As Rahul Gandhi’s yatra reached Hyderabad, he was joined by Radhika Vemula, the mother of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar who was pushed to suicide on the Hyderabad University campus in January 2016 due to the alleged harassment meted out to him.
Rahul Hugged Radhika and walked briefly during the morning leg of the Yatra. The picture of Radhika Vemula was tweeted by Congress from its official Twitter handle.
Later Radhika Vemula also informed about the brief meeting via a tweet, “Extended solidarity to @bharatjodo Yatra, walked with @RahulGandhi and called upon @INCIndiato save Constitution from BJP-RSS assault, Justice for Rohith Vemula, passing Rohith Act, increasing representation of Dalits, oppressed sections in the higher judiciary, education for all.”
Who was Rohith Vemula?
He was a student at Hyderabad Central University pursuinga PhD, he, along with 5 other Dalit students was expelled from the hostel and was forced to live in a makeshift tent. Before this his stipend of Rs 25,000 was stopped. His friends alleged that he was targeted for raising issues under the banner of the Ambedkar Students Association.
Pushed by the ensuing privations, he had committed suicide on 17th January 2016, just 13 days before his 27th birthday. He wrote a suicide note, in which he poured out his heart
“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. As a glorious thing made up of stardust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living”.
His suicide letter evoked a sympathetic response and his suicide sparked off protests across the country. His death drew the attention of the whole world to the discriminatory environment in Indian Universities.
A commission of inquiry was instituted by the Ministry of Education (formerly HRD) under Allahabad High Court Judge Justice A K Roopanwal. The commission submitted, which said that Rohith committed suicide of his own accord and the University’s action against him did not prove to be a trigger.
However, over the years Rohith Vemula has become a symbol of caste oppression and his mother still hopes that one-day justice will be meted out to her son.