NEW DELHI -- In separate letters to Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, a student from Jawharlal Nehru University, and SC/ST faculty members from the University of Hyderabad, have objected to her describing Rohith Vemula as a "child," while addressing Parliament.
In recent parliamentary debates about the Dalit student, who hanged himself at University of Hyderabad on January 17, Irani has blasted Bharatiya Janata Party's opponents for using a "child as a political tool." Her fiery speech and emotionally choked responses in Parliament have been criticized for being high on rhetoric, but dubious on facts.
Anant Prakash Narayan, who was the vice-president of the JNU Students’ Union, has been charged with sedition by the Modi government along with five other university students. They are accused of raising "anti-national" slogans on campus, and organizing an event to mark the third anniversary of the Afzal Guru's execution.
“I heard your speech in Parliament. Let me make this clear. This is not a letter from a 'child' to any 'motherly' minister. This letter is from an individual with a specific political viewpoint to another political person," Narayan wrote in a letter which was published in Kafila on Sunday.
"इससे पहले की मै अपनी बात रखूँ , यह स्पष्ट कर दूं की यह पत्र किसी “बच्चे” का किसी “ममतामयी” मंत्री के नाम नहीं है बल्कि यह पत्र एक खास विचारधारा की राजनीति करने वाले व्यक्ति का पत्र दूसरे राजनैतिक व्यक्ति को है."
In his letter, Narayan said, "You repeatedly assert your identity of being a woman. And this should be done because women are among those who have been oppressed for ages. I want to ask whether a Dalit women was struggling to find a space for her children in society then what is your responsibility as a woman. Should you have not recognized her bravery. Yes, I'm talking about Rohith's mother."
"आप बार बार अपनी औरत होने की पहचान (आइडेंटिटी) को assert करतीं हैं और इसको करना भी चाहिए क्यूंकि नारी जाति उन ढेर सारे हाशिये पर किए गए लोगों में एक है जिनको सदियों से शोषित किया गया है. मै आपसे यह पूछना चाहता हूँ कि एक दलित स्त्री जो कि हर तकलीफ उठाते हुए अकेले अपने दम पर जब अपने बेटे बेटियों को इस समाज में एक सम्मानपूर्ण जगह देने के लिए संघर्ष कर रही थी तब एक नारी होने के कारण आप की क्या जिम्मेदारी बनती थी ? क्या आपको उस महिला के जज्बे को सलाम करते हुए उसकी बहादुरी के आगे सर झुकाते हुए उसके साथ नहीं खड़ा होना चाहिए था? हाँ, मै रोहित की माँ के बारे में बात कर रहा हूँ."
Narayan described Vemula's suicide as "institutional murder."
"One final point. During a protest, you came before the camera and pretended to cry and expressed concern about the safety of your children. My mother is a bit concerned but she is not crying. My mother says keeping fighting Modi. Don't be afraid."
"अंतिम बात कह करके अपनी बात खत्म करूँगा, एक बार कभी किसी ने आपके घर के बाहर प्रोटेस्ट किया था तो आप कैमरे के आगे आकर रोने की कोशिश कर रहीं थी और अपने बच्चों के डर का हवाला दे रहीं थीं, लेकिन मेरी माँ नहीं रो रही हैं, बस थोड़ी चिन्तित हैं लेकिन फिर भी बोले जा रही हैं कि मोदी से लड़ते रहना, डरना मत."
Last year, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, a BJP lawmaker, wrote to Irani about the “anti-national acts" of the Dalit students, urging her to take action against them. Irani is under fire because the HRD Ministry sent five letters to Hyderabad Central University, asking the educational institution to look into the concerns raised by Dattatreya.
In a separate letter, published in The Telegraph on Sunday, SC/ST Teachers' Forum & Concerned Faculty, University of Hyderabad also blasted Irani for referring to Vemula as a "child," and described it as a "patronising attempt to dehumanise his reality"
"It is also deeply disrespectful to Rohit's mother whose child he actually is - because she knows how ironic your appropriation of him is, considering your culpability in his death," they said in the letter.
"As we watched you in disbelief on our TV screens on 24th February 2016, you, in a voice choked with emotion, again and again referred to the "child" whose death has been used as a political weapon. We were left bewildered.
At what precise point, Madam Minister, did this sinister, anti-national, casteist, Dalit student of the University of Hyderabad transform into a child for you? Definitely not in those five rejoinders from MHRD (the ministry of human resource development) between 03-09-2015 and 19-11- 2015 with the subject line "anti-national activities in Hyderabad Central University Campus"? Definitely not when you chose to overlook and endorse what can only be read as extraordinarily aggressive and unfounded allegations by a minister in your own government, Mr Bandaru Dattatreya?"
Read the full letter in The Telegraph.