Dalit student from Salem had committed suicide in HCU

January 19, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 23, 2016 01:26 am IST - CHENNAI:

The suicide of Rohith Vemula at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) on Sunday has rocked the nation and has yet again brought to focus the discrimination Dalits face on campus. In this, the HCU and its science departments have a history given that it claimed the life of a research scholar from Tamil Nadu a few years ago.

In early 2008, the body of Senthil Kumar, who hailed from Jalakandapuram in Salem, was found dead in the hostel. The post-mortem report of the body established that the cause of death as poisoning and this raised serious questions about the nature of death.

It was in such a circumstance that a faculty member of the university contacted D. Ravikumar, general secretary of VCK who was then an MLA.

The details that emerged painted a tragic picture of how the spirited life of a Dalit student from an impoverished family was put out by the discrimination that prevailed on the campus.

Senthil Kumar hailed from a small sub-caste of the Dalits named ‘Panniyandi’, known for pig rearing. He was perhaps the first person to pursue a doctorate from the community and was seen as a hero in Jalakandapuram.

“The family lived in two small sheds. They took one and the other had the pigs. It was an amazing achievement for someone from such an economically weaker class to fight all odds and pursue a doctorate in science,” said Mr. Ravikumar.

After his Masters in the American College in Madurai, Senthil pursued his M.Phil at the Pondicherry University before moving to HCU for a doctorate in Physics.

Senthil was among four students from the reserved categories who were not provided supervisors. The Vinod Pavarala committee which went into the death made scathing remarks against the departments. “..it is a fact that most of the students affected by the inconsistencies and ambiguities in procedures were SC/ST students,” the report noted, adding that “all the physics students that this committee could meet have reported their sense that the School was acting against the interests of the SC/ST students.

Though the committee absolved authorities in its final findings, the report brought out serious discrimination on the campus.

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