As a part of my normal routine like many other students at the UoH, I came out of my hostel room to have a cup of tea at Shopcom. “You’re a media student why don’t you something about this issue?” questioned my friend Munna Sanaki, an active member of ASA (Ambedkar Student Association). It was the day when Rohith probably had decided to kill himself in his mind. As I sipped the hot tea looking over the Dalit students protesting against the administration, reckless and naive about the issue, I thought to my self…may be I should get involved. I asked Munna, “Ok, so tell me what is going on?” He explained haphazardly and I left the tea stall thinking over the issue only to hear the news that Rohith committed suicide, next morning.
I was dumb struck. Condolence and homage for Rohith, I cursed myself all day long that I could not do anything for him. I was deeply hurt. After all we can only worry about two things; first concerns we can do something about and second concerns beyond our control. Rohith was gone; least I could do was understand what he wanted that led him to commit suicide. Thinking, I must do something, I rushed to the place where protest was happening and joined the group of protesters against university administration. We walked shouting slogans together in rally from the north campus to south campus. I usually do not walk but the guilt in my heart gave me strength for three kilometers. I had no idea where that energy came from. I think it was Munna’s comment that taught me a lesson that sometimes sarcasms force us to better think and express who we really are and what is important to us. Joining the protest relieved me a little bit.
JAC (Joint action committee) was formed. Many of the students from my own department of communication conducted the meeting and we decided to help JAC. We collected all documents from suicide note to the caste certificate of Rohith at our help desk that supported the deep cause of death- ‘the institutional murder’. We supplied documents to print and electronics media to expose the truth behind the incident and let the people of India decide themselves. Soon, it became an issue of national interest for all the newspapers and TV news channels. Political leaders poured into the campus in solidarity and support and prominent among them were vice-President of the Indian National Congress Rahul Gandhi, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Hyderabad minister of parliament Asaduddin Owaisi. Campus of UoH became a political playground however protesters did not endorse any political party and just accepted their support and solidarity.
In a couple of days, the suspension was lifted up and the issue got enough media attention. But what led to debate and discussion were the issues of marginalized people, casteism and the people in power and governance. People in power repeated what they always do. They deviate people from the issue itself. As we witnessed in lynching of Ekhlaque, instead of sympathizing and condemning the killing and murder meat that was found in the refrigerator in his house was sent for lab testing to justify a mob-murder. In Rohith’s case, a dead man’s caste certificate was being verified instead of arresting the culprits who led the institutional murder to take place.
I love my university and it is my second home due to the fact that it teaches me how to fight for injustice, how to express myself and ask for my rights. The only regret that I have as family member of this university is that some of our students could not learn those very lessons of humanity and equality. Rohith’s suicide note did not shake them a bit, they preferred sleeping and watching movies while their fraternity cried and protested for justice. My take away with the whole incident is that we never needed this to be a national issue, we did not need media attention, and we did not need political leaders to come to our campus to support us and play political card either. If we behaved like a family, all we needed was a genuine conscience of equality and justice that we ourselves can achieve like a family without any external affair. Perhaps, hopeless and tired, this is what Rohith meant in his note, he was referring to the state of mind we people live in “…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.”
We are ourselves accountable for our actions, responsibilities, and goals and without being biased, on a truly humanitarian ground, we can achieve anything that is important for the world we live in. I don’t know if Rohith will get justice but what will remain here is the essence he personally inculcated my heart and for many out there.