The third death anniversary of Rohith Vemula was organised at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) amidst high security, including deployment of paramilitary forces.
For the first time in three years since his demise, the police allowed Radhika Vemula and Raja Vemula, Rohith’s mother and brother, into the campus.
Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar in the university, died, allegedly by killing himself on January 17, 2016. It triggered nationwide protests demanding social justice for Dalit and other marginalised students in educational institutions.
The anniversary is being celebrated as Rohith Vemula Shahadat Din by the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), along with other student outfits, excluding the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Speakers at the event included Radhika Vemula and Fathima Nafeez, mother of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Najeeb Ahmed who went missing in October 2016. Perumalla Balaswamy, father of P. Pranay, a Dalit Christian youth who was reportedly killed by his upper caste wife's family, was present. Brothers of Dalit students of UoH Pulyala Raju and Madari Venkatesh, who had killed themselves before Mr. Vemula, also attended the event.
Other speakers included UoH faculty member K.Y. Ratnam; founder of the Nalanda Academy of Wardha, Maharashtra, Anoop Kumar; and advocate Bheem Rao.
Tension on university campus
Tension prevailed throughout the function after the administration allegedly removed ''Velivada'' (Dalit ghetto), a protest spot on the campus that Rohith and four other Dalit students erected on January 4, 2016. Rohith had spent his last days at ''Velivada'' after he was barred from using the hostel facility.
Students have lodged a complaint with the police under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, even as the administration filed another complaint against ASA leaders for trying to build an illegal structure on the university property.
On Thursday, civil society organisations, including the Kula Nirmulana Poratta Samithi (KNPS), attended the event.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP, Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted a plea to make "universities less hostile and inclusive".
“Institutional murder of Rohith three years ago should not be forgotten. Rohith was vocal, articulate and a voice of unity for the oppressed. His absence is felt by all those who defied Hindutva,” he wrote.