Two years after they were promised a house by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the family of University of Hyderabad (UoH) research scholar Rohith Vemula continues to wait for full compensation.
Days after Rohith hung himself from a hostel room, the Muslim League had promised his mother Radhika Vemula that they would sanction Rs 20 lakh towards building a house for the family. This after a representation was made by the Muslim Students Federation (MSF), a student organisation close to the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), which Rohith was a part of.
The family has stayed in small rented houses all their lives and being granted their own house was a like a dream come true.
According to media reports, a site was also identified at Koppuravuru, which is located between Vijayawada and Guntur. However, two years on, the promises are yet to be fulfilled.
Speaking to TNM, Radhika said, "When Rohith died, I was just crying in the velivada and I had no idea about all the people coming and greeting me. At this time, these party members came from Kerala and said that they heard the news and heard that we were absolutely poor."
"Within one month, they took us to Kerala and made us participate in a big meeting with around 30,000 to 40,000 people and promised that they would sanction Rs 20 lakh and construct a house for us," she added.
Radhika alleges that the IUML gained good political strength because they had projected her as one of the main guests attending several meetings.
"Of all the states, I have travelled most to Kerala. The person in question, CK Subair, (General Secretary of Youth Wing of Kerala unit of Muslim League) would always tell us that there are victims of other incidents of atrocities who are attending the meet and I would go there to visit and talk to them," she narrates.
“In such a context, how can use they make promises and use it for political gain?" she asks.
Radhika also says that in December last year, she was on her way to attend an event in Kerala, when she received news that her daughter-in-law was going to deliver a baby.
"I thought about returning back, but they insisted that the event had been organised and claimed that they even had a cheque worth Rs 15 lakh was ready on the table and they would hand it over to me. Even though they had been promising this for two years, I was still hopeful and I went," she said.
However, Radhika claimed that Subair stepped down from the dais as soon as her speech finished and ignored their repeated calls.
"His aides even assured me that they would meet me at the airport, but we waited for as long as we could and left," she said.
"My hope is that I can finally get a home of my own and also set up a trust under Rohith's name, to help other students from the marginalised communities like him and also provide coaching. For that, I need some money," she added.
Radhika also narrated one instance where several politicians, seemingly from the same party, visited her in Guntur and took photos with a big white cheque that had Rs 25 lakh printed in bold letters.
"I learnt later that they went to Kerala and claimed that they had given me the money. Why should we leave them? Finally, after many women's organisation and activists repeatedly put pressure on them, they sent two cheques by courier worth Rs 2.5 lakh each," Radhika says.
Even out of the two cheques, Radhika claims that one of them has bounced, which is forcing her to repeatedly visit the bank.
"Why are they troubling me so much. They can just call me and hand it over, instead of sending it in this manner, in installments and by courier. If they don't want to give, they can say that openly as well, instead of harassing us in this way," she added.
Speaking to TNM, Subair, Youth League State President, however, called the cheque bounce a clerical mistake. "At first Vemula's family told us the retired officers association would give land for them. But since the association didn't give them land, the family has found an apartment to purchase. I have sent Rs five lakhs to them, cheques of Rs 2.5 lakh each, to pay as advance to buy the house. They withdrew money of one cheque. In the second one there was a mistake in writing the amount in figures, and hence the cheque was bounced. They could had informed us that it was bounced. I will send the cheque again. The five lakh is given as an advance to buy the house,” he said.
Subair also promised to pay the remaining figure, stating, “We will pay the rest ten lakh when the procedures are over. We have set aside Rs 15 lakh for them and won’t step back from the promise. Only thing is that we want to make sure that they get a house and that the money is not lost in anyway.”
Rohith was found hanging in a hostel room on campus in January 2016 and had written a suicide note that sparked outrage across the country.