No Country for Dalit Students

Photo: Valay Singh, No Country for Dalit Students | Leher NGO in India
Photo: Valay Singh

In Rohith Vemula’s suicide lies the sordid reality of dalit children across india. In his first and final letter, lies the dejection and exclusion felt by children who are often treated as sub-human by their ‘upper-caste’ teachers, peers and by the society at large. Today 80 % of out-of –school children are from dalit and Adivasi communites. Rohith was one of the few who made it to higher education. Yet, he was killed by deep-rooted hateful discrimination that dalit children continue to face. Here is an appeal written by Valay Singh based on a conversation with a dalit student. Dear PM Narendra Modi, I remember the first day of school very well. I was nervous as everyone else but excited at the same time. My parents like parents of all children like me believe education is our only way to live a life of dignity. But my school is not what I expected it to be. Now I am no longer in school as I had to drop out but by then I had learnt to read and write well. I learnt despite being treated like an untouchable by my teachers and other students. We were given food in different plates, made to sit at a distance and scolded and beaten more than children from ‘upper-caste’ families. Now, I know that it isn’t just me who went through this torture. Last year, a dalit child in a jodhpur government school was beaten badly by his teacher for touching a plate meant for ‘’non-dalits’. In south indian state of Tamil Nadu, dalit children are made to wear wrist bands in green and red and other colours while students from ‘upper-castes’ wear wrist bands of other colours. Sir, your government is claiming that it is building toilets for girl children in all schools of India. But, do you not know that it is dalit children like me who are made to clean toilets and wipe the floors in schools? And last year in October, two Dalit children were burnt to death by Rajputs in a village in Haryana. Sir, such incidents are too many and too frequent for me to list here, therefore I have shared only a few recent ones that made it to the media spotlight. You are a very tech-savvy PM and we are proud of it, India’s leader should be as good at facebook and google as anybody else after all. But do you know, how many results does google throw up when we look for “upper-caste student discriminated against”? Zero! They have it so easy in our society. Sir, the murder or you may call it suicide, of Rohit bhaiya from Hyderabad is the worst thing to happen this year, and the year has just begun. What will you do make sure those who forced him to make this supreme sacrifice are punished? The Minister who forced the VC to take action is himself from a ‘Backward class’, if I am right he was even a child labourer! How could he be so merciless against us Dalits? Don’t you know that most of us dalit children end up working in the homes of rich city people? It’s not the children from ‘upper-castes’. And, one Rohit bhaiya made it to a University but the society and the system didn’t let him finish his studies also and even killed him. I think to myself how brave he must have been to have made it to a university despite being a dalit like me. I want to end by saying, we are Dalits but we are no longer weak, at least I want to fight back and help other dalit children study as much as they want. I hope as OUR Prime Minister who said, sabka saath sabka vikaas, you will not let us DOWN, the children of Baba Sahab. Thank you

Photo Credits : Valay Singh

Words By : Valay Singh

Valay is an independent writer and photographer based in Delhi. He can be reached @ valaysingh@gmail.com

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