Why A Rohith Vemula Suicide Is Big News, But A Sawan Murder Is Just A Item

by Shefali Vaidya - Jan 23, 2016 07:15 PM +05:30 IST
Why A Rohith Vemula Suicide Is Big News, But A Sawan Murder Is Just A Item

Why does the brutal murder of a poor 16 year old not cause any outrage? How come news channels are not going into a breathless overdrive of communalisation?

How much is a life worth in India?

A lot if you happen to be a Ph.D. student, and your tragic suicide can be used to further a vicious casteist agenda. Your life is worth an awful lot if you happen to be a Muslim, and you are a victim of violence at the hands of Hindus – like it happened in Dadri.

However, if you are just a poor, uneducated Hindu kid of 16, burnt alive by Muslims, your life is not worth the amount of petrol used to turn you into a human torch! Sawan Dharma Rathod discovered this tragic truth at the cost of his life. He died in Pune last week, around the same time Rohith Vemula committed suicide in Hyderabad.

Rohith’s suicide made front page news in most newspapers. Universities came to a standstill. News channels went into an overdrive organising breathless debates about who was responsible for Rohit’s death, even when his suicide note said he was blaming no one.

The death of Sawan Rathod was not an accident, nor was it a suicide. Sawan Rathod was burnt alive by three people. According to newspaper reports, their names were Ibrahim Mehboob Shaikh, Zuber Tamboli and Imran Tamboli. Zuber Tamboli is a known history-sheeter and has several cases against him, including a charge of attempted murder.

In a video statement recorded in the hospital just before he died, Sawan clearly says his murderers burnt him alive just because he was a Hindu! I have a copy of this video statement in my possession. The cops ‘forgot’ to take his statement before he died. His lawyer Ramesh Rathod shot the video which he has submitted to the police. According to Nitten Gokhaley, a young man who is fighting to get Sawan Rathod justice, the police were eager to dismiss all possibilities of a communal attack, even going as far as to say, ‘they did not really mean to murder him, they set him alight just as a joke’.

Who sets a living human being alight ‘just as a joke’? The only outfit I can think does this sort of a thing is the ISIS, the radical Islamic outfit that is notorious for burning people alive.

Warning - Graphic image. Click to expand

Sawan Rathod
Sawan Rathod

Like Rohith Vemula, Sawan too was a poor boy. But Rohith had a scholarship and a prospect of a bright future. Sawan Rathod was an illiterate boy who had come to Pune a week ago in search of a job following a fight with his father, an unskilled brick kiln worker in Pandharpur.

As per his dying declaration, Zuber Tamboli first made sure that Sawan Rathod was a Hindu before he poured gasoline over him and lit a matchstick. Zuber and his friends watched Sawan as he screamed for help, tormented by pain as his body was engulfed in flames. He was admitted to the hospital with 75% burns. Sawan Rathod died the next day, consumed by his pain.

The FIR mentions that Sawan was burnt alive by three ‘persons’ who suspected that he was stealing batteries of vehicles on the street, but Sawan’s video statement clearly says another story, a sinister narrative of communal hatred.

The silence of the old media on the Sawan Rathod case is deafening. In Rohith Vemula’s case, the media played the judge, the jury and the executioner for days on end. The coverage of Sawan Rathod’s case is pitiful. It took a full five days for the leading newspapers to take up the story.

When one Mohammad Ikhlaq died in a hate crime at the hands of a few Hindus, a whole nation was declared intolerant. When one Rohith Vemula committed suicide, an entire narrative was built around ‘caste violence’, but when Sawan Rathod was brutally, cruelly murdered, it is made out to be just a ‘law and order’ crime!

Sawan Rathod is gone forever. His life ended before it began at the young age of 16. There will be no TV debates conducted to discuss his murder. There will be no op-eds dedicated to him. No chief minister of Delhi will fly to Pune to meet his father.

Fact is, no one cares for the cold-blooded murder of Sawan Rathod because he was a Hindu and the names of his murderers reveal an inconvenient truth, his murderers had the ‘right’ faith. Sawan may have been a Dalit, his murderers are the ‘Untouchables’. No political party dare touch them!!

The writer is a freelance writer and newspaper columnist based in Pune.
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