In October 2015, most newspapers in the state carried front page reports after Dalit student Hucchangi Prasad was abducted and tortured by suspected Hindutva activists. They were angry with his book Vadalu Kicchu (The Pain Inside) which is a trenchant criticism of the Vedic system.
While he was initially happy with the media focus on the issue, he now feels the attention he got has only made things worse. Prasad is pursuing MA in journalism at the Davangere University. His parents are day labourers in a small village 40 km from the university.
“Some of my classmates and college mates would quote the statements I had given to the media and everybody would laugh. All the upper caste students I knew on the campus stopped talking to me,” he said. For the first month after the attack, even his teachers cut contact with him and refused to take his phone calls.
Prasad has vacated the subsidised hostel of the university and moved back to his village to live with his parents. He now travels 80 km a day by bus to attend classes.
“I had no choice. I was completely boycotted at the hostel. The few SC/ST friends I had were also getting harassed for spending time with me. I just saved everybody the trouble and left,” he says.
Reacting to the death of UoH scholar Rohit Vemula, he says, “I can understand what he must have gone through. But no matter how much trouble I get into, I will not kill myself. I will live to fight. This is the message I want to give to Dalit students who are involved in a historic struggle in campuses across India.”