Raja Vemula, younger brother of Rohith Vemula, has demanded a public apology from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s National General Secretary CT Ravi for his recent comments on his brother’s death. Rohith was a 26-year-old research scholar who died by suicide on 17 January 2016.
His demise had sparked protests against caste discrimination across the country.
On Tuesday, 22 June, CT Ravi, had alleged that Rohit Vemula took his life, “because he was disappointed as his love didn’t materialise”. In 2016, countrywide protests were held, accusing University of Hyderabad administration and Ministry of Human Resource Development under the BJP government of discriminating Vemula on the basis of his caste.
Rohith was born to a Dalit (Mala caste) mother, Radhika Vemula.
Ravi Defends Modi, Raja Demands Proof
“I demand to know the proof behind his allegation. He doesn’t have any respect towards the dead. He doesn’t even know what happened in the university or how we lived our lives.”Raja Vemula, brother of Rohith Vemula
Raja further stated, if Ravi cannot offer proof he will have to offer a public apology to “the family of Rohith Vemula and the students of University of Hyderabad”.
Meanwhile, Ravi’s statement, which was made in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had gone viral on social media.
“They called BJP intolerant and anti-Dalit. When a spurned lover dies. Let’s say his name is Rohit Vemula. He died because he was disappointed that his love didn’t materialise, but they tried to conspire and defame Modi by making the PM responsible for this guy’s suicide.”CT Ravi, BJP’s National General Secretary
Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar of the University of Hyderabad died by suicide after, he allegedly faced caste discrimination in the varsity. Prior to his death, he along with four other Dalit students were suspended and expelled from their hostels. They were also prevented from contesting elections and were asked not to congregate in public places in the university.
What Led To Rohith’s Death?
The penalty was slapped on the students after a student leader of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student outfit affiliated to the BJP, complained against members of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA). Rohith and four other Dalit students roughed him up, the ABVP leader’s complaint accused.
Rohith, back then, had been actively raising students’ issues under the banner of ASA, an Ambedkarite organisation.
Meanwhile, current governor of Himachal Pradesh Bandaru Dattatreya, who was a union minister back then, took up the ABVP’s complaint and forwarded it to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The MHRD wrote back the University of Hyderabad four times, asking the varsity to take necessary action against the students. The MHRD letters had the subject line, ‘casteist, extremist and anti-national’ activities at UoH.
Commenting on the circumstances which lead to Rohith’s death, his brother Raja said, “The university cancelled his stipend and expelled him from the hostel. So being a man who was below poverty line, Rohith found it very difficult to survive. That led to his death”.
Rohith’s Family Still Fighting Odds
The death of Rohith Vemula had sparked nationwide student protests and amplified the conversation about caste discrimination in the country’s educational institutions. However, five years on, Rohith’s family is still fighting for ‘justice’.
“We are still fighting to get justice for Rohith’s death. The case is still in the court. That’s why I studied law. And I’m an advocate now. So, I’m hoping to soon find appropriate legal points to get justice for my brother.”Raja Vemula, younger brother of Rohith Vemula
Following Rohith’s death, his mother Radhika Vemula travelled across the country addressing anti-BJP rallies. She spoke about the alleged institutional discrimination that led to the death of her son. She has also been supporting movements like anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests. She has also been supporting student groups who raise their voice against caste oppression in university campuses.
Over the years, Radhika has also consistently urged students to stand together with the “oppressed class”, that is the Dalits, Bahujan, Adivasis and Muslims.