'Atmosphere at the varsity is scary'

'Atmosphere at the varsity is scary'

'Atmosphere at the varsity is scary'

Ramji Chintagada, president of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) of University of Hyderabad (UoH) joined ASA along with Rohith Vemula. ASA has a membership of 750 students out of the 5,000 students enrolled at the UoH. Ramji spoke to J B S Umanadh of Deccan Herald.


The ABVP sees ASA as an association with extreme ideology and issues you have raised were not considered as mainstream. How do you define ASA?
The ABVP’s core ideology is Hindutva and they fight for a Hindu Rastra.  Any one questioning their hegemony is considered as an enemy. The majority will always try to project the minority as anti-national and casteist. The struggle against caste itself is termed as casteist. The opposition a Dalit faces is big and we have no ways and means to fight it. We have to mix a bit of controlled aggression. It is not that ASA goes and beats people as projected by the ABVP.

How far is discrimination visible in UoH, how strong is the bias?
Discrimination becomes visible when these kinds of incidents happen on the campus. This is (abetment to suicide) basically a right wing conspiracy. Despite the BJP coming to power at the Centre, the ABVP has been losing its sheen in the campus. There is a conspiracy to silence voice of the oppressed to take the ABVP agenda forward. Rohith’s was a strong voice.

What happened on the night of August 2, 2015 when ABVP leader Susheel Kumar alleged that 40 ASA activists thrashed him and forced him to sign an apology letter?
I was not there on that night. But as ASA president, I sought explanation from my members. I was told that none of them was involved in that incident.  We did not attack any one. Never before in the history of the campus was a Proctoral Board decision challenged by the students. We did not want to be victimised for no fault of ours. We did not trouble the administration, we were sleeping in the open, and we took up protests to tell the administration to understand that there were inconsistencies in their reports. But the administration and the VC were reluctant to talk.

How do you describe Rohith Vemula, he mentioned your name in his suicide note.
We knew each other since our days in Students Federation of India. He was energetic, always used to express his thoughts with clarity. He was loved by everyone around him. He was a genuine character, a true nationalist. He used to get ideas we never could think of. He was the one who always took the initiative. Recently, he conducted a condolence meeting after Yakub Memom was hanged. He said that we have to do this. There is an attempt to malign his memories by terming it as anti-nationalist. I know personally what his thoughts were.

What is the road ahead? Do you see a bright future for Dalit students or has it reached the point of no return?
Me and Rohith used to have such discussions. Education is very important for the Dalits. Everything else comes later. Education will takes us to greater heights, like Ambedkar had said.  Students coming from extreme poverty lose hope when things like this happen. They are asking why the VC is not bothered about us. The entire picture is scaring the Dalits in the campus. Even I am scared.

How far is the ghettoisation of Rohith’s early childhood a reason for desperation and the suicide?
These issues were always there, many Dalit students have gone through discrimination in childhood, including me. Here, Rohith was served expulsion orders and he wrote to the VC. The letter itself was a statement to convey to the VC that anything can happen. And VC did not bother for a month. Rohith has made his intentions clear.

Do you think Rohith’s death may change the way the university administrations looks at the Dalit issues?
See, when research scholar Madari Venkatesh committed suicide, there was a probe, but we did not get justice. A counsellor was appointed but suicides did not stop. Mechanisms may be there but they are not working.