As Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi sat in front of her, silently listening to the tragic saga of her personal life, Radhika Vemula narrated how she single-handedly brought up her son, a Hyderabad university student who committed suicide on Sunday.
“She told us how she worked as a labourer and a tailor after her husband deserted her and her son, Rohith (Vemula),” said a Congress leader who was present during the interaction between Gandhi and the grieving mother.
Rohith ended his life at the University of Hyderabad after his suspension following an alleged clash with a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is affiliated to the RSS. Gandhi visited the university on Tuesday.
An inconsolable Radhika also maintained she didn’t know Rohith had been suspended from the university, according to the Congress leader.
Rohith’s father, Vemula Mani Kumar, had left his wife and son in the second year of the marriage. The mother recalled how Rohith was a meritorious student all through his career that was abruptly cut short a few days ago. Rohit always wanted to be a scientist.
Gandhi told her he had heard effusive praise of Rohit from other students and his friends.
“Amid all my trouble, now I hear people are asking if my son was really a Dalit or not,” a weeping Radhika lamented.
Other students told Gandhi that when he was suspended, Rohith, who was an active member of the Ambedkar Society of the University of Hyderabad, came out with his bag on one shoulder and a large portrait of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in the other hand.
Congress leader K Raju, the head of the party’s scheduled caste cell, told Hindustan Times he knew Rohith well. “He was a well-mannered, bright student who always wanted to help others and was active in social movements.”