Dalit scholar suicide: P Sainath slams Smriti Irani, says incident highlights much larger issues

New Delhi(PTI): Noted Indian journalist P Sainath has slammed the Modi government and HRD Minister Smriti Irani over the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.

Speaking at a protest against the administration of the Hyderabad University, Sainath put the matter in context. He slams the narrative that Rohith’s suicide was a case of depression.
“An attempt is being made to separate the suicide note from the suicide context. An attempt is separate the suicide note from the life he led. Trying to separate the suicide from Rohit’s friends. Saying it has nothing to do with discrimination,” said Sainath angrily.

“One question is, why are some classes and castes in society more depressed than everyone else? But, there is a more cruel and venomous insinuation in this: This is not emotional depression, they are treating it as a mental health issue… this is inborn,” he said.
While taking potshots at Smriti Irani’s educational qualifications, Sainath said that only 3% of rural families in India had a graduate member, and the number was even less for Dalits. He slammed Irani for sending 5 letters to HCU asking for action against the deceased Vemula, while never once writing a letter asking for Rohit’s fellowship to be released. He said that Rohith’s parents were dependent on the money but Irani was just bothered about the student’s political activists.
Sainath also slammed laws that demanded certain educational qualifications in order to contest
“Your country is ruled by an alliance of socioeconomic fundamentalists and economic market fundamentalists,” said Sainath.
Sainath said in 75% of rural households, the breadwinner earns less than 5,000 rupees a month, and 90% when the bar is raised to Rs 10,000. Sainath stated that the situation is worse for Dalits and Adivasis. “We are talking about at a discrimination that is structural, social, economic and now being legalised. And we should resist that.”
“There are political battles ahead. There are other battles we need to fight. My friend Siddharth Vardarajan was held hostage by ABVP. Just 2-3 years ago a VC in Madhya Pradesh was beaten to death,” said Sainath.
“Your VC is on long leave. Let in be a very long leave,” Sainath mocked to muffled laughter.
Sainath alleged that the ‘counter-offensive’ by the right wing intended to divide the agitation. “Despite this aggression, despite this offensive, despite the violence, resistance is coming from corners and corners of the country.”
Taking on FTII chairman Gajendra Singh, Sainath referred to him as ‘Yudishthira’, saying that unlike the Yudishthira of the Mahabharata whose chariot touched the ground after he told a lie, Gajendra’s chariot had never taken off the ground, it was mired in mud.
“Students of University of Hyderabad, you have taken this battle to the next level. You have in the process highlighted much larger issues, which is what I read from the suicide of Rohith Vemula.”

“A long time ago, French writer Victor Hugo wrote that there is nothing on earth that can stand in the way of an idea that has come. In India in 2016, I think that time has come. And the idea, is justice: social, economic, cultural, gender and for Rohith and a billion other Rohiths. As Babasaheb Ambedkar told you, educate, organise, agitate,” finished Sainath to a rousing reception.