Muslims. Such divisions are there even among Punjabis.”
After that a song in Telugu was sung by a volunteer and he cried while singing it. Taking forward the session a person from audience Sri Harsha added, “People are afraid and hence are silent.” Another student took to the dais saying, “We need another Mahatma Gandhi and his lathi. When the lathi is charged people will understand about injustice.”
The meet ended with the participants wearing masks of Rohith Vemula.