“Nothing… nothing,” he said, struggling to put up a brave face even as tears streamed down. Then, Dhonta Prashanth walked away from the group to stand alone.
The 26-year-old research scholar is one of the five Dalit students, including Rohith Vemula, who was suspended last year for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader, sparking a national political storm.
On Friday, he broke down while discussing the next course of action with members of the Students Joint Action Committee, a day after they had rejected the University of Hyderabad’s decision to revoke the suspensions.
And even as politicians and representatives of political parties and student organisations continue to make a beeline to the protest venue packed with hundreds of students, the four suspended students say they feel isolated and dejected. Their closest friend Rohith is no more.
On Friday afternoon, the four went through the first round of counselling at the university’s medical centre. “The initial anger has given way to feelings of guilt and dejection. They are going through tense moments now. As they are spending 18 to 20 hours at the protest venue, they are reminded of Rohith every moment. They are very vulnerable and should not be left alone,” said Capt Dr Ravindra Kumar, the university’s chief medical officer, who counselled Prashanth.
Dr Kumar has now sought the services of a professional psychiatrist from outside on an “unofficial” basis. “We have told the peer group of these students and members of the joint action committee to not let them out of sight,” he said.
Back at the protest venue, Telangana Joint Action Committee leader Mallepalli Lakshmaiah grabbed Prashanth and hugged him. “Tell me what are you thinking, what is going on in your mind,” another member asked him. “Nothing, sir, nothing. Nobody will understand,” Prashanth said, and walked back to the venue.