I am not sure how or whether this letter will ever reach you. However, after reading and rereading your heartbreaking final note, I felt that I should write this one to you. This is a letter from a young Muslim to a young Dalit (yes, I have been often reduced to a Muslim with a capital M and I’m not ashamed of it, just as you were reduced to a Dalit with a capital D), who was committed to the idea of social justice and a life with dignity. I have no doubt that your decision to say the final good bye, was nothing but an act of courage and dignity. Your life and struggle has taught me three important lessons; to be precise—courage, dignity and solidarity. Reading your letter reminded me of a couplet by the Hindustani poet Dushyant, who famously said:
jiye to apne bagiche main gulmohar ke liye/mare to Gair ki galiyon main gulmohar ke liye
I am writing this letter to you to tell you that I did not cry, though I wanted to . . . but ‘pretended as if nothing had happened’ because you told us not to “shed tears”. I believed you when you said, “I am happy dead than being alive”. Many of us (young Muslims) can totally relate to it. You were absolutely right in suggesting that “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind.”
Rohith, it will be my life long regret that I could not meet you in person, but then I am aware of the fact that a physical meeting would have hardly mattered. You are there in front of me, much like Adv. Shahid Azmi whom I could never meet and who was snatched from us 6 years ago. But like the memory of Shahid’s illustrious life and struggles, your memories are also more than enough for me to survive against all odds.
I know it is always easier said than done, but let me assure you that I will follow the path shown by you. And it is not just because you showed us this way but also because if we don’t do it, we will perish. Hence, I reassure you, we will carry forward the struggle just like you carried forward the struggles initiated by Jyotiba Phule, Baba Saheb Ambedkar and many others like them.
Baba Saheb Ambedkar had famously said and I know that this was the guiding principle of your life as well – “educate, agitate, organize”. I’d just like to add that it is high time that the ‘oppressed of the world should unite’ and ‘educate, agitate, organize’.
Rest in power, my friend.
Hope to meet you on a star.