Rohith Vemula and JNUSU awarded the Irom Sharmila Scholarship 2016.


JNUTA President Ajay Patnaik handed over the award on behalf of the Irom Sharmila Scholarship Committee to Venkat from the Joint Action Committee – University of Hyderabad, and to Kanhaiya Kumar and Rama Naga, the President and General Secretary of the JNUSU

The citation reads:

“The 2016 Irom Sharmila Scholarship has been jointly awarded posthumously to Mr. Rohith Vemula of the Ambedkar Students’ Association, Hyderabad Central University, and to JNUSU represented by its President Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar.

The award goes to them as student representatives, public bodies seeking to strengthen India’s constitutional democracy by upholding the constitutional ideals of fraternity, equality and right to life, and inspiring many others across the country.

Irom Sharmila has been fasting for fifteen years now since November 2000 against the draconian and unconstitutional Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which empowers the Army to shoot to kill on suspicion. The Act has led to impunity and breakdown of the rule of law, and has exacerbated rather than resolve conflict. She has been imprisoned for her act of conscience, and not allowed to meet people. She is forcibly fed through a nose drip. She is charged with attempted suicide even though she has frequently expressed her desire to live with dignity. This is not possible as long as AFSPA exists – it creates two categories of citizens. On her release from prison on 29 March, Sharmila extended her solidarity to the students of Hyderabad University and JNU: “I think building a university is just like a temple for young minds. So why should the government or concerned authorities restrict their thoughts and debates? I extend my solidarity to students’ democratic, progressive movements, and voices of dissent in university campuses, to justice for Rohith Vemula and other students.”

The Irom Sharmila Scholarship was instituted by the faculty in DU in 2012 in honour of Irom Sharmila’s dedicated and non-violent fight for democracy and constitutional values. In the three years it has been offered, the award has been open to any post-graduate student, MA or PhD, enrolled in any educational institution in any subject, who comes from an area with internal armed conflicts, or has suffered under black laws. The award is based on a combination of financial need, academic merit and contribution to society. The scholarship is a lumpsum of Rs.50,000. In the past the award has been open for applications from November 4 onwards, which is the date from which Irom Sharmila began her heroic fast against AFSPA, and the announcements are made annually around 14th of March, her birthday. This year the committee didn’t call for individual applications and decided to reward collective activity instead. Sharmila’s 15 years of fast is a symbol of hope for justice against impunity. In keeping with this, and as a gesture of solidarity, the Irom Sharmila Scholarship 2016 is being awarded to Rohith Vemula and JNUSU to keep alive the hope for democracy and constitution alike.

The award will be handed over to the representatives of Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar on behalf of JNUSU by JNUTA on the evening of Monday, the 14th of March 2016 at JNU Administrative Block.

– Irom Sharmila Scholarship Committee.

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