A photo of Rohith Vemula 10 days before he died shows how politicians betrayed him

We approached MPs from all the parties says Ram Prasad
A photo of Rohith Vemula 10 days before he died shows how politicians betrayed him
A photo of Rohith Vemula 10 days before he died shows how politicians betrayed him
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A photograph taken on January 7, 10 days before Rohith Veumla hanged himself from a ceiling fan in his friend’s hostel room, is a portrait of the farce that Indian politics often is. It was given to me by Battula Ram Prasad, the state president of the Mala Sankshema Sangham of Telangana.

The discovery of the photograph was accidental. In the first few days after Rohith Vemula’s death, there was news that Dalits in the Red Hills colony in Hyderabad had shooed away BJP workers who were canvassing for votes for the upcoming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections.

Following up on that tidbit, I went to the area which is located on a patch of hills near Lakdikapul.

Guided by different people, I met M Prem Kumar, a member of the district SC / ST Vigilance and Monitoring Committee, set up under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act.

Seventy-year-old Prem Kumar’s house is filled with Ambedkar's books and pictures. Kumar had met Rohith and the other students on January 12 at the university campus.

“I am extremely shocked. We lost a brilliant child. It is definitely a murder by the BJP, ABVP and RSS. It all started when the ASA opposed Yakub Memon's death sentence, but they are not the first to oppose capital punishment,” Kumar told The News Minute.

“But no one has ever referred to them as anti-nationals or terrorists. So how come BJP called these students as anti-national?” he said, referring to union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya’s letter to the MHRD.

Soon, his neighbour and president of the Sankshema Sangham of Telangana arrived.

It was after Christmas that Dontha Prashant and Rohith Vemula approached Prasad and apprised him of the situation. They had been asked to leave the hostel in December. On his advice, they decided on a hunger strike. But by this time, they had also approached PL Punia, the Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.

On January 7 Prasad had met all the five students at the Velivada – Dalit Ghetto – on the university campus. That was also the day he, Rohith and Dontha Prashant met Faggan Singh Kulaste, a BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Welfare of Scheduled Castes.

The Velivada on the campus, where the five students were camping out after they were asked to leave the hostel.

Prasad recalls that there was some kind of meeting at the Grand Kakatiya Hotel in Begumpet which several politicians were attending.

They submitted a memorandum to Kulaste and took a photograph with him and others. In the centre, wearing a jacket is Kulaste. To his right are Prashanth and Rohith. Also in the photo, is Congress MP JD Seelam (third from left), who, four days after Rohith killed himself, offered his condolences at protests in Hyderabad University.

He told the media: “Students are not safe under the governance of the BJP.  It is an extreme case of psychological reductionism one undergoes. These things were always there in villages but after this incident now it’s confirmed that these kind of caste feelings exist even among educated professionals like university professors, teachers and others. Culprits behind Rohith's death should be strictly punished.”

“We approached MPs from all the parties. After his death even the Congress responded. But where were they when he himself was fighting for the issue? Rohith fought for his rights but no one responded to his memorandum, and that is the reason he committed suicide. It’s obvious that it’s an open murder not a suicide,” Ram Prasad said.  

Battula Ram Prasad said that on January 24, a Sunday, a BJP councillor had come to campaign for the elections.

“We all boycotted her and asked her why she was asking for votes from a community which is anti-national, casteist, extremist and terrorist?” Prasad said. 

He added: “We will not allow anyone from the BJP to enter our colony. After this incident (Rohith’s death), we are very much certain that we will not vote for BJP for the upcoming GHMC elections,” he added.

Rohith’s family had to allow the last rites to be performed by the police. By the time Prasad reached, the funeral pyre had been set alight. All he could do was be with Rohith’s family who were present in the cremation ground in the Amberpet area of the city.

However, on account of the manner in which the BJP has behaved, he said they were campaigning among Dalits across the city to not vote for the BJP. “This is why we have decided to not to support BJP anymore. We boycotted the BJP on Sunday at our colony. On Monday we did the same in Domalguda and we are also planning to protest in Khairtabad on Friday. We are also doing door-to-door campaign against BJP.”

Despite all this, Prasad is unable to shake off a twinge of guilt. “I feel that I am also one of the reasons for his death. Despite being the state president of Mala Sankshema Sangham I couldn't help him, and I will regret it my whole life,” Prasad said.

Ram Prasad(First Left), JD Seelam (Third left),Faggan Singh Kulaste(BJP) Lok Sabha MP(Centre),Rohith(second right) and Prashanth(Third right)-Main Picture


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