2006, 2011, 2016: An expression of helplessness


Shishir Tripathi | January 28, 2016

Graffiti declaring ‘rebellion’ had coloured the newly constructed walls of the girls' hostel of one of the colleges of Delhi University (DU). Candlelight marches had become a way of protesting ‘injustice’ and India Gate an open stage for resistance. Adding to it were dangerous stunts performed by young bikers in different parts of Delhi. It was all role-playing of the characters from the iconic Hindi flick ‘Rang De Basanti’ (RDB) released in 2006. A decade has passed; the symbols of resistance have stayed. But, perhaps, the reason has been pushed to oblivion.

RDB tells a story of six youngsters who, repelled by the notoriety of a corrupt system that feels no shame in discrediting a martyr and snatching his honor, decide to take on to the mightiest. In more than one way they commit suicide by directly confronting the most powerful. All of them die at the end. They die gracefully, without blaming anyone of their predicaments. So did Rohith Vemula, a research scholar of Hyderabad central university, who died on January 17.

Reading Rohith’s suicide note, I feel that not only in terms of grace and philosophy of their fight, RDB’s characters and Rohith’s life had other uncanny similarities. The reason behind their cynicism was also same. It was a feeling of utter helplessness against a system which fails to give people their dues: a young man a sense of equality and a martyr – the much deserved respect.

Rohith wrote his last words, “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.”

It reflects a disillusionment of a young man; a reflection on the state that fails us as citizen and a society that mocks our individuality.

I often wonder why lakhs of young people jam-packed the wide open space of Jantar Mantar in 2011. The anti-corruption movement that continued into 2012 witnessed lakhs of youngsters in their cool college T-shirts and denims raising slogans against a system that they wanted to change; a society they did not approve of.

In April 2012, Anna Hazare sat on a token one-day fast remembering whistle-blowers such as Narendra Kumar and Satyendra Dubey who had died fighting against the system. Dubey and Kumar, both were young men fighting against the wrong. But they met with one of the two ‘fates’ destined for anyone questioning the system. They died under mysterious circumstances, a vulgar euphemism for murder; the second option of course would have been what met Rohith on January 17.

The fact remains that in the death of DJ, Sukhi, Satyendra Dubey or Rohith lays a system that breeds fatal cynicism. A sense of irrevocable desperation, that divorces dreams from reality, so widely, that life becomes an unbearable possibility. And that leads to accidents in which we lose great minds like Rohith; accidents which we all can only lament but never stop.



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