The death of Muthu Krishnan, dearly known as Krish has shocked all the people who knew him. There are speculations that he was murdered and did not give up on his life. While it is necessary to understand whether Krish was killed or had committed suicide for the future course of action in dealing with his ‘case’, for a few among us, he is more than a case, he was a friend who held views about student associations and academic institutions and it would be unjustified to reduce the cause of his death to personal issues, rather the issues are social and political.
Krish hailed from Salem district of Tamil Nadu. He was from the Dalit community and made his way till Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) by fighting against extreme poverty and structural caste discrimination. He had taken menial jobs to support his education. After not being able to crack the various phases of exams in JNU for five times, he did not give up and finally got through in the sixth attempt and had happily shifted from Hyderabad to Delhi for pursuing his academic career. His life story till date has been inspirational, and his personality was impressive. People loved his company and he could easily make friends. He never learnt to give up in life. He was an active participant in Rohith Vemula movement, and didn’t give up despite facing insensitivity from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) administration. Krish was influenced by the charismatic personality of Rohith Vemula, and considered him as his leader. During his time in UoH, Krish had numerous friends and was never seen alone, except while he was studying in the library. He considered Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), the students group in UoH as his family. After shifting to Delhi with tremendous hope and aspirations of making a career in academics, what made the talkative Krish go silent, what made him remain unheard or what made him vulnerable to be murdered, if he really was?
Unlike his sustained cheerfulness in UoH, with every passing day Krish was losing his smile in JNU, and we need to a find an answer to why this was happening.
In last few days there have been several attempts to create a dogma that Krish allegedly committed suicide for personal reasons, but this argument neglects the story of Krish’s life, his thoughts shared in different blogs and even the trajectory of earlier Dalit students suicide cases. Many Dalits students in different university campuses have committed suicide, but if the casteist institutions, upper-caste faculty and peers are responsible for continuously alienating the marginalised studies, equally responsible are we as Dalit organisations members, faculty and students for not being able to provide timely help to the needy students. We, as a Dalit movement fail for not remaining available to hear, voice and resolve the concerns of our community students, for not saving them from going to in the phase of isolation. While nothing could be expected from the Savarna leftist political student organisations of universities who remain in denial of the existing caste structures and consider economic and cultural factors like poverty and language barrier being prior responsible for the death or alienation of marginalised students. In such situation it becomes a prime responsibility of Bahujan groups to value, understand and incorporate difference.
JNU campus is known for its elitism, but has also produced numerous politically and socially active figures. Most of the students aspiring to have degrees in social sciences consider this as the best institution in India. Krish felt the same way about this institution, but within few months of his admission, he felt disillusioned in the JNU campus. While he was aware of the faults in the leftist students politics, he was hopeful of the marginalised students, politics; but sadly he could not find his space in the campus. He invested his time in studying, but felt isolated. Unlike his sustained cheerfulness in UoH, with every passing day Krish was losing his smile in JNU, and we need to a find an answer to why this was happening.
If we as a Bahujan movement consider that it is the responsibility of the high-castes to listen to us, then it is also our responsibility to maintain diversity in voices and leadership positions.
It is true that Krish faced problems in finding a supervisor, which is a big problem for any researcher, who cherishes her or his dreams about a better future. There could be moments of emotional breakdowns when people are questioned for raising caste issues, they are insulted, sidelined and abandoned, and while it is true that it is a daily reality for many scholars coming from Adivasi, Dalit and OBC communities, what increases their disgruntlement is the neglect from the members of the same community. Lack of support and space by their own community members adds to the already existing challenges that students are facing in the casteist academic institutions of this country.
Definitely, it is the responsibility of academic institutions to make space for ‘all’ the students, but we as a movement also cannot fail to reach out to our people. In between the pushing and pulling of issues, we are minus one person every day, unless we recognise and work on these issues, our politics cannot be called ‘comprehensive’ politics. How could any politics be comprehensive when we have numerous groups thriving for the same goal of social justice? We argue that Dalits should be strong and face every hindrance with courage and determination the way B.R. Ambedkar did, but he had full support from the community he was struggling for, his fight was against the casteist forces, but the struggles of the Dalit, Tribal or OBC students are much more complex, as they face issues inside as well as outside the community.
It is crucial to question the institution and people who are responsible for the death of Krish, but simultaneously we need to recognise our failure for not being able to reach out to him on time. If we as a Bahujan movement consider that it is the responsibility of the high-castes to listen to us, then it is also our responsibility to maintain diversity in voices and leadership positions. Henceforth, we have to make conscious effort of not letting any person feel alienated, it is our double responsibility to counter the casteist oppressive structures and also to check that no one amongst us is on the verge of becoming Rohith, Krish or Najeeb or even Nagaraju!