Distortion and deception are once again on display in the public recriminations over the unfortunate suicide of a Hyderabad University doctorate student, Rohith Vemula. The usual suspects, last seen in full flow in the horrendous Dadri killing on the eve of the Bihar Assembly poll, are again at it, gnashing their teeth at the Sangh Parivar and, in the process, hoping to burnish their secularist credentials. Criticism uninformed by facts and, vitally, by any idea about Vemula’s desperation at the time he took the extreme step, dominates the nightly bash-the-BJP debate on various television channels. It is open season yet again against the Modi Sarkar. Admittedly, the BJP has not helped its cause by failing to anticipate the almost certain ganging-up of the entire secularist crowd. This has now become the norm. But the party always seems to be caught napping when faced with an avalanche of abuse from the same quarters which refuse to believe that Narendra Modi won a fair election in May 2014.
A lack of imaginative leadership, and the vacation of public mind space the BJP had occupied so long as it was in opposition, has led to a reactive, defensive attitude. For BJP, winning power has meant putting itself in the dock, open for all comers to throw stones at it. If the party does not take corrective measures, before long it would have frittered away all its goodwill, and given the secularists the victory they certainly do not deserve. From the dim-wit Rahul Gandhi to the pretender Arvind Kejriwal, and everyone else in-between, the nation can be rescued from a future mishap only if the Sangh Parivar in general and the BJP in particular can begin to fulfil ordinary Indians’ aspirations for bijli, paani, sadak. In short, sabka saath, sabka vikas.
But even as the government, now in its 20th month, concentrates on delivering, the ruling party must undertake to de-fang its professional baiters who seek to disrupt the functioning of the government. For instance, the failure to anticipate that they would try and blow Vemula’s suicide out of all proportion by dragging in the world-view of the Sangh Parivar and thus taking the focus away from his dire financial state, has needlessly made it lose the perception war.
Not unlike tens of thousands of farmers who most tragically felt impelled to commit suicide due to groaning financial woes, the research scholar was driven to desperation by the abrupt stoppage of his Rs 25,000 monthly stipend. The university had its own reasons, particularly when Vemula had abandoned a course mid-way—besides, the UGC bureaucracy can be as irksome as the babudom in any government. He had borrowed Rs 40,000 from the head of the Ambedkar Students Association, a fact mentioned in the suicide note. That money was uppermost on his mind when he ended his life comes out clearly. He says that he is to get Rs 175,000 from the university and that after paying Rs 40,000 to the ASA head, the remaining money should be sent to his parents.
But when the agenda is political pinning down, the specificity of the actual trigger for Vemula’s suicide becomes irrelevant. His death becomes a mere instrument, not unlike the one-off madness in Dadri, for BJP-bashing. Unfortunately, without investing much sociological mumbo-jumbo, and thus try and elevate the sheer mundane-ness behind the unfortunate suicide of a research scholar to a highfalutin plane, about Dalit versus non-Dalit faultlines present in the society, the talking heads cannot push their partisan agendas. Therefore, the crucial fact of his financial woes preying on his mind virtually goes unmentioned.
Again, it is not inconceivable that Susheel Kumar, the head of the ABVP in the university, was assaulted after the ASA demonstrated against the ABVP boys’ action in the Delhi University for preventing the screening of an anti-RSS/BJP documentary on the Muzaffarpur riots. Given that earlier ASA had demonstrated against the hanging of Yakub Memon, led Kumar to dub them as anti-national on his Facebook entry. Since various student bodies generally reflect the attitudes of the parties they are affiliated to, only the ASA seemed to stray into uncharted territories. Protesting against the implementation of the Supreme Court order caused Kumar to call them goons on social media.
Soon about 40-odd ASA students barged into his room, bullied him into writing an apology and to delete the offending Facebook entry. Anyone who fails to appreciate the sequence of events in the university campus clearly is driven by extraneous motives. Feeling humiliated, Kumar complained to the police. The university ordered an inquiry but the clean-chit to ASA boys lacked credibility since Kumar was not examined. He was in a hospital following injuries received at the hands of the ASA boys. Another inquiry was ordered which heard Kumar before giving its report. Five boys, including Vemula, were suspended before being expelled.
Most significantly, the action against the ASA boys came before the HRD Ministry waded into the matter. Being a local BJP MP, Bandaru Dattatreya was obliged to draw the attention of the HRD Minister. But the point is that those four HRD reminders to the vice-chancellor became necessary because he had not acknowledged any one of them. Besides, he had proceeded against the ASA boys even before the first of the four letters from the Ministry was received.
So, why all this hullaballoo to drag the HRD Ministry into the ugly shadowboxing when the agenda is to bash Modi regardless of the facts in hand? Why do they wait for a murder in Dadri or a student suicide in Hyderabad to unleash the vile invective against the winner of the parliamentary poll? Regardless, they should keep frothing at the mouths on nightly TV, now that it is open season against the BJP. And BJP has forgotten the way to take the battle to the enemy camp.
A GREAT SACRIFICE IN VAIN
Oh, it is him again! Will someone tell Ashok Vajpeyi he can do his damndest, but the Modi government is not going to throw him the littlest of crumbs. Did you notice that the fellow made much to-do about returning his honorary degree from the Hyderabad University after the suicide of Rohith Vemula hit headlines? And to make sure that the world got to know of his great sacrifice, he went to a national news agency, cutting short his precious drinking time at the India International bar, to make certain that the news was put out all over. Asked the reason for Vemula’s suicide, the poet was blank. He did not know why Vemula had taken his own life.
Vajpeyi was a common sight on TV channels during the post-Dadri award-wapsi charade. But this time, to his utter surprise, nobody took note. Maybe they had sized him up as a charlatan who owed his “artist” tag to the largesse bestowed on him by his benefactor, the late Arjun Singh. Otherwise, he was a mediocre bureaucrat, who never went beyond the joint secretary level and even as a poet his reputation was built on mutual back-scratching, which now defines much of the art world.
Yes, with Arjun Singh as HRD Minister, Vajpeyi did rule the roost. Why Singh allowed him a free hand is another story. In his position as joint secretary in the Culture Department, he made his sister-in-law head of the National School of Drama, his brother chairman of Asia Poetry at Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal, and got him a fellowship from Sahitya Akademi. His father-in-law Nemichand Jain received a Ford Foundation grant. This is not all. His son, Kabir, all of 26 years then, was appointed as an eminent architect by the Lalit Kala Akademi. Small wonder, then, someone who knows him well summed up Vajpayei as “a power broker disguised as a poet.” Amen