The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Rohith Vemula's death indicts us all

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Latest: Top stories of the day
1. Exports have fallen for the 13th successive month, giving further cause for concern as global demand remains sluggish.
2. The Delhi Police Special Cell, not the most trustworthy agency, claims to have arrested a 32-year-old Jamshedpur resident for his alleged links to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.
3. New Delhi has no details on the four Indians whom Syria's deputy prime minister said last week had been detained in Damascus.

The Big Story: Shame
There are no two ways about it. The suicide of Rohith Vemula, a research scholar who was suspended for questionable reasons from the University of Hyderabad, should shame us all. It may have become fashionable to insist that caste no longer matters or matters less, and that those complaining about India's intolerance are nakedly political operators out to bring down Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But every aspect of Vemula's story lays this bare.

His life was hard enough as it is when he entered the college, as he depended on a scholarship stipend to make ends meet. Then, while protesting the hanging of Yakub Memon in August, he got into an altercation with students from the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing.

The youth wing students complained, causing Vemula and four other Dalit students to be suspended from their hostel, and Vemula's stipend to be frozen. But a proctorial board that looked into the incident found no evidence that Vemula and his fellow students had committed the assault. Once again, intervention was sought, this time from Bharatiya Janata Party minister Bandara Dattatreya, who wrote to the Human Resource Development Ministry about "antinational, casteist" elements at the university. And so the same proctorial board found the Dalit students guilty and expelled them from the hostel.

Vemula committed suicide after having spent his previous days sleeping in the open outside his old hostel, demanding the expulsion be reversed. Without his stipend, he had little money left.

The case throws light on several uncomfortable truths: the conditions in universities, the involvement of the BJP's youth wing and a union minister who has been charged for abetting Vemula's suicide, as well as the co-opting of the university administration. The fact that it was always political is not a good sign for the case, because it means the way we understand over the next few days will inevitably be drenched in all the spin around. But that does not mean we stop ourselves from understanding what went wrong with Rohith Vemula – and why we should all be ashamed.

The Big Scroll
Read the note Vemula left before he committed suicide. Apoorvanand writes saying Rohith Vemula wanted to reach for the stars, but his bid to break barriers killed him. And Mayank Jain explains how the University of Hyderabad learned nothing from a spate of student suicides in Andhra Pradesh over the last few years.


Politicking & Policying
1. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has gone ahead and filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court permitting construction of hydel projects in the Upper Ganga stretch, despite objections from the Water Ministry.
2. Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the party has no plans of tying up with the Congress for Bengal elections.
3. The Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party is once again making noises about splitting with the Shiv Sena for next year's municipal polls.

Punditry
1. A leader in the Business Standard says alarm bells should be ringing over the latest export data, since India's peers haven't had such a bad time.
2. Michael Greenstone, Santosh Harish and Anant Sudarshan in the Indian Express conclude that the odd-even project did reduce particulate air pollution in Delhi.
3. Splurging taxpayer funds on venture capital as part of Start Up India is illogical and a travesty of the “minimum government” promise, writes Praveen Chakravarty in Mint.

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