ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Rohith Vemula’s Letter: Should death awaken Universities and Society?


Praveen Thallapelli - Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for Political Studies, New Delhi, India


18 – Deviant Bodies, Prohibited Territories and Academia in South Asia


 The name of Rohith Vemula became a point of discussion and thinking both in university spaces and society; thanks to his letter and institutional death that spoke in volumes. Rohith presented the anxieties of self and how he is grappling with them and the impositions/framing of the being. Though he said Jai Bhim to Ambedkar Students Association, his letter argues that none was able to erase his anxieties. In this regard, I aim to understand the ideology and conditions of thinking that transgressed and erased his existence, respectively. I aim to understand how people immediately associated themselves with Rohith. Had he not written his last letter, would people have bothered to think of Rohith and his associates? What awakened the university and society – the death or the letter of Rohith? Why do universities and society speak or think of academic exclusion and discrimination only after the death of the excluded and discriminated? Human being as axiomatic – is central to Ambedkar’s philosophy. So, why is Dalit Politics centring majorly on death? Rohith appeals to us to value human beings. Did the tenets of Indian society and universities with Rohith Vemula?

Rohith’s letter reads as an intimate conversation or deep philosophical inquiry and anxiety that one is having with oneself, associates and the ‘other’. Was Rohith cognisant of his addresses? Letter is a sensible inclusion of the being. Did the addresses of Rohith become inclusive or sensitive and imbibe him?