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‘What do you think happens to Dalits in big colleges? I don’t even speak good English’

Gramapudi Pavan: Dalit student from Guntur, near Rohith Vemula’s hometown; wants to do graduation in science

Written by Sreenivas Janyala |
Updated: January 1, 2017 5:46:36 am
dalit students, rohith vemula, rohith vemula case, rohith vemula hometown, dalit scholar suicide, dalit student suicide, hyderabad university dalits, dalit education, india news Rohith Vemula’s death on January 17, 2016, days after protesting with four other Dalit students who had been expelled from the hostel, had laid bare the complex caste fault lines on campuses across the country.

To mark 2017, The Sunday Express meets 17-year-olds across the country touched by the big events of 2016 — to listen to their questions as they begin their first year of adulthood.

After his Class 10, Gramapudi Pavan wanted to join the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Guntur town, but opted for an Intermediate college (Class 10 and 12) “because it was less expensive”. Pavan, the son of a tenant farmer, and his family — parents and two younger siblings — live on Narsaraopet Road, not far from where Rohith Vemula, the Dalit PhD scholar who committed suicide on January 17 at the University of Hyderabad, grew up.

A second-year student of CEC (Civics, Economics, and Commerce) at the S M Intermediate College in Guntur, Pavan hopes to go to S M College near Guntur next year for a graduation degree in commerce. “It is a good college and has a big campus,” he says. But Pavan has his worries: “I have heard a lot of ragging happens in these big colleges. But I am more worried about being identified by my caste.”

dalit students, rohith vemula, rohith vemula case, rohith vemula hometown, dalit scholar suicide, dalit student suicide, hyderabad university dalits, dalit education, india news “So much debate happened after Rohith Vemula’s death but nothing has changed. I do not know what I might have to face,” says Pavan from Guntur.

And many questions: “Do you think I will be targeted by teachers if I ask too many questions? Will senior students target me if I do not do as they say? What do you think happens to Dalit students in big colleges? I do not speak good English. Do you think it will be a problem in a big college?’’ Sometimes he wonders if he should go to college at all, he admits. “I already have mixed feelings.”

Rohith Vemula’s death on January 17, 2016, days after protesting with four other Dalit students who had been expelled from the hostel, had laid bare the complex caste fault lines on campuses across the country. Pavan says all his life he has been aware of what it means to be a Dalit in Guntur. “Upper-caste boys don’t mingle with us, they tell us we are better off working as labourers than studying,” he says. His siblings — in Classes 10 and 6 — get taunted too, he adds. “So much debate happened after Rohith Vemula’s death but nothing has changed. I do not know what I might have to face.”

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