27, Feb 2016
The movement was important to ensure such an incident does not happen again, said Radhika, mother of Rohith, a student of Hyderabad Central University who committed suicide in January.
Written by Kedar Nagarajan
New Delhi Published:Feb 27, 2016, 3:33
When they saw the hundreds of people who participated in the ‘Chalo Delhi’ march to seek justice for Rohith Vemula, family members of the Dalit scholar realised what he had come to represent in the national consciousness. The movement was important to ensure such an incident does not happen again, said Radhika, mother of Rohith, a student of Hyderabad Central University who committed suicide in January.
Speaking on the mixed bag of experiences in Delhi, she said, “The joint action committee and other organisations supporting this movement have seen to it that I am being taken care of. I am not in the best physical condition but when I see the number of Dalit students and others supporting the movement, I realise that Rohith can be the face of a legitimate change to this country’s higher education system. I feel encouraged to participate in everything that is happening here. As a mother, I want to ensure that no more children lose their life for reasons that my son did.” Since their arrival, Rohith’s brother Raja and his mother have been in the media glare, with TV channels seeking their reaction to each development and trying to understand their demands to the government. When asked if the media attention was getting too much for her, Radhika said, “The only things tiring for me are the endless lies people responsible for my son’s death have been telling and the influence they are using to quash our peaceful protests. But I am motivated when I see his friends taking the lead in this movement and demanding justice in the name of their friend.” The ‘Rohith Act’, believes Radhika, could be a beacon of hope for many students who face caste-based discrimination. “I am a victim of household caste discrimination and that phenomenon will change only when Dalits have the opportunity to educate themselves and avail of opportunities that could lead to a better standard of living,” she said. Unsparing in her criticism of the government, she said, “A government that does not allow my son — a boy who never used his caste certificate to avail of admission in any college — to pursue something that he is passionate about, and that does not give him the scholarship he is due, because of his desire to express his political views, is a government that does not care for the elevation of lower castes.” Raja said he had always been an admirer of his brother’s dedication to his work and his courage to speak his mind. “I admired him, he was undoubtedly an achiever… His death made me realise that I must become more aware of my social identity. Our time in Delhi has been dedicated to understanding how we can ensure that the Rohith Act is passed,” said Raja. “Through this Act, not only will several students be protected from discriminatory practices by the institution, but many Dalits who fear exclusion at places of education and don’t study will feel more confident about pursuing higher education,” he said. Some media reports had claimed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had offered Raja a job in his government. But Raja said he had received no such offer. “We met Mr Kejriwal to seek his views on how to take the movement for the Rohith Act forward. We had an encouraging meeting with him, but I have not received any word about any job,” he said.