India is talking about Rohith Vemula’s suicide. Many are calling it a murder. People want heads to roll. They want to taste the winds of change on their fat tongues. After all, the right to protest is crucial to societal advancement. Even Pythagorean cups must spill over, if need be.
But I don’t understand why Rohith is seen as a martyr. He killed himself, unable to cope with caste-based discrimination in the education system. The young man gave up on the fight. Even if he intended to make a statement on victimization of Dalits, it still meant there is one less person now, committed to change, in the country. His death, while it may not diminish the cause, will add precious little towards it.
India needs activists like Rohith to stick around; at least, to compensate for the misguided antics of its armchair activists. Hours after the news broke about his suicide, there was public outrage. An eruption of anger against the mechanics of oppression as imposed by a tyrannical system. The atmosphere was so tense that people drew ridiculous conclusions.
Apparently, there is corruption is India. And we judge each other based on caste and religion. Even a shocking suggestion that perhaps inequalities continue to exist in our society. If only these virtual warriors had prior knowledge of it, they would have been there to voice their disapproval. And nobody would have had to die to prove anything.
The world is messed up. Such a revelation, isn’t it? Let’s strap on our seat-belts, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the dawn of anarchy. Next stop – zombie apocalypse.
Maybe it is just another case of reactive activism. A malady borne of our growing need for comfort and convenience while contributing towards seemingly-productive ideologies. It is how social media diminishes our true potential to be forces of good. We may have used technology to facilitate our ability to protest against injustice. We haven’t managed to think much about the actual protest itself.
It reminded me of an incident that had happened years ago. A few ladies were physically assaulted outside a pub in Mangalore by uncouth ultra-conservatives. Everyone was aghast over the extent of gender-bias in India. They were horrified over what had happened simply because they could specifically relate to the victimization. It didn’t matter to them, prior to this, that women from rural communities were put through far worse discrimination.
Our voices may be getting louder but they are feebler than ever before. The dissident doesn’t have a face anymore. The rebel has gone digital. He is an auto-tune, ready to say whatever has been agreed upon. Now he wants to claim that the system killed a young Dalit student. He wants to forget that corrupt politicians are also made of the same stardust. It doesn’t matter how such glorification can lead to more young minds choosing the same route to echo their sentiments. And it certainly is of no consequence that he is being manipulated by the media to take action through their sponsored channels.
It is tragic that Rohith was put in a position where he felt that he had to take his own life. It is also unfortunate that there is a homeless family living outside the High Court premises in Chennai. They were displaced due to a post-tsunami land dispute. The father stays awake until 5 AM on most days because he is afraid that his teenage daughter is under threat whenever it’s dark. There is a good chance the system, at some point, had failed him. If ever he decided to commit suicide to show us that ‘prevention is better than cure’, that wouldn’t help matters.
It isn’t with condescension that I make such inferences of matters I am not a part of. It’s just that if I see a duck, and find myself unable to identify its sub-classification – I still won’t question, whether or not, it is a duck at all.
Today, I saw Northern Pintails for the first time.
but first… shhhhh
go back to sleep.
(Photographs: Shollinganalur Lake, Chennaai)
“I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body.
And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write. I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored.
…I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.”