special service

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 star dust. In very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.

‘From shadows to the stars.’

an eXcerpt from Rohith Vemula’s suicide note.

On January 17th 2016, Rohith Vemula committed suicide. He left behind a note saying that he was doing so because of the oppression he had been facing at the hands of his university administration, because he belonged to a particular caste, and his active role in Dalit politics on campus.

With his demise, a wave of protests swept across the country. The State tried to, and succeeded in, suppressing many of them.

Amongst these was a candlelight vigil organised at India Gate in Rohith’s memory, led by his mother Radhika Vemula and attended by students from all over the country, including a contingent from his university, the University of Hyderabad. Surprisingly, the State did not allow this peaceful vigil either. All the attendees, including Radhika, were detained by the police and taken to nearby police stations in DTC buses- normally the public transport vehicles of the city- which were marked ’00 Special Service’.

This piece is a reflection on the series of events that took place that evening, symbolically trying to light the candle that wasn’t lit on that day.