On January 17 this year, a PhD scholar at the University of Hyderabad committed suicide on campus, following a series of events that highlight the prevalence of caste-based discrimination across educational institutions in the country. Rohith Vemula was one of five Dalit students targeted by the university administration, central government and the ABVP for months, with the lid finally bursting with Vemula’s suicide that followed the students’ expulsion from the university hostel.
The students are up in arms, the government is now fast retracting to take action against those directly responsible for the targeting of the five students. But the damage has been done, and the anger has spread through the country with political parties also demanding the sacking of those involved, including the Union Minister of State for Labour Bandaru Dattatreya, who wrote a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, urging the central government to take action against “casteist, extremist and anti-national” actors on campus, which eventuated in the five students being expelled from the dorms.
The following poem, written by Manisha Shastri, is dedicated to Rohith Vemula and all those fighting for justice across the country.
“Dissent will grow louder,
Louder and Louder,
Even their deaf ears
Will be forced to listen,
The scream for justice,
Will grow louder and louder.
How many will you kill?
More of us will rise,
Onto the streets we will spill
Fight with all our might.
Our causes may be different,
But our enemy is one,
In solidarity we all stand.
Our dissent will grow louder,
Louder and Louder
Your deaf ears will be forced to listen
The country will see,
Its own version of the Arab Spring,
Gone are the days of silence,
Quiet we will not stay.
Violent peace a lasted too long,
It’s time to throng the streets,
Let’s sing our revolutionary songs!”
(The writer has a Master’s in Disability Studies and Action, is active in the fields of disability, mental health and child rights, and employed as Advocacy Officer at the Concerned for Working Children in Bangalore).