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Dalit Politics in light of Rohith Vemula’s suicide

It is unfortunate when anyone dies. More so, when someone commits suicide. Various reasons could be attributed – for which no answers can be proven true or otherwise. Rohith Vemula’s suicide is one such case. Our politicians didn’t disappoint though – they stuck to the script and immediately made a beeline to Hyderabad to start the tamaasha.

Rahul Gandhi, true to form, showed his naiveity by rushing immediately. Others like TMC, AAP and LJP too joined the party. Mysterious is the relative silence from the ruling TRS / TDP (I include TDP because Hyderabad is the shared capital). Why is no one pointing fingers at them? Though the university is under the purview on the HRD Ministry, student politics is usually local. Is there something more than what we are shown?

Having said that, it is necessary to filter the media madness. One of the main reasons why I believe this news is being played up is because of BJP’s increased focus for the SC/STs. It may be too simplistic to equate a death with politics, but that’s the way it is now. Let me elaborate.

Over a week though the spotlight was on #StartUpIndia, Modi government also launched the #StandUpIndia campaign. This campaign was to help people from the SC and ST categories, along with women. The #StandUpIndia campaign, along with the MUDRA scheme has the potential to change the dynamics of the dalit class. If more and more of the people from this class are self reliant, the damage to the “socialist” politics will be deep. With the middle class increasingly moving to the Right-side of the political spectrum, other parties are merely trying to fan the tension to win the dalit electorate over (especially, in light of huge number of backward class people voted for Modi in 2014).

This was evident when the impact of Modi’s policies on dalits was acknowledged by Left’s own folks. Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the DICCI (Dalit Industrial Chambers of Commerce and Industry) also sent out a clear message that this government believed more in empowering the dalit community, rather than announce a slew of freebies. With high number of dalit MPs, if the government has chosen this path – there must be sufficient political backing too.

Another symbolic task taken to completion by PM Modi along with Maharashtra CM Fadnavis was to buy the house in London where Ambedkar stayed. It was a long standing political demand for the government to buy that house in London. This house was bought for Rs 40 cr and the plan is to convert it into a international memorial and research center.

From the opposition perspective, this is not the first attempt to get the traditional share of dalit votes back. Rahul Gandhi, in particular, has been playing all cards up his sleeve. Ever since his Jupiter’s escape velocity for dalits comment was ridiculed all over, he has been trying to make amends. Right from visiting Ambedkar’s birthplace Mhow in Madhya Pradesh to eating in a dalit‘s house. Last year, his party even tried to create another rift when IIT Madras was dragged with the “Ambedkar- Periyar Study Circle” issue. As nothing came out of this, politics is being played around Rohith’s death. I am sure there is more to come before 2019, in terms of dalit politics.

As a side note, it is also surprising to see how the left wing ecosystem activates at the first sign of blood. Ashok Vajpayi started the “Degree Wapasi” nonsense. FTII also had a march in protest of Rohit’s suicide. You are not at fault for wondering the link between FTII and Hyderabad University. As usual, the mainstream media is always ready to give a helping hand. The opportunity to bash Smriti Irani and PM Modi on a single issue is just too tempting to let go by.

For me, the true test of this case will be to see how the news unfolds. Smriti Irani has already given a fiery reply to her opponents in a press conference. If this narrative survives the upcoming release of Netaji files on 23rd January, then Modi government will be in trouble. If not, Modi can just dust it out and continue with his job.

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