A documentary on Dalit PhD scholar of University of Hyderabad Rohith Vemula, whose suicide on January last year had triggered nationwide outrage, has created ripples on the social media soon after it was released on Saturday.
Directed by Hyderabad-based RTI activist Srikanth Chintala, the 57-minute documentary titled ‘Rohith Vemula’ had over 1,500 views within hours of its release on YouTube.
The Dalit scholar, who was suspended from the university over a political dispute, committed suicide by hanging himself on January 17 last year. His suicide had sparked massive protests, resulting in a fierce political slugfest with a string of parties and Dalit organisations siding with students and accusing the BJP and varsity administration of being anti-Dalit.
Chintala had started documenting the story of five Dalit students in the first week of January, 2016, after they were suspended for opposing the capital punishment to Yakub Memon. In the short film Vemula can be seen arguing with ABVP leaders and explaining why he was forced to sleep in the open. It also shows Vemula’s letter of December 18, 2015 to University of Hyderabad vice chancellor, Appa Rao Podile, seeking permission to end his life.
“In fact, it was not my intention to make a documentary on Rohith’s death, when I started filming it. My original idea was to make a documentary on the five Dalit students, who were ostracised and suspended on the campus for questioning the hegemony of the saffron brigade. Like millions of Indians, they too were opposing the capital punishment to Yakub Memon, but action was taken only against these five students because they were Dalits,” Chintala told Hindustan Times on Saturday.
Vemula committed suicide only a few days after Chintala started shooting his documentary.
Later, Chintala visited the Dalit scholar’s native place in Guntur and spoke to his mother Radhika Vemula. “Everybody, with whom I interacted, vouched for the fact that Radhika was a Dalit, which was the reason why her husband Manikumar had deserted her, while her foster mother used to ill-treat her,” he said.
The documentary, produced under the banner of NGO Public Interest, founded by Chintala, is planning to release it officially at Prasad Laboratories, Hyderabad, on Vemula’s birthday on January 30. It will also be dubbed in Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam, besides Spanish and German.