Podcast | If I Saw Rohith, I’d Ask Him to Come Home: Raja Vemula
“If I see him I’ll tell him, “don’t commit suicide,” Raja Vemula says about his brother Rohith Vemula.
(This article was first published on 15 January 2019. It is being re-posted from The Quint's archives to mark Rohith Vemula's death anniversary.)
Rohith Vemula took his own life on 16 January 2016. On his third death anniversary, we spoke to his brother Raja Vemula. Listen to the podcast by clicking on this player:
Read the full transcript of the interview below.
If you could see Rohith now, what would you tell him?
I’d say, “Don’t commit suicide. We’ll fight back. Don’t let anyone commit suicide. We will not let anyone commit suicide. We can save many people. I would have asked him to come home before committing suicide. It’s only the three of us left. My mom, me, and my brother. There’s no way to survive. We’ll commit suicide together. If there’s no way, we’ll commit suicide together.” That’s what I’d tell him.
It’s been almost three years now since Rohith took his own life. Three years since, how do you feel about the incident?
Till now we haven’t got justice. Till today there’s no investigation started. Till today. It’s been three years. There’s no investigation against HCU Vice Chancellor Appa Rao and Bandaru Dattatreya, Smriti Irani, MLC Ramachandra Rao, Susheel Kumar (ABVP President).
All the culprits are roaming freely. Whoever is doing this movement, and whoever is standing with us – students and other public organisations are being treated with cases. They’ve put some cases on them and they are still fighting to come out of those cases.
This is a conspiracy around the death of Rohith Vemula. They wanted to suppress his movement. And they haven’t even registered a case under the SC/ST law.
So I feel very sad about the Indian judicial and political system. And the public system too. It’s because of their failure that my brother committed suicide. And I still call it a murder. It wasn’t a suicide. They killed him. By closing all the doors.
We will take this fight till we get justice.
What kind of justice do you want?
We want justice that another Rohith Vemula won’t commit suicide. Like my brother did. For that, we need an act. Till we get justice we will fight.
We will take this fight to everyone. Wherever velivadas will arise across the country, we’ll be there. And we’ll fight for them. And we’ll fight for my brother Rohith Vemula. And he’s not only my brother. If he was just my family, there could not have been this fight for three years.
They killed a bright student. They killed a future scientist. Only because of caste. We want to erase that from the mindset of people. We’ll go to any level for that.
We will not bend to any political forces. We will not bend for money. We will not bend for fame. We will not bend for any property. We only bend our heads to justice. To get justice.
What was Rohith like as a person?
As a person, Rohith was a very bright student. If you give a book to him, he’ll read it without stopping. He’ll grasp all the content of the book. He thinks about the future and he cares about his family and his surrounding environment. He cares about society. He cares for others. We used to give education to others also. We used to motivate people around us as well.
He can’t tolerate it if someone says something about his caste. If someone discriminates based on caste. He can’t tolerate it. He’ll fight back. He was very interested in studies. He’d always say education is not just for getting a job and getting money. Education is to gain knowledge and to share your knowledge with others. Likewise he used to tell me when I was in 12th standard. He was my inspiration. He was the first generation in my family to come to PhD level.
But we lost him to this caste-based system in India. Because of this BJP, because of this RSS, because of this ABVP, because of this kamma-reddy politics. We lost a bright student. I’m not saying I lost my brother. A student was killed because of this caste system and Hindutva forces.
Can you tell me something about Rohith that really stands out in your memory?
When I was in my twelfth standard, we didn’t have money to buy books and to pay for the college tuition fees. I said I’ll stop my studies and I’ll go for work. You know what he said?
He said that we came up to this level. But there are people who can’t even buy bread one time. They don’t even have money to study. Just study a little bit more. We’ll find ways to pay your fees. Then later, you’ll earn money using your knowledge and we’ll help other people. If you stop studies, you won’t be able to help the SC/ST people who can’t afford to even study.
We have to be in a position to help our people. That’s how he used to motivate me. When I was in Pondicherry doing my MSc I didn’t have money for rent or books. I spent a year in college staying in my friend’s room in hostel. I didn’t have money for food for 2-3 days. Then he called his friends and sent some money to me.
He started working during his PhD. Like that he used to help me and motivate me. The only thing is we couldn’t be together. I was in Pondicherry. Mom was in Guntur. So we couldn’t have parties. We couldn’t go anywhere outside. Life is full of education. Education was our first priority.
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