Muthukrishnan Has Left Us…
The Struggle for Equality against Discrimination and Against Gagging of Alternative Voices Must Go On.
Enact Rohith Act!
Rebuff the UGC Notification and Seat Cuts!
Fight Back Denial of Equal Opportunities for the Under-Privileged in Higher Educational Institutions!
AISA expresses deep shock and grief at the sudden demise of Muthukrishanan Jeevanantham, an M.Phil first year student in the Centre for Historical Studies in JNU. Muthu hailed from a Dalit family who overcame several hurdles to get through the JNU M.Phil entrance exam. We express our support, solidarity and condolences to Muthu’s family and demand a thorough enquiry to probe reasons behind his death.
As a first generation learner in research, Muthu had been vocal about the lack of equal opportunities and systematic alienation of the unprivileged in higher education. From #JusticeforRohith, #JusticeforNajeeb to struggles against seat cut and imposition of the UGC Notification, Muthu has been a part of all these struggles.
“When equality is denied, everything is denied”, Muthu said in one of his last public posts. While we remember Muthu as a part of the spirited students’ movement of today, his death has left behind several questions for the rulers and administrations.
It is more than one year now that Rohith Vemula was pushed to death in HCU after an entire state machinery, including two Union Ministers of the BJP government and the HCU VC, were hell bent on punishing Rohith and his friends for having a political opinion that contradicts that of the RSS. Demand of a Rohith Act resounded all over the country in the course of the mass upsurge that followed Rohith Vemula’s death. We demanded Rohith Act to end caste discrimination inside campuses. We demanded Rohith Act to address the pattern of high drop out of students from marginalised backgrounds. We demanded institutional accountability for segregation of students from marginalised section inside campuses, non-fulfilment of reservation in all sectors, lack of fellowship and hostel facilities and absence of institutions like Equal Opportunity Cells in all campuses. The government has not heeded to the demand till now. On the contrary, committees and enquiries have been set up to question Rohith’s identity itself. Muthu himself has talked about non-implementation of the Thorat committee, which recommended institutional redressal to discrimination and alienation of students from marginalised communities. While the government of the day is in complete denial to recognise discrimination and alienation of unprivileged students, it is the responsibility of the student movement to intensify the struggle for implementation of a Rohith Act.
The same regime which denies justice for Rohith and Najeeb when they reach universities has come out with a UGC Notification to cut down seats in research curriculum in Universities. Rather than taking up the task to fulfil existing faculty vacancies and creating more posts to expand the scope of higher education, the UGC Notification is effectively being used to massively cut down research seats in public universities. First they tried to end the research scholarship and now through the UGC Notification, gates of higher learning are being closed for first generation learners like Muthu.
Along with this policy offensive Muthu’s generation of students are also fighting the silencing and criminalisation of alternative voices. Hate politics of BJP in power and RSS appointed administrations inside campuses are trying to criminalise students based on what they eat, think or choose. Alternative discourses to mythology and culture are termed anti-national. Talking about communal riots is being banned inside campuses. Hate mongers and assaulters are being set free as has been seen in Najeeb’s case, while sites of protests for demanding rights and equality are being curtailed.
Muthu’s death has once again raised the question of alienation of marginalised students in higher educational institutions. We demand that a through enquiry be instituted to look into everything leading to his tragic death. It is time that all institutions including JNU are held accountable for academic alienation of students from marginalised sections. We must demand Social Audit of all universities on admission and dropout rate of students from marginalised sections as well as infrastructure and academic attention provided for them. After 70 years of independence, we cannot allow our institutions to evade the responsibility to keep gates open especially for first generation learners. Universities mean nothing if they do not primarily take up the task of educating students from marginalised sections.
This is a time for all of us to look into our spaces and universities and to evaluate how much they are accessible and reassuring to the unprivileged. It is also a time for all of us to continue to challenge the regime of oppression and inequality and to carry forward the struggle for justice, dignity and equality.