[Anglican Communion News Service] The moderator of the Church of South India, the Most Rev. Govada Dyvasirvadam, has spoken out against continuing caste-based discrimination in schools and higher education institutions after meeting the mother of Rohith Vemula, a research student at Hyderabad Central University, who killed himself following “heinous” discrimination.
Vemula’s death, on Jan. 17, has sparked protests, outrage and debates throughout India and widespread media attention on the continuing discrimination faced by Dalits and “low status caste classes” in India.
The controversy focuses on the role played by “elite educational institutions.” Hyderabad Central University canceled Vemula’s 25,000 rupees per month bursary (approximately £254 GBP) in July last year and expelled him and five other members of the Ambedkar Students Association from their hostel. A university official denied that the bursary had been stopped, telling the Indian Express newspaper that the non-payment was caused by a delay in paperwork.
There are conflicting accounts of the expulsion from the student accommodation, with some claiming it was in return for political activities and others claiming it was connected with his Dalit background.
The Church of South India says that “the suicide of Rohith Vemula . . . because of the heinous caste-based discrimination he faced, shocked secular India and brought to the fore the continuing discrimination the students from Dalit and other marginalized communities suffer in higher educational institutions.”
After Dyvasirvadam visited Vemula’s mother in Hyderabad, he called a press conference at which he expressed the church’s solidarity with the family. He also “demanded justice for the family of Rohith and stringent measures to curb the caste-based discriminations in the schools and higher education institutions.”