Dalit issues

'I loved Science, Stars, Nature': Suicide by suspended Dalit student sparks nationwide protests

'I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body,' wrote scholar at University of Hyderabad before he hanged himself.

Students in Delhi and other parts of the country are planning to hold events on Monday to protest the suicide on Sunday night of Rohit Vemula, one of five Dalit scholars who had been expelled by the University of Hyderabad last year for an altercation with a rival student group.

Vemula, a PhD scholar, hanged himself in a hostel room, university authorities confirmed to the Times of India.

“No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself,” Vemula wrote in a suicide note released by the university authorities. “No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act. This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this. Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone. “

The young scholar and member of other student groups had been on a hunger strike since earlier on Sunday to demand a revocation of their suspension in August. The university authorities had barred them from entering the administrative building, hostels, libraries, mess and other common areas. For the past two weeks, Vemula and the four other suspended students had been sleeping in the open to protest the decision.

According to a statement issued by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice at University of Hyderabad, the five Dalit students had been suspended after a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad falsely accused them of having assaulted him in August.

Student associations in Hyderabad, Delhi and other parts of the country have announced that they will boycott classes and hold memorial events to protest the circumstances that led Vemula to kill himself

Here is the text of Vemula’s note:

“Good morning,

I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.

I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.

The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.

I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense.

May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.

People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.

If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.

Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.

'From shadows to the stars.'

Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.

To ASA [Ambedkar Students Association] family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.

For one last time,

Jai Bheem

I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.

No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act.

This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this.

Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone."

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
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