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Remembering Rohith: Four Years On!


It has been four years since the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula in the University of Hyderabad. It was brutal, caste-based institutional discrimination that took Rohith from us. 17th January 2016 was a breaking point for the student community, where we were forced to reckon with the recurring and continuous violence of institutional discrimination within university spaces, which had previously stolen the precious lives of students such as Mudassir Kamran, Senthil and Raju. Heartbreakingly, in the last year, we have lost Dr Payal Tadvi and Fathima Lateef, two Muslim women students who too, had the right to be “the glorious thing[s] made of star dust” that Rohith mentioned in his last letter, but had their dreams and lives stolen by the realities of Islamophobia and caste discrimination in the so-called progressive, elite university spaces.
The Justice for Rohith movement has been led from the front by Radhika Vemula, who has never rested or given up in her fight to ensure justice for her son. She has joined hands with Fathima Nafees, who has spent her past few years since the enforced disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed from Jawaharlal Nehru University, on the streets, in protests, and in the courts of law. Without these two women, the movements of Justice for Rohith and Where is Najeeb would be nowhere; it is their fighting spirit which has given the student community not just hope, but also a clear direction in which to take their fights ahead. It is the political education given to us by leaders such as Radhika amma and Fathima ammi which have formed the backbone of many student movements continuing today, and therefore it is also our most urgent duty to ensure that our commitment to the fight for Justice for Rohith does not flag and is not given up, even as four years have passed today. There is total impunity at play in the highest corridors of power, and nowhere is this clearer than in the fight against institutional discrimination in universities. It is deeply unfortunate that in the cases of Dr Payal Tadvi and Fathima Lateef, even the mentioning of Islamophobia in the prestigious IITs or to envision the vulnerability of being an Bhil Muslim woman in medical educational spaces as Dr Payal was, is met with resistance, ridicule or rejection altogether. Even the naming of institutional violence and discrimination is itself a challenge for students from marginalized communities in university spaces.

The demand for a comprehensive Rohith Act has been repeated and must be strengthened today. It is imperative that student organizations and activists come together to make this Act a reality and ensure that it can in some form, challenge the unchecked discrimination against marginalized students in higher educational spaces. We continue to extend our unconditional solidarity to the fight of Radhika Vemula, for self-respect, dignity and existence.