On the 4th of March, 2019, a 16-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree just outside the village of Rouni, nestled in the Sal-forested hills of Jashpur in Chhattisgarh, India. Manita had chosen not to accompany her parents to a meeting on caste certificates held in the village the day before, saying she’d rather stay home and study for her exams. After a few hours at home, she took the cattle out to graze, found a tree at the edge of the village, and hanged herself; the cattle returned alone.
“She overdosed on sleeping pills! You have been in the room all evening! How could you not?”
“I was watching Beyblade.”
Recently, I was talking with a friend about why suicide is the worst possible route to take no matter how hard life might seem. Barely a few weeks later, she took her own life.
Dalit students talk not only of their social alienation in these elite spaces, but of their intellectual alienation. Why is it that we do not use moments like this to reflect on the very nature of our social sciences? Why is our academic and intellectual culture such that, despite writing of subaltern subjects, social stratification, caste, nationalism, resistance and oppression, it is not able to speak to a section of students in the class?
In last few days there have been several attempts to create a dogma that Krish allegedly committed suicide for personal reasons, but this argument neglects the story of Krish’s life, his thoughts shared in different blogs and even the trajectory of earlier Dalit students suicide cases. Many Dalits students in different university campuses have committed suicide, but if the casteist institutions, upper-caste faculty and peers are responsible for continuously alienating the marginalised studies, equally responsible are we as Dalit organisations members, faculty and students for not being able to provide timely help to the needy students.
We are failing so many of our students, those who come to our universities with singular dreams sparkling in their eyes, when they enter they want to believe that such a place as they have wished to break into from far-flung places and rough homes is the one that will succour them and give them light and water to grow. Krish Rajini was a poet in his soul, not just a scholar, he rode among the clouds on his first ever plane journey from Hyderabad to Delhi and spilled words on to his Facebook that transformed effortlessly into poetry for the sheer radiance of his experience. And so we killed not just a budding scholar but a poet too.
For those who are using Rohith’s letter to simplistically assert that he died due to “personal problems,” sit up and open your eyes, ears, and mind to what is being said and what is not being said in this letter. Read between the lines, in the loops of his “y”s and “g”s and in the indented spaces separating his neat paragraphs.