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Bengaluru: Dalit Employee Dies By Suicide Alleging 'Corporate' Caste Bias

In a video shot before his death, Vivek Raj indicated that he wanted his suicide to lead to reform.

Bengaluru: Dalit Employee Dies By Suicide Alleging 'Corporate' Caste Bias
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(Trigger warning: this story discusses themes of suicide.

If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs If you or anyone you know )

"Unable to fight it anymore...This entire corporate system is (uses an expletive). To bring some change someone needs to do something. As Bhagat Singh said, 'If the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be loud.' I have tried making that sound."
Vivek Raj

Vivek Raj (35), a Dalit and employee of Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd. in Bengaluru, died by suicide on 4 June, after he accused his employers of caste discrimination at the workplace, The Indian Express reported. Raj is survived by his 67-year-old father.

In a detailed video address, released before his death, Vivek Raj, however, implied that there should be stringent investigation into cases of caste discrimination in corporate companies. In the video, a copy of which is with The Quint, Raj alleged, "When you try to fight legally, they use money to bring in the best lawyers to hide discrimination without addressing the issue." In a response to The Indian Express, Lifestyle has denied all charges of caste discrimination.

Raj was employed as a visual merchandiser at Lifestyle.

Raj's video note indicated that he wanted his suicide to lead to reform. "Let this ending be a beginning..." he said, facing a mobile camera as a noose hung from a ceiling fan behind him.

Who Was Vivek Raj?

Raj hailed from Kaptanganj Basti in Uttar Pradesh. An alumni of National Institute of Fashion Technology-Bengaluru (NIFT-B). He lived in the neighbourhood Republic of Whitefield in Bengaluru's Brookfield. Raj’s father said that Raj’s mother had passed away 20 years ago.

"My son was everything to me and I did everything I could for his education. Now, with his demise, to my misfortune, I will have to live alone all my life."
Vivek Raj's father

Raj had allegedly faced harassment by a few colleagues and hence he had raised complaints initially with the HR at his workplace, his friends said. According to a police source who spoke to The Indian Express, the complaint to the HR was not escalated. The source added that Raj's office had asked him to quit before 18 June and the demand for his resignation was reportedly related to the complaint he had raised. 

Raj’s father said that his son had not mentioned anything about the situation he was facing. 


What Did Raj Say in His Final Video?

On 3 June, Raj registered a legal complaint at Marathahalli police station against his employers and released a video on YouTube explaining how he was allegedly treated poorly at the workplace. Hours later he died by suicide.

"I am sorry and I am proud as well. Fighting the system, it might be government or private sector, is a difficult thing. Coming from a particular background, fighting the battle from childhood, studying hard, working hard, you change, you evolve and get better as a human being. You try to be kind to others. But the world is not kind to you."
Vivek Raj

Based on his complaint, the police have registered a case under Sections 3 (1) (r) (intentionally insulting or intimidating with intent to humiliate member of SC/ST in any place) and 3(1)(s) (abuses any member of SC/ST by caste name in any place) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 

"Let it be me who will start this revolution in the corporate industry. To the honourable Prime Minister of the country who is silent on many things which are going wrong…wrestlers are protesting. I know you will not speak on that. At least I request you, to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, SC/ST Commission, police to be more vigilant, to cooperate, to come up with a better grievance resolution system. If my sacrifice brings it, let it be, so be it."
Vivek Raj, Dalit victim

Following Raj’s death, a few NIFT-B alumni launched a social media campaign. The campaign demands answers from the company on the compensation given to Raj’s family, policy changes implemented in the organisation and action taken against the employees responsible, IE reported.

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Edited By :Nikhila Henry
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