When Rohith Vemula killed himself, India reeled, and the life of his friends, who, along with him had been suspended from Hyderabad University in 2015 following a skirmish with an ABVP leader, changed forever.
Rohith left behind a heart-wrenching suicide note which talked about the discrimination he had faced his entire life, and especially at the university. He hanged himself from the ceiling fan in his room on 17 January 2016, triggering nationwide protests.
The Quint caught up with his friends, who said their lives and dreams have changed but their struggle for justice continues. Seshaiah Chemudugunta, Vijay Pedapudi and Sunkanna Velpula discussed life after Rohith’s death and how different life is four years hence.
‘Wanted to Be a Teacher, Ended Up a Farmer Like My Father’: Sunkanna
After completing his PhD from Hyderabad University, Sunkanna Velpula finished his post-doctorate from Mumbai and wanted to be a teacher. “In the past three years, I have applied to at least 20 universities but because of my political career record, I never got a call back. In one of the private universities that I had applied to, every faculty member who interviewed asked me about Rohith’s case even though I had not mentioned it anywhere in my form.”
“I am a first-generation student. My parents are agricultural labourers. After facing multiple rejections, I had to come back to my village and take on the job of a farmer with my father.”Sunkanna Velpula
‘Lives Directionless After Rohith’s Demise’: Vijay
Vijay, who had once led the “Justice For Rohith” movement with other members of Ambedkar Students’ Association, with empty pockets, contested the Andhra Pradesh elections in 2019 but was defeated.
“In a nutshell, after Rohith’s demise and after the entire movement that happened, our lives have been directionless. The dreams and objectives we had before Rohith’s demise have entirely changed.”Vijay Pedapudi
‘Exhausted With Campus & Its Atmosphere’: Seshaiah
Seshaiah Chemudugunta and Dontha Prashanth are still completing their PhD degrees at Hyderabad University. While Seshaiah said he has taken a break from active politics and is not associated with ASA anymore, Prashanth has stopped using a phone and stays busy with his PhD.
“I was a full-time activist of Ambedkar Students’ Association. I am away from the association now. I have so much work, so many responsibilities at my home. Because it has been 10 years for me. I am really exhausted with this campus. I want to get rid of this atmosphere.”Seshaiah Chemudugunta
Friends Meet at Court Every Month
Rohith’s friends, however, still meet at court every month to give attendance in the vandalism cases slapped against them after Rohith’s death.