Caste came up in 3 suicide probes at Hyderabad University

The HRD Ministry wants a judicial commission to probe the events that led to the suicide on January 17 of Vemula.

Written by Apurva | New Delhi | Updated: February 8, 2016 9:36 am
The room where Rohith killed himself . (Source: Express photo by Harsha Vadlamani) The room where Rohith killed himself . (Source: Express photo by Harsha Vadlamani)

The University of Hyderabad had all the warning it needed before Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide last month. Three red flags, in the form of three suicides by Dalit students within six years. And three probes that arrived at the same conclusion: this was no campus for the marginalised.

The HRD Ministry wants a judicial commission to probe the events that led to the suicide on January 17 of Vemula, who was among five Dalits suspended by the university for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader. But the findings of the three committees that probed the three suicides on campus between 2008 and 2014 were clear: the Dalit students faced a “sense of alienation” and “institutional discrimination” owing to “caste consideration”.

One of those committees, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice K Ramaswamy, stated in its report: “Because of the insensitivity towards problems faced by the students belonging to the aforesaid social groups, frequent occurrences of suicides are taking place.”

Senthil Kumar committed sucide in 2008 while P Raju and Madari Venkatesh killed themslves in 2013. The three suicides, like that of Rohith Vemula, happened inside the New Research Scholars (NRS) Hostel on campus.

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‘Was tense about supervisor’

2008: Prof V Pavarala committee report on Senthil Kumar’s suicide

On February 28, 2008, Kumar, a PhD student in Physics, consumed poison. The report noted, “Senthil Kumar came from a poor Dalit family from Tamil Nadu, probably a first-generation university student. According to his friends, he was also struggling to send some money home. Many of his friends remember him as a strong and brave person, often jovial in his mannerisms. He was interested in reading Tamil literature and would engage in discussions with friends in the Humanities on such topics as modernity and deconstruction.”

Senthil’s friends told the committee that he wished to explore options abroad or move to another university. “He was also apparently under some tension about the supervisor with whom he would have to eventually work for his PhD. Students reported that in the last week or so, leading up to his death, Senthil was considerably uneasy and found it difficult to sleep,” stated the report.

The report concluded that most students affected by “ambiguous procedures” in the university were SCs and STs. Among its 12 recommendations were:

* Every school/department must have a grievance redressal mechanism which the students can turn to without fear of reprisals.

* There is a need for all faculty members to internalise greater sensitivity about students belonging to the reserved categories.

* It is important to be pro-active in mentoring and advising students who come from less privileged backgrounds, both in the classroom and outside.

* It is imperative that a top-ranking central institution takes a lead in nurturing and promoting a corps of scientists from among the marginalised sections.

‘No grievance redressal system’

2013: V Krishna committee report on P Raju’s suicide.

On March 19, 2013, P Raju, a student of the Integrated Master of Arts (IMA) and an officebearer in the Dalit Students Federation (DSF), hanged himself. After performing well in the first three years, Raju failed in four papers. And according to rules, he would not have been allowed to appear for his eighth semester examinations unless he cleared at least two papers.

Raju wrote the exams in January 2013 and was awaiting his results when he committed suicide. When the results were declared, he had cleared only one paper. Raju’s friends told the committee that he had also developed “a crush” on a classmate who had helped him develop his English language skills but was “demoralised” when he realised that the feelings were not mutual.

“Some students… spoke of a sense of alienation — distinctly accentuated in the case of Dalit students — in coping with the demands of the regular MA programme. This was also corroborated by some teachers, although the explanation offered for variation in performance was that in the MA segment, the academic competition was more intense,” stated the report.

“While Raju’s personal setbacks may have left him distressed, his academic burdens seem to have only compounded the problem… neither his peer community at large nor his teachers showed the receptivity that could have addressed the seriousness of (his) plight,” it said.

The committee also observed that no grievance redressal mechanism was evident. “The Committee did not find any evidence of a grievance redressal mechanism in place in The Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies (CALTS)… Informal consultation with departments/ schools/ centres also revealed the absence of such a mechanism,” the report stated.

‘Antipathy clearly apparent’

2014: Justice K Ramaswamy committee report on Madari Venkatesh’s suicide.

On November 24, 2013, Madari Venkatesh, a postgraduate researcher in chemistry consumed poison. A committee, under Justice K Ramaswamy, found that Venkatesh was not allotted a supervisor since he joined the School of Chemistry despite several efforts, including a letter to then Vice-Chancellor Prof Ramakrishna Ramaswamy.

“No Doctoral Committee was constituted to supervise his research which is mandatory. Though six faculty members from School of Chemistry were available, none was willing to supervise his research. Whatever research he had done, it was only by his self effort… He was discriminated on the ground of caste consideration,” noted the committee.

Its report stated, “It is the consequence of institutional discrimination and systematic exercise of exclusive and oppressive behaviour of the Institution and the faculty of the School of Chemistry.”

It further observed, “The antagonism, antipathy and insensitive mindset of the faculty, in particular of the School of Chemistry… towards the student belonging to marginalized social groups is clearly apparent.”

Justice Ramaswamy also noted that the suggestions made by the V Pavarala and V Krishna committees were not implemented in full.

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  1. M
    MyTake
    Feb 8, 2016 at 5:56 am
    (* It is imperative that a top-ranking central insution takes a lead in nurturing and promoting a corps of scientists from among the marginalised sections.) Who you are going to compete with the scholars that will be produced? Talking about Nehruvian social Engineering? Didn't have enough of it? Consequences of LICENCE Raj mindset?
    Reply
    1. M
      MyTake
      Feb 8, 2016 at 5:43 am
      How a Ph.D. Scholar can be marginalized? Either he is not a scholar or he is not a marginalized - both can't apply to same person. A Scholar should be the one who keeps fighting for his scholarly conviction. If not scholar then he should have been in the vocational courses learning hands on skills which could have been subsidized which would have given him some confidence in life. For scholarly education there should be right education to the right person.
      Reply
      1. M
        MyTake
        Feb 8, 2016 at 6:10 am
        If they have to apply for job of a peon or cleaner (like many Ph.Ds in India do) they could have done a good job by taking that direction early in their life to save some significant period of years of their lives, learn some real life skill to struggle like everyone else and that would have set a good example for their future Children as well! That would have put them in a more respectable group of people.
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          Feb 8, 2016 at 5:52 am
          No where in the article it says a talented Ph.D. I thought someone have to be talented enough to do a Ph.D. If it is not the requirement then state it as such and make it a rule to give Ph.D. Degree to reserved category just at the end of period no matter what! Quota Ph.D. ! Best thing would have been to give them hands on job skill so they could look after themselves! Like leader like scholars you buggers!
          Reply
          1. M
            MyTake
            Feb 8, 2016 at 6:02 am
            Real antipathy is not giving them the skill to survive. Giving a name tag "scholar" can be a joke and a very Cr uel one When they have to pay with their own life like they did here ( if not earned the right to live that name among the people)! It's like changing the name to "Harijon" for the downtrodden without giving them a process how they can come out of their vicious life cycle!
            Reply
            1. M
              MyTake
              Feb 8, 2016 at 7:43 am
              Without resorting Caste politics: Do you really want to curve out your space among world community with quota Ph.D.? Isn't it better instead to give them skill according to what they can absorb starting from vocational skills. Give all the facilities to deserving candidates and there should not be any bar on that including Ph.D., Professorship, PM position, President's position everything - just invest wisely that will produce better results for all including the downtrodden. What a name sake Ph.D. will do other than just occupying another quota position? A right man in right place however if produces one job for a right Ph.D. there will be 100s of others down the line to fill up the position and they can go to those who can show other skills required for that job. If producing Ph.Ds for the sake of Ph.Ds then keep doing that so everyone one day find out Indian Ph.D. means is equivalent of a High School Degree from a recognised school!
              Reply
              1. K
                krishna rao
                Feb 8, 2016 at 12:11 pm
                CONG resp 4 ROT IN HYD U’sity and RESULTANT SEVERAL SUICIDES OVER d yrs - CONG neglected 2 take corrective action on Probe findings/recommendation
                Reply
                1. R
                  Rajesh
                  Feb 8, 2016 at 8:06 am
                  Good that the HRD min is taking its own actions. Meanwhile all the pseudo-seculars who shamelessly took advantage of a person's death have disappeared. Rahul is in Bangkok and Nautankiwal is in Bangalore.
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    Karunakaran
                    Feb 8, 2016 at 4:36 am
                    The drama queen selfie hunting dokhlabhai still thinks he is in the opposition. As the PM, he can't condemn. Condemning is the job of the opposition. The buck stops with him. He must deliver or get lost. But can he speak in the parliament? No. Does he speak in the parliament? No. All that we find is more black-to-pink photoshopped images of himself in the media, but the black drama queen selfie hunting dokhlabhai can't speak in the parliament. As he is uneducated, and his cabinet colleagues are uneducated, the economy is in shambles. But he wants to portray himself as some sort of a hero. India has enough heroes in Bollywood and cricket. What India needs is an able PM - and we should wait patiently until 2019 for either Mr Nitish Kumar or Mr Rahul hi.
                    Reply
                    1. s
                      spike71294
                      Feb 14, 2016 at 1:38 pm
                      OK
                      Reply
                      1. D
                        dipak s
                        Feb 8, 2016 at 7:05 am
                        For those ..who oppose the reservation and promote the superiority of upper caste......plz downgrade ur caste and try for higher education Phd or other scholar programme in Indian any universities ' than see the real-time experience You will have..!...however,take out any govt. or non-govt statistics about the Highest Corruption and Crime ...you will shock to know that so called meritorious-upper caste are having maximum involvement in these corruption and crime cases..better introspect ..stead preaching...!
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Sreenivasan
                          Feb 8, 2016 at 5:35 am
                          One more enquiry commission. They killed him once. Now they want to kill him every day.
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            ah
                            Feb 8, 2016 at 5:21 am
                            I read an article where a SITTING Judge of High Court in MAdhya Pradesh was slighted because he was DALIT ................ if Ambedkar would have been here he woul have called to take arms against MAnuwaadis .................. BUT oday's dalit leaders are happy with whatever CHARITY uppersacte gives ........... their lot will remain same for next 3000 years ............
                            Reply
                            1. L
                              Lovely
                              Feb 8, 2016 at 11:13 am
                              This Rohith business was created by Cong, because of GHMC elections , now it could get only 1 seat , now they will search some other University.
                              Reply
                              1. L
                                Lovely
                                Feb 8, 2016 at 11:18 am
                                n edu insution mocking is common , in one form or other. Northerners mock Southerners, North Easterners are mocked , Kashmiri muslims are viewed ,suiously and they are mocked as ISI agents, Daliths are mocked in very different way and even Brahmins are mocked in different way. Mocking of women is a commonest of all. Since naming and mocking is common, one should give clever replies ,. I f any one is depressed -- then it is sure gate way to suicidesuicide.
                                Reply
                                1. L
                                  Lovely
                                  Feb 9, 2016 at 12:46 am
                                  You are 100% right but here in Rohith case , he was concentrating more on non- academic pursuits , this is the crux of the problem. Why he should weep and fast for anti-national Yaqub?
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    kulaputra kulaputra
                                    Feb 8, 2016 at 1:27 am
                                    It is a pity that politics is being pla over suicides - a psychological condition that is easily curable if recognised and diagnosed early. What is required is counselling for these students. Especially the first student could have been easily cured. When we go to foreign countries and the entire culture is different, it is very tough for a student. May be it was like that for him as he was the first from his family in college. Generally, the alumni groups set up counselling and form a big part of this eco-system. Of course, in our country, with culture of take and not give, alumni have run away. Please do not politicise but act to prevent and provide proper counselling and psych help to those in need before bad things happen
                                    Reply
                                    1. G
                                      Garcia Madero
                                      Feb 8, 2016 at 5:41 am
                                      Whoever speaks for the backwards does so only for lip service. Not a single person is serious about them, not even the rich backward. IE, other media report the issues 'cos they want to make money. That's it! Simple. Period.
                                      Reply
                                      1. M
                                        Mel
                                        Feb 8, 2016 at 3:29 am
                                        Media is the key player in this. A poor dalit dies every day, this is not news so how come the selected one's are news? Think about it. An Example; Dilwale team paid media to highlight the movie in every possible way which to a trained or not trained eye is a super flop. Its really questionable what the media does. Good luck India
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mohan
                                          Feb 8, 2016 at 3:43 pm
                                          Did Rahul hi hold candles at the HCU in 2008 or 2013 ?
                                          Reply
                                          1. M
                                            Mohan
                                            Feb 8, 2016 at 3:42 pm
                                            Has the Indian Express sent its reporter to Rahul hi to find out why he did not visits the HCU in 2008 or 2013 when not one but three Dalit students committed suicide ? Was it because his party was ruling both Centre and State and Madam Antonia was the Chairperson of the cozy club called NAC
                                            Reply
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