Radhika Vemula has announced that she will now lead the movement seeking justice for her son Rohith Vemula, the PhD scholar whose suicide in University of Hyderabad last January triggered a nationwide uprising.
Speaking at a rally here on Saturday, Radhika said, “On March 14, Raja (her other son) and I will start the Dalit Swabhiman Rath Yatra. We will travel across Telangana and Andhra for a month and conclude it on Ambedkar Jayanti (April 14). We will try and cover every Dalitwada (Dalit settlement) in these two states.”
Among other things, she is seeking the sacking of Hyderabad university vice-chancellor Podile Apparao, his prosecution under the SC/ST Atrocities Act and passage of an anti-discrimination law tailored for campuses called ‘Rohith Act’.
Her announcement, which has taken many of her supporters by surprise, comes days after the Andhra government said Rohith was not a Dalit.
“In the last one year, I have found that Dalits are scattered across all ideological formations... I have realised that this is what Babasaheb (Ambedkar) had feared when he demanded separate electorates for Dalits. Under the present electoral system, Dalits can only become stooges...” she said.
Quoting from a Facebook post by Rohith when he was alive, she said, “Only Radical Ambedkar can liberate us. We have to go back to the Ambedkar who wanted to liberate Dalits by creating separate electorates for them ...”
She said one of the main objectives of the yatra will be to create awareness among Dalits about alternate voting systems.
The Rath or ‘chariot’ they plan to use for the Yatra is the Blue pickup truck that Raja now drives for a living. The family calls the truck, decorated with stickers of BR Ambedkar, ‘Bhim Auto’.
“The Bhim Auto is all we could buy from the donations we got from various well-wishers after Rohith’s death. We decided to buy this vehicle after my younger son, who passed his MSc from Pondicherry Central University with a First Class, could not find a job that matches his qualification. The Bhim Auto is the symbol of our self respect,” Radhika told HT on the sidelines of Saturday’s rally which was organised by the Bahujan Vidyarthi Sangha in Bengaluru.
Asked how she plans to find support for her yatra, she said, “I don’t care if anybody supports me or not. I have my son Raja with me. I have the support of Rohith’s friends from Hyderabad University and I have the Bhim auto. That’s all I need. Whoever cares about the issue can join.”