The ‘Chalo Delhi’ rally organized on February 23 in Delhi demanding justice for Rohith Vemula, the Dalit scholar at the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide last month, saw thousands of students from different universities across the country, teachers, activists, workers and prominent faces in politics marching in protest.
The main demands of the protestors were to punish the culprits responsible for Rohith’s suicide and to enact ‘Rohith Act’ in Parliament to curb the caste and religious discriminations in educational space. Rohith, an Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) activist, doing his PhD in Science Technology and Society Studies at the university, committed suicide in his hostel room by hanging himself to death. The rally was organized by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JACSJ) starting from Ambedkar Bhawan in Jhandewalan to Jantar Mantar. One of the notable aspects of the march was the participation of political parties, groups and individuals that were different in ideology as well as perspectives. Inquilab Zindabad, Lal Salaam-Neel Salaam and Jai Bhim slogans reverberated in the air simultaneously. Almost all students’ organizations except ABVP participated in the rally. Mainstream political parties like the Congress, JDU, CPM, CPI and new parties like the AAP, Ambedkarite organizations, neo- social associations, hardcore Leftists, Islamists and feminists were part of march. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy, Muslim League leader E T Mohammad Basheer and Welfare Party Speaker S. Q. R. Ilyas addressed the crowd. The events are the continuation of the students’ agitation that began in the UoH after the tragic suicide. Given the growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country and fear among the people due to the intensifying grip of the Sangh Parivar led extreme right- wing, the protest rally is of much relevance. Those with dissimilar views and stances were seen together registering a voice against the Fascist politics that is destroying and tarnishing the nation. The Delhi rally therefore signifies the future possibilities of politics, highly relevant and remarkable in the present national scenario.
The rally has been successful in highlighting the numerous issues faced by the Dalits and the Muslims and in reminding the mainstream politics that it was impossible to move ahead ignoring them. The Delhi rally also reiterates the concept of a general united front against the right-wing authoritarian politics. It unveiled a reality that the great concept of India would be ruined forever if the fissures due to the trivial differences continue to exist. It therefore has played a vital role in making our democracy more dynamic. The recent discourses related to the JNU issue had warned about the impending dangers. Even though the rally was planned earlier, it’s much gained national relevance can be attributed to the JNU incidents. Political parties including the Left had failed in addressing the issues of the Dalits and the Muslims. The Indian student politics gained momentum post the UoH incidents giving a jolt to the sloppiness of the parties. The rally therefore constitutes a significant episode in the present scenario of political advancement and has aided in providing a new political vision to the country. It also gave a clear message that the hardline Hindutwa groups wouldn’t be able to move forward by repressing the country’s population. The students who led the protests would hopefully be able to raise their voices louder reiterating this message and resolve their drawbacks to bounce back with more strength.