Exclusive | BJP, RSS & ABVP Killed My Brother Rohith: Raja Vemula

On Rohith Vemula’s third death anniversary, his brother tells The Quint how life has been without him.

4 min read

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam

Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula took his own life on 17 January 2016. Ahead of Rohith’s third death anniversary, The Quint spoke to Rohith’s younger brother, Raja Vemula.

If you could see Rohith again, what would you tell him?

If I could see him once more I’d ask him to come home before committing suicide. It’s only the three of us left. My mom, me, and my brother. If there’s no way to survive, we’ll commit suicide together. No need to go alone and leave us behind. That’s what I’d tell him.

After Rohith took his own life, Raja and his mother Radhika have been continuously fighting for justice. Raja says Rohith was his inspiration.

“He was my inspiration. He was the first generation in my family to cross 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.”
Raja Vemula, Rohith Vemula’s brother

Raja sounds both angry and heartbroken. He talks about how he thinks caste is a poison that was introduced in the minds of Indians. He blames caste for taking his brother’s life.

He says, “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 targeted with cases.”

On Rohith Vemula’s third death anniversary, his brother tells The Quint how life has been without him.
Three years have passed but Rohith Vemula’s death is still caught in a web of caste-based discrimination. 
(Photo: PTI)

Three years since Rohith’s death, how do you feel about the incident?

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. Ask me what kind of justice we want. We want justice that another Rohith Vemula won’t commit suicide. Like my brother did. For that, we need to act.

“Till we get justice, we will fight. 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. We will take this fight to everyone.”
Raja Vemula

He continues, “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.”


What was one thing that stands out in your memory about Rohith?

When I was in my 12th standard, that time, 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. 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, 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.

Raja Vemula continues, “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 would 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.”
Raja Vemula

After a clash with the ABVP at Hyderabad Central University in August 2015, Rohith and four others were expelled from the college's hostel and prohibited from entering most parts of the college.

The college, under Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile had also stopped giving Rohith his monthly scholarship stipend of Rs. 28,000, cutting off his finances and crushing his spirit slowly.

To Rohith, this was similar to the social and financial isolation that Dalits were forced into, both historically and in present day, by Hindu society.

Without a home, and with little money, Rohith grew more desperate as the days passed. In time, support for his cause waned and Rohith lost hope.

He took his own life on 17 January 2016.

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