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Rohith Vemula’s family converts to Buddhism

New beginning:Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika and brother Chiatanya Raja Vemula at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s ancestral house in Dadar on Thursday—Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury  

The city on Thursday became a battleground of opposing viewpoints on Dalit identity politics on the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi was paying glowing tributes to Dr Ambedkar at the India Maritime Summit at Goregaon’s Bombay Exhibition Centre, barely 18 km away in central Mumbai, the late Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula’s family embraced Buddhism, and questioned the credibility of the one-man commission appointed by the Modi government to probe his suicide.

Mr Modi was effusive in his praise for Dr Ambedkar, and underlined why the summit was organised on the 125th birth anniversary of the Dalit leader. He said, “There is a reason this important summit has been organised on this day. It is the 125th birth anniversary of a great son of India, who also lived and worked in Mumbai. I am referring to Dr BR Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution. He is also the architect of the water and river navigation policy in India.”

The Prime Minister said that many are unaware that Dr Ambedkar created two powerful institutions, the Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission (CWINC) and the Central Technical Power Board (CTPB). “His observations while setting up these two organisations is testimony to his foresight,” Mr Modi said.

Hours later, at Ambedkar Bhavan in Dadar Rohith Vemula’s younger brother Chaitanya and his mother Radhika embraced Buddism in the presence Dr Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar. “We have no faith in the single man commission of inquiry appointed by the Modi government,” Chaitanya said after the “Deeksha” ceremony.

He added, “People fighting for justice for my brother are asking just one single question: why doesn’t Prime Minister Narendra Modi say a single word about the HCU Vice chancellor Appa Rao?”

In a statement, Chaitanya said, “When he can shed tears for my brother, why can’t he speak or make a statement about the people responsible for his death. The real culprits behind Rohith’s death are BJP leaders Venkaiah Naidu, Smriti Irani and the Prime Minister himself.”

His statement added: “From today my mother, Radhika Vemula and I are going to start the kind of life that Rohith always dreamed of, the kind of life that Babasaheb Ambedkar wanted us to lead.”

The “Deeksha” ceremony began with Dalit slogans such as “Jai Bhim” being chanted by a gathering of a few hundred Buddhists. Twenty monks were also present. Speaking to reporters, Chaitanya disclosed that Rohith had a desire to follow the path of Babasaheb and embrace Buddhism. “Last November when he visited our Guntur home, he was wearing a white dress and spoke about his deep faith and affection towards the Buddha’s teachings.

Radhika Vemula broke her silence and spoke in Telugu thanking everyone present. “We have chosen to embrace Buddhism to get rid of humiliation and suppression,” she said.

Additional reporting Lalatendu Mishra

My mother and I are going to start the life that Rohith always dreamed of

ChaitanyaRohith’s brother

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 2:05:21 PM |

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