Lately, committing suicide in higher places of learning has been in the news more often than before. Most of the victims belong to the dalits, Adivasis in particular, while a few others have also done so due to academic pressures. In the case of Rohith Vemula, it was a case of caste discrimination and his activities as Rohith was labelled as anti-national. Two other cases which stand out are that of Payal Tadvi, an aspiring gynaecologist, and Fathima Lathif, who was pursuing her post-graduation in IIT Madras. Tadvi was a Bhil Muslim, wife of Dr Salman Tadvi, and she was harassed by her seniors, in day to day life. Fathima was a bright young student who topped in most of the examinations. After joining IITM, she met with the stonewall of prejudice, where despite her calibre she was given a poor score in ‘internal evaluation’. She named one of her teachers for denigrating her and wrote to her father “Dad, my name itself is a problem’.
While other types of humiliations have abounded based on caste, being a tribal or being transgender, these two cases of Payal and Fathima relate also to be part of subtle and overt dislike-hatred for Muslim community. This phenomenon is not present only in India but globally as it picked up after 9/11, 2001, when US media coined and popularized a phrase “Islamic Terrorism”. Surely terrorism is an all-pervasive phenomenon where people from many religions have indulged in it for various reasons. There have been those belonging to Irish Republican Army, Buddhist Monks indulging in such activities in Sri Lanka, there have been LTTE, with Dhanu killing Rajiv Gandhi, but never was religion associated with terrorism till the WTC attack. This attack was the most horrid, killing nearly three thousand innocent people from across different countries and different religions.
Blame for this was put on Osama bin Laden-Al Qaeda. It is another matter that it was America which helped in bringing up Al Qaeda, by funding it massively (eight thousand million dollars and seven thousand tons of armaments). Scholar Mahmud Mamdani in his book ‘Good Muslim Bad Muslim’, based on CIA documents gives the details of mechanism in which America operated to prop up Al Qaeda, how the syllabus of its indoctrination module was prepared in Washington. Later, of course, the US policies in West Asia – policies aimed at controlling the oil wealth of West Asia – led to the other dangerous fallouts of Al Qaeda, in the form of ISIS and IS. US Vice-President Hillary Clinton in a blunt statement did concede how Al Qaeda was propped up by the US to fight the Russian armies in Afghanistan. She says,
All this truth coming out is a bit too late in the day as by now the falsehoods spread against Muslims are a core part of understanding of most of the people in the society. So Fathima’s teacher or Payal Tadvi’s seniors are in a way no exception to their subtle signals about dislike for their Muslim students or junior Muslim-Tribal colleague.
(Published on 25th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 48)