"On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up.” Dr B R Ambedkar.
This 66th year of the Republic of India, we hang our heads in shame at the casteist cauldron that our institutes of higher learning have become while our eyes well with tears at the truncated life of a 26 year old PhD aspirant, Rohith Vemula. It is indeed the saddest portent when Dr B R Ambedkar's prescient warning comes true. And that too, at an altar of science.
The Hyderabad Central University.
It has a sordid history of Dalit student suicides and rustication with the stench of a caste ridden administration, who instead of engendering a cordial and welcoming atmosphere of education for the underprivileged and under represented, have modeled themselves into a feudal stronghold.
Any place of higher learning, especially a centrally administered one and even more so, one that specializes in scientific studies, should strive to be a shining example to society, putting the scientific minds of students ahead of their caste identities. In fact, it must journey a few extra miles in fashioning an environment where the curious mind thrives in peer company and under expert professorial guidance. Not only that, but in a country that is sorely lacking of scientific expertise and a long and established paucity of Dalit, socially backward and female scientists, it behooves the HCU to accord special guidance and extra classes as required, to rectify this grievous disparity.
The revelation that even an institution populated by the most educated professors of science, instead of being a safe haven for reasoning minds, reeks of intolerance, castesim and a socially regressive environment is telling of the state of education and the educated in India.
This is has now not only ended in a tragic loss of young life but is further erupting into larger social protests and clashes seeking justice. It is therefore imperative for the Central Government to act swiftly and conduct a thorough inquiry. In the interest of justice and impartiality, the inquiry must be conducted by an independent judicial committee and it's findings published. HCU must bear responsibility to create a conducive learning environment and implement measures to root out the evil of casteism.
In addition, all central government institutions must conduct mandatory caste and gender sensitivity courses for its employees, once a quarter. While constitutional and legal safeguards serve as bare minimum guarantees of political and legal equality, they clearly fall short of ushering in social equality. World wide data clearly points to the role of social sensitivity training in development. To impact rampant feudal mindsets and if indeed we want to progress as a nation, Loksatta Party demands that the Central Government and indeed the State Governments across India to increase awareness and sensitivity of this socially grave issue of caste.
There must not be another that suffers the fate of Rohit Vemula. We grieve with his family.
"I ask but one thing of the youth of this country. Shed your caste names, caste suffixes, caste prefixes proudly, visibly and emphatically. Resolutely refuse a marriage arranged with caste as a factor. Shed the shackles of caste, and be yourselves. Forge your own unique identity and marry per your choice, not caste. This is the best contribution you can make for the future of India. Jai Hind!", said Dr Jaya Prakash Narayan, Founder President of Loksatta Party.