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Educational shame

Indian research scholar, Rohith Vemula, is dead. Any death is by itself sad. Rohith Vemula, doing his doctoral programme at the University of Hyderabad, committed suicide. A suicide is traumatic. Rohith Vemula was 26 years old and a merit scholar. A self-inflicted death at the prime of life by a person of potential is morale-shattering.

I am not a political person, have no political leanings, and did a ‘NOTA’ at the last elections. I am not sure whether the BJP or its junior version drove Vemula to end his life; I don't know whether Vemula was anti-social given his suggested leanings; I am not clear if other political parties are squeezing the juice out of this sad development.  I am also not privy to what’s the status in the high court. What I do however know is that Rohith Vemula is gone.

 

All that notwithstanding, a few things stand out:

One, someone having a view dramatically different from the opinion that the majority holds is not by itself a sin unless it is proven to be anti-social. Remember, in matters political, views can be strong. To make an issue out of it, as most political parties are ready to do, is sad. If Vemula opposed Yakub Memon’s hanging, there could be some reasons, including perhaps an objection to the very idea of the state taking away a life.

Two, a final report that is very different from the original statement does lend an eye to suspicion. What apparently aggravates the matter is the extraordinary interest that two cabinet ministers have taken in this case. And is it any accident that they belong to a party to whose views the deceased doesn't subscribe?  These are serious points to ponder if a leadership is looking at taking people along.  

Three, it is nobody’s case whether Rohith was forward, backward, most backward or sideward. What is of consequence is that a young man, an intelligent one at that, ends his life in the sanctum sanctorum of a temple of learning on issues that are clearly unrelated to education. The fact that he sees a bleak future for himself, only a few years after having got in on merit, is the ultimate irony.

Four, I don't know why there should be political parties inside an educational institution.  Allowing this is not just simple nonsense, but crazy nonsense. Communists, Congress, BJP-men and sundry others planting their flag inside college campuses as in marking of territories don't wash. Politics cannot and should not coexist with education.

If any sense is to come out of this suicide, if anything positive has to come out of it, it is not the political plaudits by Modi or Rahul Gandhi but the throwing out of the campus, lock, stock and barrel, every vestige of politician and political parties.  Politicians shed crocodile tears at opportune times and move on to other places to shed more crocodile tears on multiple other issues. If the idea is to politicise the academic environment, then all this talk of ‘innovation’, ‘growth’ and ‘inclusion’ is just gas.  Free institutions from nosey political parkers and you will find several IIT-IIM type institutions of higher learning flower.

The grief is most felt by those whom it affects in its immediacy, the family. You understand it, only if you had experience and gone through it.  Monetary compensation, that too a token of  8 lakh which will pay the family about Rs 6500 a month is peanuts.

When a school kid hangs itself because a teacher scolded him or her and the police foolishly arrest the teacher for ‘driving the child to murder’ who will get arrested in l’affaire Rohith Vemula?

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