_Trigger Warning: Mention of death by suicide_]

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy – Pipfpd India

Institutional murders occur the most in conflict areas. Kashmiris know this very well since thousands of their people have been involuntarily disappeared, adding to thousands more killed by the armed forces and militants. Although, the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) has a different story to tell, the premises and biases of the perpetrators are not very different.

Today marks the third death anniversary of Rohith Vemula – a scholar, activist, leader, scientist, friend, voracious reader, poet. On this day, he wrote his last and only letter to us and then walked into his friend’s room to commit death by suicide. Through his note, he made sure to speak to his constituency about the voices of dissent that are silenced and shunned by institutional forces. His death exposed how Universities, meant to be places of mentoring and learning are reduced to institutions that divide and restrain.

The thought of a Dalit student as an unflinching political activist – defending freedom of speech by organising the screening of Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai – was unacceptable to those who hold power in the Brahminical corridors of knowledge. Rohith and his comrades were penalised with suspension and denial of hostel accommodation for standing true to values of freedom. We now know that Rohith didn’t die but was institutionally murdered – the institution responsible for his murder being caste.

Today, Rohith’s death is also seen as an act of protest and dissent, against this Manuvadi Indian society and more specifically his University which held Rohith back from living a full life as a person. His death exposes caste-based practices, both externalised and internalised that deny, violate and kill, Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi people.

Perhaps what Rohith’s death tell us in relation to Kashmir is how structural conditions and individual locations have immense consequences for people facing violence. What is happening in Kashmir today cannot be separated from the occupation of and violence on the Kashmiri people by the Indian state. There is already talk about the mental health of the Kashmiri people, the designing of interventions and the setting of targets to measure development. But let us remember that as long as India is willing to use its might to stamp its authority over Kashmir and has the silent affirmation from the mainland, the Rohiths of the valley will keep stamping their dissent on the face of the Indian state.

*One day* when Kashmir and Kashmiris will be free, we will read Rohith’s poem again and remember him in his multiple identities and self.

‘One day you will understand why I was aggressive.
On that day, you will understand
why I have not just served social interests.
One day you will get to know why I apologised.
On that day, you will understand
there are traps beyond the fences.
One day you will find me in the history.
In the bad light, in the yellow pages.
And you will wish I was wise.
But at the night of that day,
you will remember me, feel me
and you will breathe out a smile.
And on that day, I will resurrect’.
— One Day
(Rohith Vemula)