"Smriti Irani, I won't forgive you. You may change your ministry but I will never forget you. I'm sending my kids (Dalit-Bahujans) to Parliament where they will question you and haunt you."
These were the words of Radhika Vemula, the mother of Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar who hanged himself at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) two years ago on January 17.
Speaking at the Rohith Vemula Shahadath Din (Martyrdom Day) meeting, an emotional Radhika Vemula said that the government could not disprove her Dalit identity although it had been two years since her son’s death.
Speaking at the meeting held at Savithri Phule auditorium at UoH, she lashed out at the government for attempting to discredit her identity. She said that it is the BJP who change their identities. "Narendra Modi is not a BC as he claims, he is a Baniya. This truth will come out soon. Who are these people who question me?"
She also faulted the university for denying access to the media to cover the meeting.
"This is a conspiracy by the administration. They don't want the media and the public in general to know what we are talking about and what is happening in the university. If police is allowed inside, why not the media?" she questioned.
Radhika Vemula also said that there is a need for Dalits to unify and reject fascist forces.
Don’t feel safe that no one can do anything since this is your government. After the fall of your government it is the Dalit government which is going to be formed.Radhika Vemula
On Wednesday, the university witnessed emotional scenes as Radhika Vemula visited and garlanded the bust of Rohith, which is situated in the campus.
Radhika, who had been denied access to the bust for two years, broke down in front of the statue even as students raised slogans in her support.
Rohith and his four friends – Dontha Prashanth, Vijay Pedapudi, Seshu and Sunkanna Velpula – were expelled in 2016 by the UoH administration for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader.
Following a series of events, Rohith committed suicide on 17 January 2016.
A moving note he wrote before his death, in which he spoke about his dreams and the way a casetist world around him had crushed those, had sparked outrage across the country.
(This article was first published on The News Minute and has now been republished with permission.)