ohith Vemula was born to Mani Kumar Vemula and Radhika Vemula. His father hails from the Vaddera caste and his mother belongs to the Mala community, which is a Scheduled Caste. In just two years, the mother of the late Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula, has come a long way from being a single mother of three living in obscurity to an icon in the Dalit movement. She was hired by many organisations to share the center stage as her son was the hot topic in the media.
Everyone thought her anger is about her son’s death, the injustice happened to him but the recent attack on Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has exposed her palpably. She let her get used by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) who promised to provide her money for political gains. She was attacking them over a bounced cheque. Social media took dig on her claims and finally she corrected her statement stating that “Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) sent us two cheques of Rs 2.5 lakh each; out of which, one has bounced. We informed them and they said that they will directly provide us money so that we can buy a house. They never used me for political gains. It was my wish to speak against PM Modi and if needed, I will speak again in any of their meetings.”
After Rohith Vemula’s death, she was seen in every Dalit and minority protest rallies. The groups portrayed her as the Mother India. But the mockery is that she earned name, fame, limelight, and money in the name of her dead son leaving his vision and struggle aside. Now she purely reconditioned to attack Modi and BJP and stand by all those elements that can pay her something in return. From Delhi to Mumbai, Una, Nagpur, Bengaluru, Kochi, and Pune, Radhika, who tailors clothes to earn a living, has come a long way from the days when she studied alongside her children. She had hoped that they would become scientists or join the Army. Her younger son Raja Vemula is a postgraduate in Science, who drove a tempo until recently, now takes on daily wage labour when he can, has also joined the Ambedkarite movement. She hopes that her newborn grandchild, Raja’s son, whom they have named Rohith, will become a bureaucrat or a politician.
Radhika and her husband Vemula Mani Kumar were separated in 1990 when she was a young woman in her early 20s. The fights and abuse became worse after Mani discovered his wife was actually an adopted child, belonging to Mala – a Scheduled Caste community by birth and was not a Vaddera as him – classified as Other Backward Classes, or OBC – as he had thought her to be. Her son Rohith was her support system, he was a PhD student at the University of Hyderabad and in July 2015, the University reportedly stopped paying Vemula the fellowship of Rs 25,000 (US$370) per month after he was raising issues under the banner of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA). At the beginning of August 2015, Vemula and four ASA members protested against the death penalty for Yakub Memon, a convict in 1993 Bombay bombings in which 257 people were killed. They also condemned the ABVP attack on the screening of the documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai in Delhi University. On August 3, 2015, he and other ASA activists demonstrated at the Hyderabad campus. In response, ABVP’s university unit president, Nandanam Susheel Kumar, called them “goons” on Facebook. The next day, Kumar was taken to the hospital and operated for acute appendicitis but stated that he was “roughed up by around 40 ASA members who barged into my room. The student politics went wicked and it turned out to be right-wingers vs leftists.
In September, the five students were suspended, a decision which was upheld on December 17, 2015. Meanwhile, his family struggled to help him, and Vemula had to borrow money from a friend. On January 3, 2016, after the suspension was confirmed, the five moved out of their hostel rooms to a tent they set up inside the campus and began a “relay hunger protest”. On January 17, 2016, Vemula committed suicide hanging himself with an ASA banner. In his suicide note, he blamed the “system” for his death. According to the suicide note, he committed suicide in the room of Uma Anna, in whose room he was staying after being expelled from the hostel by the authorities at the University of Hyderabad.
His suicide sparked protests and outrage across India and gained widespread media attention as an alleged case of discrimination against Dalits and low-status castes in India, in which elite educational institutions have been purportedly seen as hotbeds of caste-based discrimination against students belonging to a lower caste. Rohith’s suicide was described as an “institutional murder”. An open letter was written to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad by over 120 worldwide academics, protested the role of the university in the events.
Neither Rohith Vemula nor his mother ever thought that the death of Vemula is going to be the breaking news for months. His mother too never thought that she would get so many medium of attention and publicity. Vemula’s family received a proposal for land for them from retired officers association. Later on, the family found an apartment to purchase. Indian Union Muslim League gave them Rs 5 lakhs, cheques of Rs 2.5 lakh each, to pay as an advance to buy the house. They withdrew money from one cheque. In the second one, there was a mistake in writing the amount in figures, and hence, the cheque got bounced. They could have informed IUML that the check was bounced. But the lady went to media to gain attention and got exposed. She would not have accepted the proposal of IUML that she needs to attend the meeting as one clearly see IUML wants to get mileage on her son’s death. Inadvertently, she has revealed the truth. She was attending meetings for money. It’s very sad to notice that the over-hyped lady Radhika Vemula used her son’s death for money.
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