Two days after the death of Rohith Vemula his close friends and fellow activists at the Hyderabad Central University still cannot believe that a person so full of life took his own life.
Vemula hailed from a poor Dalit family in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
His transformation to a strong advocate of democratic and especially Dalit rights seems to have begun with his admission into HCU in 2012 for his M.Sc. in life sciences.
Vemula leaves behind his mother Radhika, a tailor, who was not available for a comment but is stated by Vemula’s friends as demanding the removal of suspension on the other four students and action against the university VC and the political leaders involved.
Vemula who joined for a PhD in life sciences later shifted to social sciences and also holds a fellowship, which he said in his suicide note, was stopped for seven months with arrears of Rs 1.75 lakh pushing him into debts. A stress he apparently was facing apart from his suspension for an alleged attack on one ABVP leader on the campus in August.
“We had no inkling that he was going through such a phase. I still cannot believe that a fearless student like Rohith who always talks about empowerment of Dalits and the other downtrodden could be discouraged to a level of committing suicide,” says Umamaheshwar Rao, a PhD scholar at HCU.
“Rohith is not a fool or a coward to kill himself. It is the circumstances of this suspension and fears of a bright career vanishing that killed him,” says Radhika Devi, another research scholar and Vemula’s friend.