Who Killed Rohit Vemula?

Everyone wants to claim the body of Rohit Vemula. Everyone is fighting over his identity, and the irony is that he is being treated in the same way about which he was lamenting in his suicide note –

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 every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living…

Everyone wants to own his corpse to make their point. He is being claimed by the Dalits as a symbol of Dalit oppression, being claimed by marginalised segments like transgenders as a symbol of their struggle, by Congress as a symbol of an insensitive BJP, by the AAP, by ASA.  His personal story has been made irrelevant in all of this, but that may be the only real story worth thinking about, beyond all the circus happening around his tragic death.

We are not able to come to grips with this suicide  – a young guy, a deep thinker, a scholar, a political activist, a lonely boy, and all turned to nothing. There is hunt to find who killed him – was it the cast system?; was it the minister asking the university to stop the ‘anti-national’ activities in the campus?; was it the heartless college staff?; was it the far right ideology which made him think of himself as a victim all his life?; was it  a petty political rivalry gone too far? Everyone is part of the manhunt, and everyone is a suspect in this murder mystery.

In all of this, there is just one clue we have to what happened, and why it happened. It is his parting letter, beautifully written, with all of his heart poured out. It reads like a farewell to this world and to all our circumstances, a withdrawal from all the battles of his life that will now remain unfought. His life went away too cheap – seemingly at the price of the scholarship which his university decided to stop paying him, and which put him in an increasingly frustrated state of mind. The tragedy of it all is that he give up hope on all of us. The reality is that there are many more young people on the verge of giving up, and who may need help urgently.

Fragile flame, floating on uncertain waters

His intellect could not pull up his sinking heart as his circumstances become more difficult. His act was not entirely a result of the situation itself, but it was also a result of his own emotional capacity which was overwhelmed by circumstances. We are seeing this across the spectrum of people  – the most successful actors, businessmen, leaders, artists crumble emotionally even with seemingly comfortable life circumstances. This emotional chaos is a symptom of the times we live in, and we dont know how to handle it.

The youth today faces complex choices because of the cultural flux happening in India, with no one around them capable of holding their hand through this chaos. We may live in an information rich and media saturated world, but most of the messages treat the young like a commodity, ‘a thing – never a mind’. All messages have an agenda – either political, ideological or commercial. No wonder the impressionable minds are getting lost, and losing heart.

The modern mind is distracted and confused. We are unable to use reason and intellect to help us out of the most important challenges we all face – our troubled relationships, our deep levels of unhappiness, the lack of meaning in our lives, the lack of motivation in face of difficult odds. No self-help books seem to be able to stay with us, not cute little quotes seem to work for us. They give only fleeting relief, even as we all sink in deeper into even more chaotic circumstances.

We need to strengthen our emotional response, and learn to live with the reality of chaotic world around us which our mind struggles to cope with. Now is the time to increase the capacity of our hearts to handle the situations and circumstances that life will throw at us. Not later, not when shit hits the roof, not when there is no-one who can reach us, not when we think we are ready – coz we may never be ready to move out of our comfort zones. It is a deeply personal journey, and we may need help to find this path. We need to believe that there is a way to live with ease of heart, no matter what the external circumstances, to live our lives as a celebration. We need to become seekers of that path.

Here is wishing Rohit’s Soul peace, and hoping that we all find our Path to the deep Peace and happiness within.

 

Here is the link to his Suicide Note >>

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