Lucknow- Rohit Vemula, a student belonging to a marginalized section, committed suicide on this day eight years ago, and the words written by him in his suicide note continue to reverberate today. His suicide created a lot of uproar across the country and shed light on the travails of students belonging to marginalized societies.
The student community across universities was aggrieved at the loss of a young and promising life. Political parties raised the issue, with parties like the Congress and the BSP condemning the incident. Rahul Gandhi even visited the Hyderabad University campus to express solidarity.
The heat of the incident reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi when slogans were raised against him at Dr. Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Lucknow, where he was addressing the convocation. It was then that even the Prime Minister had to express remorse at the death of Rohith. "I can't imagine what his family members are going through. A mother has lost her son. Politics aside, the fact is that we lost a son. I can understand the pain," PM Modi said at BBAU on January 22, five days after the death of the research scholar.
However, even after the passage of eight years since Rohith Vemula's tragic suicide, justice remains elusive for him, and the systemic targeting of Dalit and Adivasi students persists. Tragically, numerous other students have been driven to the brink of suicide. A full eight years later, the quest for justice for Rohith Vemula and several others who met a similar fate continues unabated.
Just two months after the suicide of Rohith Vemula on March 29, 2016, Delta Meghwal, a 17-year-old Dalit girl from Barmer district of Rajasthan, was found dead. Delta was raped and murdered at the college, drowned in a water tank behind the girl’s hostel. The accused PT teacher received a life term in 2021 from a POCSO court in Bikaner. However, not everyone is as fortunate as Mahendra Ram Meghwal, the father of Delta, to get justice.
Payal Tadvi, a 26-year-old resident doctor at BYL Nair Hospital pursuing her master’s degree in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was found dead on May 22, 2019. Her mobile phone had a suicide note which mentioned that she was being harassed by her three seniors, Bhakti Mehare, Ankita Khandelwal, and Hema Ahuja. The trio, who were arrested on the charges of abetting suicide and destroying evidence, got bail on August 9 that year, and Payal Tadvi is yet to get justice even after more than four-and-a-half years of her death.
In 2023, the IITs and several higher education institutions were rocked by a series of suicides, starting with Darshan Solanki, who allegedly committed suicide at IIT Mumbai on February 12. It was followed by more than 10 suicides in IITs across the country. This year, Vikas Kumar Meena, a student at IIT Kanpur, was found dead at the campus on January 10th.
In 2021, Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union Education minister, disclosed in the Lok Sabha that a total of 122 students had committed suicide in institutes of higher learning between 2014-2021, of which 58% belonged to SC/ST/OBC. Thirty-seven students committed suicide in central universities during this period, of which 24 belonged to SC/ST. A survey conducted among 388 SC/ST students of IIT Bombay revealed that 1 in 3 students was asked about his or her caste. There have been several surveys that point out the glaring discrimination meted out to students belonging to oppressed communities. Enquiries about their entrance ranks are seen as caste interrogation."