The quarrel was sparked by a Facebook post accusing Radhika and Raja of profiting from Rohith's death.

Photos of Rohith Vemulas mother brother going to Una rally spark social media spatFacebook
news Rohith Vemula controversy Thursday, August 18, 2016 - 18:07

On August 14, pictures of Radhika Vemula, Raja Vemula (mother and brother of Rohith Vemula) and Dontha Prashanth travelling to Una for the “Chalo Una” rally were doing the rounds on social media.

But when Surya Pratap Singh, a former SFI member and student of University of Hyderabad, shared the photo with a caption that they were capitalizing on Rohith’s death, it unleashed a bitter spat between the ABVP and the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JAC) in the University.

Surya Pratap Singh posted a picture of the trio travelling in a train saying that the politicisation of Rohith’s death had made his mother rich enough to travel luxuriously. He also alleged in the post that Raja Vemula was seeking an ‘A’ grade government job.

The JAC, in turn, slammed Surya for “casteist and communal remarks” remarks about Radhika, Raja and Prashanth in a Facebook post. It said that the delay in ensuring justice for Rohith had affected Radhika’s health, and that despite her poor health conditions she had travelled to Una to show solidarity with the Dalit community in Gujarat, and Surya was indulging in mud-slinging by claiming she was travelling luxuriously.

On his claim that Raja Vemula was seeking an A-grade job, the post pointed out that Raja had rejected a job offer from the Delhi government. Moreover, it added that although the JAC did not endorse arguments of ‘merit’, Raja was a well-qualified post-graduate, as against political masters of the Hindu Right.

Surya, however, says that he stands by his post.

“I posted what I felt was right. They have politicized Rohith’s death and there is no transparency. They (JAC) keep saying that students are contributing for his family but how much are they contributing? Where is the money to organize rallies and avail an AC coach coming from? That’s what I want to know,” Surya said.

The comments on Surya’s post are divided, with one camp saying that Surya has rightly pointed out the misuse of Rohith’s death. However, many have interpreted Surya’s comment on a ‘poor’ Dalit family traveling in an AC coach as being in bad taste. “Is he really so shocked that a working-class Dalit woman can travel in an AC compartment?” challenges Arpita, a JAC member.

While Surya says he has never been a member of the ABVP, the JAC attacked the ABVP, the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the RSS and the BJP for delegitimizing their “struggle for #JusticeforRohith, our struggle for social justice and annihilation of caste.”

The Facebook post by the JAC refers to Surya as a BJYM campus coordinator and also has screenshots of Surya’s Linkedin profile, which state that he is a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha and a former member of Bajrang Dal. However, Surya says that he is no longer on the networking platform and the JAC is using three-year-old screenshots to target him. He also claims that while he was in UoH, he was an SFI member.  

The JAC post also calls Surya a “sick, casteist, mysogynist and disgusting person”, which some persons have taken objection to as a personal attack. ABVP member Gurajada Garikipati, for instance, asks, “So if someone is posting something on their personal profile, they’ll attack them personally?”

In an ABVP statement reported by The Times of India, the ABVP also said that the JAC should practice its own principles: “If you can criticise, others have the right to disagree and condemnation is not defamation.”

However, counters Arpita, ever since the National SC Commission report dispersed all doubts that Rohith was Dalit, the ABVP has lost its moral high ground and is resorting to new ways to discredit Rohith’s family. "That is why they are looking for other means to propagate their casteist agenda and stop us from getting justice for Rohith," she argues.

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