Six years ago, Rohith Vemula, a dalit PhD candidate from the University of Hyderabad died by suicide after he was denied fellowship and evicted from the hostel. In his last letter, he wrote, “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of stardust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”
Vemula’s death laid bare the discriminatory practices and prejudice against students from dalit and other minority communities in the Indian academia. It also shook the conscience of the entire nation, setting off a chain of events that continue to be relevant for the Dalit movement in the country even today.
On his death anniversary, the Indian Cultural Forum remembers Rohith Vemula and his spirit of resistance.
“From Shadows to the Stars”: A tribute to Rohith Vemula
– ICF Team
Indian Cultural Forum looks back at the discrimination faced by Rohith Vemula and the events that followed his death.
We Have Not Come Here to Die: A Film by Deepa Dhanraj
– Kanika Katyal
Documentary filmmaker Deepa Dhanraj’s We Have Not Come Here to Die, comes as a testimony to the historic moment that galvanized student politics in India and changed caste conversations forever. It was released and screened in university spaces across India. At a time when even the fourth pillar of democracy seemed to have succumbed to the pressures and demands of fascist regimes, students spoke up.
The systematic and the institutional murder of Vemula not only unearthed the reality in university spaces but also opened the doors to a space for cultural resistance. There was widespread outcry, and, since then, there has arisen a steady resistance across the country. Through their cultural resistance, these groups are successful in mobilising people in breaking the barriers of caste, gender, religion, region in our society.
Translating Rohith Vemula’s Poetry
– ICF Team
After Vemula’s death in 2016, the Centre for Translations at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, organised a translation workshop titled ‘Know in your Language, Communicate in your Voice: Translating the Works of Rohith Vemula’ where twenty-nine participants, who spoke thirteen languages — Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam, Assamese, Bengali, Telugu, Kashmiri, Urdu, Odiya, Tamil, Nepali and French — translated Vemula’s poetry.
A Film from Rohith Vemula’s Last Words
– ICF Team
This short film, produced by students at the Government Law College, Ernakulam, is described as a visualisation of Rohith’s suicide letter.
An art tribute to Rohith Vemula
Oorali, a contemporary conversational band pays tribute to Rohit Vemula, who sent a shiver up the spine of fascism with his death.
In Memory of Rohith Vemula (1989-2016)
– Savi Sawarkar, Meena Alexander, Orijit Sen
Artist Savi Sawarkar recounts dalit identity through a counter-aesthetic. Poet Meena Alexander reminds us of the texture of Rohith Vemula’s caste-defined life and death, with his last letter as the centre-point. Artist Orjit Sen dedicates to Rohith Vemula a graphic retelling of another story of resistance, that of Nangeli.