(This story was first published on 16 January 2018 and is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Rohit Vemula’s death anniversary.)
Rohith Vemula hanged himself inside hostel room 207 of the Hyderabad Central University on 17 January 2016.
On Vemula's third death anniversary, The Quint takes a look at the last six months of the Dalit PhD scholar's life at the university.
Vemula’s life at Hyderabad Central University paints the picture of an optimistic, soft-spoken and bright young man. But the last six months of the Dalit scholar’s life were tumultuous.
Rohith, along with Dontha Prashanth, Vijay Kumar, Seshaiah Chemudugunta, and Velupula Sunkanna, was suspended from the university on 8 September 2015. Following protests, their suspension was reduced to a more “lenient punishment” in the words of the university’s administration. They were banned from living in the hostel, using the college’s administration buildings and libraries, and from contesting student elections.
Adding to his troubles, Hyderabad Central University’s administration stopped paying Rohith Vemula his monthly stipend of Rs 28,000 in July 2015. The young man had used this stipend to spend Rs 8,000 on his personal expenses, and send Rs 20,000 to his mother.
Rohith had become silent and withdrawn in the last 6 months of his life at Hyderabad Central University, slowly losing hope and ultimately taking his own life on 17 January 2016.
His brother Raja recalls how Rohith, who had always said that education was the way to free oneself from the evils of caste, had told him to stop studying because it was futile.
We were talking on the phone. He said I should stop studying. That there’s no use doing an MSc or a PhD, that we will never be able to escape our fate. We will always be oppressed. I wish I’d told my brother the same thing, because then he would still be alive today.Raja Vemula