“Never was a man treated as a mind”: Expelled Dalit Student Rohith Vemula Commits Suicide

18th January, 2015: Rohith Vemula, one of the five Dalit students who were expelled by the university last year for allegedly attacking a student activist belonging to Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) committed suicide last night. A second year PhD student of science, technology and society studies of Hyderabad Central University, Rohith was expelled as a result of a probe ordered by the university and the final decision by the proctorial board  of the Institute.

When ABVP took offence to student unions protesting Yakub Memon’s death penalty, a letter was sent to HRD Minister Smriti Irani from Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, claiming that an ABVP activist was ‘manhandled’, which led to the expulsion and the eventual suicide. The Dalit students were barred from the administrative building, hostels, libraries, mess and other common areas, which sparked off protests by students. A Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JAC) was formed to fight back against the university’s decision to expel the students.

Rohith along with other students were protesting on Sunday when he entered the NRS hostel, locked himself and committed suicide.

Given below is the suicide letter he left behind:

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 always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan.

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.My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

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 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.

A case against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and vice chancellor of the Hyderabad Central University has been registered with regard to his suicide, under the SC/ST Act. Watch this space for more updates. 

Report by Manisha 
Cover photo courtesy: Anindya Sengupta


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