Rohith Vemula’s Institutional Homicide: Systemic Brahmanical Ramifications in Indian Academia

Arpana Ingle


The adjectives seem to be ceaseless when it comes to describing Rohith Vemula, a young Ambedkarite, politically vibrant, intellectual, bright, brave, courageous, student leader, activist fighting against injustice. Ambedkar had strongly asserted that 'the village is nothing but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism.' These words of Ambedkar are applicable to the Indian academia as well. Ideally, educational institutions must be free from discrimination on the basis of caste/gender/class biases and victimization. On the contrary, the educational institutions are highly casteist and brahamanical. This is not the first time that the students from marginalized communities have had to face humiliation and ended up being murdered, there has been a concatenation of unnatural deaths of Dalit students from the different IITs, from AIIMS, IIMs and universities across India, several times the homicides of the Dalit students and activists go unreported.

Moreover, it is peculiar that Central University of Hyderabad with a vibrant campus, teaching and researching subjects such as anthropology and sociology, which are supposed to study the human behavior and are meant to treat people with humanity inside its premises, is acting the other way around. After all, the higher institutions are embodied with brahmanical ideology, so it would be unexpected from the university to anticipate that they would treat Dalit students with dignity. Rohith belonged to socio-economically vulnerable background and was raised by a mother who is a single parent. Despite his impoverished socio-economic conditions he did very well in academics and was an organic intellectual. In student politics, Rohith has recorded his shift from Marxist ideology to Ambedkarite ideology, he was striving for the just and humane society envisioned by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. However, the casteist brahamanical society has murdered him.

It is evident that through this institutional homicide that the right wing, Brahmanical Hindu fundamentalists possessed a commonality, a fraternity/brotherhood of similar social background, though, their position varied from ministers, proctor, and the administrative casteist staff, they all worked together and boycotted the socially excluded students who were fighting for their rights. It reminds me of the perennial incidences of the atrocities and killing of Dalits in the rural as well as urban arena, when the Dalits demands their land rights, procession rights etc., particularly in villages the economic as well as social boycott have been enacted upon them by the upper castes. In the university, it is the duty and responsibility of the administrators as well as the faculties and concerned authorities to make students feel comfortable and live in a sphere where they are not discriminated based on their castes. University’s authorities, staff and the students must deconstruct the notion of caste and must learn, unlearn and relearn[1] the things about their social status and thinking. Rohith wanted to live his life in dignity, desperately. He wanted to become a science writer, to rise like Ambedkar, but the brahamanical cadre suppressed his talents, skills, creativity, bravery and the brutal casteist society made him feel death is better than his life.

Institutional homicide, is the failure of Indian educational system. Organic intellectuals from Dalit communities are a threat to the upper castes communities, they are afraid of challenges posed by their insights and scholarship. Brahmanism is a disease, it is deeply rooted in the upper caste people’s mindset, Rohith’s homicide is the repercussion of the systemic suppression of the Dalit voices which are emerging strongly against the injustices, vulnerabilities, casteist and brahamanical approaches. The murder would have been prevented if the concerned authorities would have taken the social boycott and suspension of five Dalit research scholars gravely. The petitions created by the Ambedkar Student Association students from University of Hyderabad demanded the suspension of the social boycott of the research scholars. Moreover, the concerned authorities at the universities and at the ministry turned a complete blind eye on it, instead they showed their fraternity and brotherhood by praising and protecting the upper castes and boycotting the Dalit scholars socially, emotionally, culturally, economically and politically.

The institutional homicide is the sheer, deliberate negligence and failure of the University of Hyderabad, in particular, and Indian academia in general. The need of the hour is for upper caste brahamanical forces to come forward and remove their casteist attitudes, they should reform themselves by rejecting their imagined superiorities over other humans.


[1] The words ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’ taken from one of the lecture by Prof. G. G. Wankhede (TISS, former faculty).



Arpana Ingle is pursuing her PhD from TISS, Mumbai

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