SINCE THE death of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit PhD scholar who committed suicide at the University of Hyderabad on January 17, his brother Naga Chaitanya Vemula, also known as Raja, and mother Radhikamma Vemula had put their lives on hold to fight for justice. But now, they have shifted back to their home in Guntur, where Raja, a post-gradate in Applied Geology, drives a mini-truck to deliver vegetables, and Radhikamma has resumed tailoring.
“I am scared of working in any organisation now. I don’t know what I will have to face, what people may say. So I took this driving job. It is safer and it is my personal decision,’’ said Raja.
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When Rohith hanged himself in the New Research Scholars hostel at the University of Hyderabad after being asked to vacate his hostel room, Raja was working as a Project Fellow at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) at Hyderabad. He stopped going to work after his brother’s death.
“I informed them about my situation and NGRI kept my position vacant for over three months. After that, I informed NGRI that I would not be able to join again. We survived on whatever money we had. Now, it is time to get back to work,’’ he said.
The family has refused to take the Rs 8 lakh ex-gratia compensation announced by the University of Hyderabad.
The mini-truck that Raja drives was purchased by one of his friends on loan. “I deliver vegetables to several places on the outskirts of Guntur from morning to evening. I make Rs 400-Rs 450 per day,’’ he said. “My mother has also got back to tailoring. If she is invited to attend any Dalit public meeting, she goes. But when she is at home, she takes orders to stitch clothes,” he said.
“We have not given up on our fight to get justice for Rohith. We want those people who are responsible for his death to be punished. We will continue that fight. But to survive, we have to work, so we came back to our home in Guntur last week,’’ he said.
Raja was offered a job by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, which he did not accept. The Delhi government also later withdrew the offer after it came under legal scrutiny.