Vemula Buried “In Secret”
HYDERABAD: This is Facebook post by Chittibabu Padavala, a former student of Osmania University in Hyderabad who has posted photographs of Rohith Vemula’s “Secret” funeral on his page, and written the following post that The Citizen produces unedited:
First they burnt his body in secret, now they got his profile removed from facebook. Is it in recognition of the fact that mourning ROHITH VEMULA is now spirit of the age on the campuses across the country? Is this yet another of the their bungled and belated attempts to not leave any scope for memorialising him and preventing him from becoming an icon. One of India's foremost analysts of fascism, Nalini Taneja, described it the tragedy of our times. Bahujan thinker Surendra Raju called Rohith Vemula a hero of our times! Journalist Divya Trivedi is confident that once the news of burning of his body in deceptive secrecy is out, there will be more and more funerals and heroic farewells across the nation. A leading Telugu poet said some deaths set in motion rebellions from even the noose. Prophetically, the poet said it barely hours after the news of death is out. What explains an unacceptable form of protest, a nihilistic act that cannot be rendered appealing is now accepted and described as a case of unambiguous heroism?
Our well-established principle is that there is a clear and unmissable difference between risking one's life in face of even sure danger to it and taking one's life when you can avoid it. Yet, the incredibly unprecedented things in the aftermath of his death seems to force such principle be more nuanced and even requiring rethinking. After all, in his death, Rohith activated the conscience of the nation, which, not very long ago brayed for the blood of the innocents. Thus, Rohith's awakening of the conscience of country is no mere restoring it to a previous state. It is also humanising it, purifying it. In giving up life, the warrior didn't give up fight. He intensified and extended it. The shock, anger and utter despair the ending of so precious and promising a life all felt when the tragic news hit us was, channelled and transformed into a call for decisive action by the heroic and sustained fight put up by University of Hyderabad students not only achieved the historical first of registering an atrocity case against a VC and a criminal case againt a Union Minister, who instigated the persecution of Rohith and his fellow activists such as Seshu Chemudugunta, Dontha Prashanth, Sunkanna Velpula, Vijay Kumar P Sundar who were suspended along with Rohith (the suspension order against them has not yet been revoked though).
The agitating students of the university and beyond infused meaning and purpose in the death of their leader, comrade and friend. From evening 5.00 to the following day 6.30, between 200-500 students physically prevented the police from taking the dead body, it was only when a batch of students took a break to freshen up and the strength fell to a mere 100 or so, the police pulled off a surprise attack, with full force and brutality and mass arrests and dispersals, managed to 'kidnap' the dead body of Rohith. This unprepared but alert fight of the students of University of Hyderabad, conducted with impressive patience and commitment succeeded in filling the heroic meaning now the name of Rohith Vemula stands for and stands firm!
(Sadly there isn't much video footage about it or hasn't surfaced it yet, but here is a small snippet that captures the mood on the spot:https://www.dropbox.com/s/fpc8mx…/VID_20160118_171254-5.mp4…)
That Rohith had the courage to take full responsibility for his act, didn't try to settle scores with anybody, even enemies, while made it sure to clear his debts off and did not fall for any cynicism, even in such despair he succumbed to, only endears him to the whole world, shows him what kind of a lovely human he is. It does not absolve anybody from their criminal responsibility. It only points to how deep and wide the rot is in our higher educational system.
With this Rohith politically educated a generation, even those beyond his immediate reach otherwise, with a gentle touch typical of him and immuned his death from putting to any simplistic uses even misuses. Always a man with a rare attentiveness to complexities, open mind and an ability for self-criticism, prevents us from any temptation to draw any simplistic conclusions or offer simplistic explanations.
I don't want to forgive him (nor can I forgive myself) for his resorting to such form of protest which I abhor, but there is a certain majesty in what he did with his final testimony, his suicide note. It is not merely a scribbling of a man who underestimated himself to an unacceptable, even an absurd, degree. it is full of humanity, forgiveness, honesty and a martyr's care for the world he is quitting and a sage's good wishes for the world which, he felt, let him down. His note, which will be a crucial document for exposing the disavowed deep-seated barbarism of our campuses, in its worst, Hindutva, phase. Reversing Benjamin, however, this is also a document of civilisation. It is difficult not to fall in love with a man who not only takes full responsibility for his death but takes every care to be responsible towards the world he is leaving in disappointment. As the UoH student agitation, which now spread across most campuses in the country and called attention to the whole populace to it through media must and will ensure there will be structures, protections, sensibilities and arrangements to save people from tragedies, cruelties, oppressions and controls. Rohith seems to have made a tragic 'calculation', as his mentor speculated, to save many more lives by sacrificing his own.