Two years since her son committed suicide, Radhika Vemula hugged the bust erected in his memory, unable to control her tears.
Rohith's mother was at the 'velivada' (north shopping complex) of the University of Hyderabad where the young man had studied. Her wails piercing the air as she called out to her son, Radhika was inconsolable.
However, the second death anniversary, 'Shahadath Din' (Martyrdom Day), of PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, saw a poor turnout at the University of Hyderabad where he had committed suicide.
Although the Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA) had appealed to the students to boycott the classes and attend the meeting, the gathering did not have many students. The Students' Federation of India, Dalit Students' Union, National Students' Union of India, Bahujan Students' Front, and other student organisations excluding the ABVP, had lent moral support to the ASA in the Justice for Rohith movement.
However, many desisted from participating in the rally and the gathering. The student leaders of these organisations claimed that they're being accused of trying to hijack the movement and were hence not participating in it actively.
Unlike the previous year, the university allowed the ASA to convene a meeting. But, the ban on the media continued this year and tiffs broke out between journalists and security personnel at multiple points.
Radhika Vemula was allowed into the campus for some time. Rohith's bust had been erected at the 'velivada' where he had spent his last day with friends after their expulsion from the hostel.
Rohith and his four friends - Dontha Prashanth, Vijay Pedapudi, Seshu and Sunkanna Velpula - were expelled in 2016 by the UoH administration for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader. Following this series of events, Rohith committed suicide on January 17. The moving note he wrote before his death, in which he spoke about his dreams and the way the casetist world around him had crushed those, sent waves of anger across the country.