Radhika Vemula, mother of University of Hyderabad (UoH) research scholar Rohith Vemula, has announced that she will lead a 'Dalit Rath Yatra' across the two Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra.
Writing for the Hindustan Times, Sudipto Mondal reports that Radhika was speaking at a rally on Saturday in Bengaluru, where she said, “On March 14, Raja (Rohith's brother) and I will start the Dalit Swabhiman Rath Yatra. We will travel across Telangana and Andhra for a month and conclude it on Ambedkar Jayanti (April 14). We will try and cover every Dalitwada (Dalit settlement) in these two states.”
The report adds that the 'Rath' or chariot would be the blue auto that Raja Vemula presently drives for a living.
“The 'Bhim Auto' is all we could buy from the donations we got from various well-wishers after Rohith’s death. We decided to buy this vehicle after my younger son, who passed his MSc from Pondicherry Central University with a First Class, could not find a job that matches his qualification. The Bhim Auto is the symbol of our self respect,” Radhika told HT.
She also told the newspaper that she would not care if she didn't get any support, and whoever cared about the issue of Dalits could join.
This announcement comes just weeks after the Guntur district administration in Andhra claimed that Rohith was not a Dalit.
An inquiry report by the District-Level Scrutiny Committee (DLSC) alleged that the SC certificate was “fraudulently” obtained by Rohith and his mother Radhika Vemula. The state also served a show-cause notice to Rohith's family.
The controversy over Rohith's caste first broke out after a certificate of his brother Raja Vemula stated that he was a ‘Vaddera’, a caste which is categorised as OBC in Andhra.
It was later revealed that Rohith’s father Mani Kumar was from the Vaddera community, and his mother belongs to the Mala community.
However, Mani Kumar was an alcoholic who deserted the family once he realised that Radhika was a Dalit, the family claimed. Therefore, Rohith, who never knew his father, claimed his mother's caste, and grew up as a Mala.
Rohith's mother has also alleged that the entire issue was to 'shame' her family and her background.
The latest report by the Andhra government would also have a direct impact on a case pending with the Cyberabad police against UoH Vice Chacellor Appa Rao Podile.
After Rohith’s death, a police case was registered at the Gachibowli police station against Appa Rao and Minister of Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Now with the report claiming that Rohith was not a Dalit, the entire case against the VC and the Minister could collapse, if the family does not 'prove' Rohith's caste.