A 28 year old M. Phil scholar student, J. Muthukrishnan of Jawaharlal Nehru University committed suicide at a friend’s house in south Delhi’s Munirka area on Monday.
Raja Vemula, the brother of deceased Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide last year said that the so-called suicide of J.Muthukrishnan, a student from JNU, is an “institutional murder”.
He further added,” It is similar to the way my brother was murdered. Our fight was to ensure no Rohith should die anymore. We don’t think it’s a suicide, it’s an institutional murder. There’s also no suicide note. The professor under whom he was doing his MPhil should be suspended .The responsibility for Muthukrishnan’s death should be taken by JNU Vice-Chancellor, Jagadesh Kumar and he should resign”.
Vemula, whose brother’s suicide had seen pan-India protests spontaneously arising in most major university campus in JNU, most prominent outside HCU (Hyderabad Central University), rebuked the silence of JNU VC on the death of Dalit scholar.
Raja Vemula alleged, “At the time of UP election results, Jagadesh Kumar [JNU VC] was quick to post congratulatory messages to BJP for its success. But when a student of his university dies, he wakes up to it only next morning”. He also claimed that there was no statement from JNU VC about the suicide.
JNU VC expressed his condolences to Muthukrishnan’s family on late Monday morning through a tweet.
On Monday evening, Muthukrishnan was found hanging from the ceiling fan in a room and had locked himself in at his friend’s home in Munirka Vihar in the vicinity of the university.
While already widely reported as a case of suicide, the police said it was premature to jump to conclusions about circumstances surrounding his death, or what prompted him to take such a big step and end his life.
No suicide note was found.
A Senior Police Officer quoted, “The deceased was depressed over some personal issues and no evidence suggests the suicide was related to any issues at the university”.
The students are not accepting the truth of the police theory. They adduce Muthukrishnan’s last Facebook post in which he claims “denial of equality” in the university.
“There is no Equality in M.phil/phd Admission, there is no equalitiy in Viva – voce, there is only denial of equality, denying prof. Sukhadeo thorat recommendation, denying Students protest places in Ad – block, denying the education of the Marginal’s. When Equality is denied everything is denied,” Muthukrishnan wrote in his post on March 10 whose facebook profile goes with a different name Rajini Krish.
Muthukrishnan was referring to the Ad-Block movement at JNU where students and teachers have opposed a May 2016 University Grants Commission’s notification that changed admission norms for MPhil and PhD students. The new policy, which makes performance in viva-voce the deciding factor, is widely seen as discriminatory, especially against reserved-category applicants – Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. The procedure followed by JNU in adopting the notification is being challenged in the Delhi High Court.
“A dedicated and diligent student”
Belonging to a poor Dalit family in Salem, Tamil Nadu, Muthukrishnan had struggled hard for an education.
He joined Hyderabad Central University in 2012 for a Master’s degree in History. After completing his MA, he applied for admission in MPhil in 2014. He discontinued the course when he was in his second year in MPhil at HCU once he was selected for a PhD in 2016 at JNU. He cleared the JNU exams on the fourth attempt and was quite elated. At Hyderabad Central University he was a member of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) – the student body of which Rohith Vemula was a also part of.
Munna Sannaki, Muthukrishnan’s friend in HCU said,”He was an active member in fight against discrimination of Dalit students. He was very heartbroken and upset when Vemula committed suicide It is quite hard to believe that such a valiant man will commit suicide. As such no information is known about the reasons for his suicide. However, there’s a suspicion since there is no suicide note, no phone call etc. Suicide is not a personal issue as is being said by the administration. A proper investigation should be conducted in order to know what compelled him to commit suicide.”
Raja Vemula also said,” Muthukrishnan was an active member of Justice for Rohith movement at HCU. He stood with them throughout the movement and gave them a lot of moral support. Muthukrishnan had met him and his Amma in Hyderabad and called them for various programs. Vemula also read his excellent articles on Rohith’s death and is hopefully looking forward to go and meet the family of the deceased.
HCU days of Muthukrishnan
B Eswara Rao, Associate Professor at Department of History at HCU said “It’s unbelievable that one of his committed and hardworking students has committed suicide. I had suggested him to complete his MPhil at HCU and then opt for PhD at JNU.He completed his Masters in HCU and then opted for MPhil under my supervision.He was very interested in student movements in the context of Dravidian movement and demography of deprived groups of populations. He had very different ideas. Muthukrishnan was a conscious student because of his social identity.He completed one-semester of his MPhil at HCU and then left midway. He said ‘it was my dream to be in JNU’. He really worked very hard and was very happy when he was selected at JNU.”
Asked whether he had shared any personal problems with him, Rao said he never felt Muthukrishnan was suffering from any personal issues.
“Two months back only I spoke to him over phone regarding some reference needed for my teaching. I asked him how was it going and he said it’s ok and going on. I don’t think he was depressed or had some problems,” Rao further said.
Rao also said he suggested Muthukrishnan to pursue his MPhil under the guidance of Dr Burton Cleetus at JNU’s Centre for Historical Studies.
When Dr Burton Cleetus was contacted he confirmed that Muthukrishnan was doing MPhil under him but he said he “can’t talk about the issue at the individual level as the Centre is soon coming up with an official statement over the issue.”