By Daljit Ami
Rohith Vemula’s letter written before his committing suicide attests to the prevalent hopelessness in the country. It does not matter what your relationship with the writer of the letter was because his letter takes the responsibility of defining that relationship. Whatever your relationship with the writer of the letter is, it counts. This letter is kneaded in depression, detachment and anger. This letter is simultaneously addressed to inner and outer discourses. It states the cost of living with dreams in these murderous times. Rohith has not addressed this letter to anyone in particular and after concluding with ‘Jai Bhim’ has not signed the letter with his name. In the current times, every human being dreaming of an emancipated society, tolerance, equality, justice and social justice can read this letter by placing his/her name at two places in the letter. If you write your name in the beginning, then this letter has been addressed by your contemporary to you. If you write your name at the end then this is your final letter to your contemporaries. This is going to be a drill.
“I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.
I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan.
I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.
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.
I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense.
My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.
May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.
I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.
People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.
If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.
Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.
“From shadows to the stars.”
Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.
To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.
For one last time,
I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.
No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act.
This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this.
Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.”
This letter should be read repeatedly because it is a last letter written by a contemporary to his anonymous contemporaries. This is not the final letter of our times. This is not the first letter of Rohith. He had written a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the University on 18 December 2015. That letter also needs to be read; because the two letters share much in common which connect Rohith’s death and life together in a string.
The Vice Chancellor
Subject: Solution for Dalit problem
First, let me praise your dedicated take on the Self-Respect movements of Dalits in HCU campus. When an ABVP president got questioned about his derogatory remarks on Dalits, your kind personal interference into the issue is historic and exemplary. 5 Dalit students are “socially boycotted” from campus spaces. Donald Trump will be a lilliput in front of you. By seeing your commitment, I am tempted to give two suggestions as a token of banality.
- Please serve 10mg Sodium Azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission. With direction to use when they feel like reading Ambedkar.
- Supply a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalit students from your companion, the great Chief Warden.
As we, the scholars, PhD students have already passed that stage and already members of Dalit Self-Respect movement unfortunately, we here are left with no easy exit, it seems.
Hence, I request your highness to make preparations for the facility “EUTHANASIA” for students like me. And I wish you and the campus rest in peace forever.
Vemula R Chakravarti
After reading this, Rohith’s death emerges as a murder instead of a suicide. These letters might fail to identify the killers in the court. Rohith was active in social and political movements. He addresses his comrades in arms as a family and apologizes for having to disappoint them. It is a political letter which should be read and understood, politically. The author’s last letter will not perish with his body. It must be read again and again. Sometimes as a reader and at other times as a writer. It is not easy to write it, and it is not easy to read it. Though, ‘it has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt’ even so through this difficulty the value of life and love have increased. The anger risen in the name of Rohith is infact the song of life and love sung in difficult conditions. If one’s heart wells up with sorrow, it is imperative to sing this song.
Author is an independent filmmaker and freelance journalist.
(The article has been translated from Punjabi by Baljeet Kaur who is a student activist from Tata Institute of Social Science.)