Muthukrishnan came to the city with one thought in mind. To become an intellectual. A dalit intellectual has various obligations, which include being part of a larger community, and working for that community. He brought with him the love for his grandparents, parents, and siblings, and the idea that he owed them a universe. When he wrote, he constantly described himself as Jeeva’s Son. Jeeva, the labourer, he hoped, would one day greet him, Muthu, as the one who had a degree, who would one day have the title of Dr before his name.
Jeeva, chronically ill, as middle aged workers are, breathing heavily, despair, loss and an innate pride in his being, spoke to the politicians who surrounded him at the morgue. “I cannot make money out of the loss to the family.” The Dalit activists tried to usher the politicians out. One who was bereaved should not be crowded by these representatives of the State. His daughter was a nurse in a hospital, another was a school teacher. The politicians were busy offering dowries, jobs, money. The death of the University which they had been overseeing as representatives of a right wing government was the least of their concerns.
Why does the University seem such a threat to right wing incumbents of seats in parliament? The reason is simply that Universities prescribe freedom of thought to their students and teachers. Bureaucrats think that they control the academics, but in actual fact, they are hired to make the work of free thought easier, simpler more accessible. The real problem of understanding why “freedom to vent” keeps universities healthy is incomprehensible to the right wing clerk and administrator. They have never known this freedom, as ideologues they have carried out orders with moral neutrality. These orders are given from above, and the possibility that there is freedom of expression as the natural right of the university is quite beyond them.
Jeeva’s Son, as he called himself, had another name, Krish Rajini. He believed that if a bus conductor could become a Star, an icon, then he too, could become someone famous, someone well known. His associate at Hyderabad Central University had earlier communicated to a host of students that by his death, the movement could spill forward. Durkheim’s theory of suicide, also takes into account that currents of suicide may appear in society, which are statistics of a response, which could be egoistic, anomic, (arising out of normlessness) altruistic, or fatalistic. The alleviation of suicides becomes possible through the forms of association, including guilds and trade unions. What is most tragic about Krish’s action is that he chose to disrupt the friend’s home, the friend who had sought to make a holiday happier by a shared meal. Krish, the martyr, was a symbol of the Dalit preoccupation that the symbol is larger than the context, and it suffuses the entire universe with it’s terrible sorrow.
Dalit activists would presume that the Dalit has no speech, all rights are denied, all entry points blocked. They see the world through the prism of Drona and Eklavya. Yet, Krish, had a tremendous sense of humour. He found everything comic, and worthy of description of the endless dirge of being a Dalit. Underlying this, was also a sense of the macabre and the hostile. His English was essentially black power, he used it to say that he had been hurt, humiliated, and yet, he had hope. Getting that degree was the only way that he could pursue the good life. The good life meant comfort and freedom for him.
The manner in which Dalits have been alienated over and over again has to be matched with their lack of comprehension of how the North (Centre) really represents itself through the jingoism of it’s own power. The government promises something, the institutions which are in charge of carrying out these benevolences find themselves incapable. Dalits scream, they demand the right to lewd language as a cultural trope, Administration shrugs its shoulders. Muthukrishnan rides his bycle around the JNU campus, he is well loved by his friends, they cannot bear his demise. Murder by the State, murder by the Administration, murder by the neglect of his Faculty, these becomes the ways in which they communicate their endless anguish.
Muthukrishnan is past all this, for the moment of anguish which was so extreme took his life, and left him beyond recall. Institutional measures are firstly, to return the University to the safety of their parliamentary statutes, and the recommendation of the Thorat Committee Report. We have to accept that young people from villages come to the city hoping against hope that they can escape the poverty of their villages, where nothing happens other than threshing ragi on the mainroad by the oncoming trucks, where farmers and weavers have all been deprived equally.