Radhika also told Dalit women, “Do not underestimate your strength and bow down.”

Time has come for Dalits to ask questions Radhika Vemula speaks on Rohiths anniversary
news Rohith Vemula Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 15:48

On the first anniversary of her son Rohith's death, Radhika Vemula visited the campus of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on Tuesday evening, to visit the stupa and velivada raised in memory of his struggle.

A year ago, Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student at UoH, had killed himself following alleged harassment from the university management.

Radhika was not allowed to enter the campus by university authorities, but addressed the crowd of students and well-wishers who had gathered at the campus gate. The difference made by a year of struggle for justice for her son was clearly apparent to all.

Unlike the Radhika Vemula of last year, who was soft spoken and shied away from the cameras, the bereaved mother was vocal and confident while addressing the gathering.

In a speech that lasted for close to an hour, Radhika spoke passionately about the caste discrimination that she faced, the struggle of raising children on her own, her fond memories of Rohith, and the burden that she lives with, after his suicide.

Here are some excerpts from her speech:

Jai Bheem to everyone. Thank you to everyone who has gathered here today. Today, I came to pay my respects to Rohith's stupa, but VC Appa Rao has not let me and my family enter the campus. Are we thieves or anti-nationals? What will we do if we enter? Even when you killed my child, I didn't tell you anything, today what will I do?

My son died before me. I should've died before him. You have insulted me by not even extending the basic courtesy to me, of visiting his stupa. What have I done, to become your enemy?

You have killed my son. If any other student wrote a letter asking you for poison, would you have not done anything? What if it was your own son? Would you have stayed quiet as a parent? When I left my son in the university, he was your responsibility. Tell me what he did wrong. Can you bring him back to me now?

If things continue like this, all the Dalits in the country will come together, and will come out. The day will come when they will teach you a lesson. If you see our strength, your entire system will be shaken. It will be like an earthquake under your seats. If you let our children study, we will not give you any trouble, otherwise, we (the minorities) have the power to overturn the government in a minute.

Our Prime Minister Modi had said, "If you want to attack, attack me, not Dalits. If you want to shoot, shoot me." He asked people not to touch the Dalits. Without laying a hand on us, they have smartly learnt how to sideline and kill us.  

That day when Rohith died, I cried to the media cameras begging for mothers of the university students to come out, but not one mother came. They were sitting at home and crying, but what use is that? We all have to come out and question the authorities. A Dalit woman is much stronger than anyone else. Do not underestimate your strength and bow down. Everyone should come out. The time has come for us to ask questions.

All of you (students) please be brave. No one should try to kill themselves. We have our community, we have Ambedkar, who is god for us. However, above that is the mother. Never make your mother cry. One mother would've done tailoring work, one mother would've swept the streets, another would've done coolie work, all that to raise you. Keep that in mind, and never take any extreme steps in a moment of discouragement.

If you have any trouble, go to your mother and lie down on her lap. Tell her your worries. No matter what kind of a person she is, she will understand you. If Rohith would've come to me, all this would not have happened. I don't know why he left me like this and wanted to make me cry. My children were my world. 

Everyday whether my eyes were open or shut, I could only see my two boys in front of me. I had to raise them, educate them, pay the fees, feed them meals. There was a time when I cried because I couldn't even feed my children properly. Even in those conditions, I raised them. I didn't want them to bow down to anybody, and I decided that education was the only way that they would be equal in society.

Those were the dreams that Rohith came to the university with. He was a very determined kid. If he started something, he would not leave it. He would play chess as a kid. He was very good at it. He would always get deeply involved, with a motivation to win. However, in case of what happened last year, I think he went too deep. If I knew what was happening to him at the campus, I would've helped him and consoled him in some way.

All those people who killed Rohith are happily roaming free. Not one of them is thinking about him today. Was their conscience even touched for murdering a student? They thought that a wicket had fallen, but they didn't realize that several lakh Rohiths would emerge. 

I still wish that he had come to me with his problems that day. I would've cried for ten days and told him to leave the university. He didn't realize that I would cry for the rest of my life, if he leaves me forever.

I have one last message for women, especially women from minority communities. Spread the word of Ambedkar to everybody, and teach them how to empower themselves. There should be an Ambedkar from every household. Give your children education and make them study in universities. Education is the way forward, and we can attain anything we want with education. 

Students have awakened, and now the women should come. We have a long fight ahead. Let’s be peaceful and fight for our rights. I will fight with you and I am here only for that. Jai Bheem!