It was 2 p.m in the afternoon, and, as usual, I was in the library. That day I was fasting with my brothers Mir and John. I was thinking of participating in a relay hunger strike with our professors at the velivada. Arpita had told me that Radhika amma is coming to support the relay hunger strike of Professors Rathnam and Tathagata. I do not know why, I strongly felt that I should meet Radhika amma that day. For the past six months she has been besieged with all kinds of challenges. Problems with health and the opposition from the government and the party in power. It was the 153rd day and I have been sleeping less and less. I have been disturbed with the memories of our beloved, “special guy” like Sudipto says, Mr. Rohith Vemula Chakravarthy. I try to spend all the time reading and learning to write in English. And sometimes work to implement the decisions of the JAC – UOH.
On June 17. The same date (January) Rohith went to the stars. I stepped out of the HCU main gate and parked my cycle at the bus stop. The site for the relay hunger strike was situated right in front of the substitute main gate. As far as I remember, the gate was never opened. Slowly I walked towards velivada. To the left there was a tiny platform on which the people supporting the hunger strike sat. Professor Ramudu, who had just resigned from an administrative post, was among them. First, I wished all of them with a smile. Then I looked at the unopened main gate, it was surrounded by unwanted plants, and went inside the tent. Along with the relay hunger strike banner, a blue coloured poster was hanging with slogans “Arrest Apparao Podile” and “Revoke Illegal Suspension” and “Apply SC/ST PoA Act” etc. Everybody sat on a jute mat. There was no power for audio facilities, so the organizers managed to take it from Prof. Joby’s Wagon R battery. The cable from the car went above the jute mat.
Radhika amma, mother of Rohith anna, was sitting there, but there was no space next to her. I awaited for five minutes and chatted with Ramji and Raja anna. Ratnam sir and Tathagat sir were engaged in a discussion with some social organization leaders from outside, about the future plan of action. Both the professors were wearing a blue coloured T-shirt, Ambedkar’s face sketched on it in white color, which amma offered them to wear. Ratnam sir was explaining everything in English, and in Telugu for Radhika amma. By that time I found a place near Radhika amma, I sat along with her.
For few minutes I was admiring amma. What if she was my mother. Amma was sitting sideways, with her right hand on the chin. She was keenly listening to Ratnam sir’s speech. She was wearing a saree with a mix of black, light green and white colours, with black dots and a design of white flowers. Her hair had a lot of newly grown white hair. She was wearing red color bangles on her hands. In front of her there was a garland, which they offered for hunger strike participants. It was the fourth day of relay hunger strike after the suspension of two faculties. While looking at her tired tailoring foot, I asked amma, “How is your health amma? Did you come from Guntur?”. She said “yes babu”. Then she asked me “Have you met Rohith?”
I said “Yes amma, I met him one day before his demise.” It was around 8.PM. Rohith was sitting on the cement bench that is now on the left side of the velivada. One of the tent ropes is tied to the corner of that bench. He was looking at his mobile phone. We used to call each other Anna. We both asked each other, “Anna, have you had dinner?” Rohith said, “I will have it later anna”. He was wearing a blue and grey coloured jerkin. After that we spoke about the movement and he said “Our first stage of democratic protest is vellivada, later we will go for hunger strike etc.” I said, “Then I will also join with you anna, and he said “Thank you, anna”. I said goodnight and left.
The next day I was sitting at the shop com and from there I saw the Health Centre ambulance entering into the C hostel road. I thought somebody might have had some serious health problem. Thereafter I have seen two Innova police cars. Then I thought may be there was a clash. But suddenly a mob rushed towards the C hostel road and towards the NRS hostel. Then our friends thought that somebody might have attempted suicide. Two of my friends went on the bike to check out. They came with the sad news that Rohith killed himself. Then we all went to the NRS hostel, where we saw Rohith’s body on the freezer.
I did not want to hurt her by recalling Rohith’s memories. I remembered myself with Rohith. I met Rohith six times. First time, I met Rohith at the south-campus shop com during a protest rally from the north campus. He was wearing a light gray color shirt, while me and prashanth was in a black shirt. He was enthusiastically raising slogans. That time I wondered why I never raised slogans. May be the language barrier, I told myself. But I was amazed with his leadership skills.
Second time I met Rohith was near the NRS mess on the way to Dickens room. Rohith was coming from opposite side. “Anna, very soon we are going to organize a GBM, so please do come and bring our friends. And take some responsible post this time,” he told me. I said, “Anna, our people are working hard but why are we not winning?”. I remembered the 2013 Students Union elections. Rohith said, “No anna, this time surely we are going to win. We will continue our hard work, and our life is always a struggle. People are watching who is really helping the student community.” That was the time the ASA fought for early entrance examination and had debated with the VC to bring out the waiting list candidates for admission. It was exactly three months before the victory of Vincent Benny as the President of the Students Union in 2014.
The third time I met Rohith was at the Masjid Banda roundabout with brother Ramji. Rohith and I smiled at each other. He said, “Anna, tomorrow we have a GBM, so please come. The last time you did not come”. I said, “It is ok anna, you seniors decide, I will accept and agree whatever the decision”. Rohith said, “No, no anna, this time we have changed the approach. Everybody should participate and we will democratically elect our association body, please come”. But there was a rumour I heard from people that many of them and me too,wanted brother Ramji as the ASA president. I simply congratulated brother Ramji and left from there.
After that for quite a long time I did not meet Rohith. I was busy with my course work and semester exams. I was not even aware of their suspension. Meanwhile I met brother Seshu at the SSB canteen while he was having breakfast. I asked seshu anna, “Why are you having breakfast here anna? Is the mess card closed or you got up late?” Then Seshu Anna told me, “Arey, we got suspended, you don’t know?” He told me the names of the other four suspended brothers. After a week, one day before the “Occupy HCU admin”, I was going to the library via shop com. From velivada, Prasanth called me first. Sunkanna and Vijay anna were sitting on the bench nearby. Rohith was sitting inside the vellivada. Munna was standing next to him. Munna gave me a bunch of pamphlets to distribute in the library. First time I had seen the name in black bold letters: “Joint Action Committee For Social Justice”. I told Munna that we don’t need so many for the library. I took some pamphlets and I was not really interested. Suddenly Rohith said, “Anna, we have to struggle wholeheartedly, otherwise we cannot revoke this illegal suspension.” Immediately I took some more pamphlets and on the way I read it and distributed those in the library and the reading room. That was the fourth time I met Rohith.
After a fortnight, I was coming to my room from the library, around 11.45 pm. On the way to my hostel, I crossed shopcom, and from the road I saw two guys sleeping inside the velivada. There was no light at the shopcom. But there was a ray of light coming from the ATM that covered the shop com. I went to the velivada and found Seshu anna and Rohith sleeping. Those two were struggling with mosquitoes. Seshu anna was fully covered with bed sheet, while Rohith was not. Rohith slightly moved his body, and slapped the mosquito on his left face and arms. Rohith was trying to find who I am, three time he looked at me and the last time he silently whispered, “goodnight”, and I too wished the same and went away.
The sixth time was also the last time I had met him. At least once everyday I remember this. And I can feel the pain of an innocent mother. Because my mother used to say, “For our community, boys are the wealth. They are going to study and earn and help, not only their family but our community as a whole.”Dear anti-nationals, this country killed the son of an innocent mother. They said “Bharat Mata has lost her son”. But they hurt the mother by questioning her caste and identity. Can she really support their nationalism after this injustice?
Dear anti-nationals, let me tell you, one day this nation’s leader is going to sell all. Just for a selfie and for a standing ovation from the outsiders. Hundreds and hundreds of Dappa Rao’s are going to kill thousands of Rohiths and they are going to say, “He/She was a gifted student”. All the intellectuals from the marginalised communities will get arrested just for mocking fictional characters. At the same time, all the leading national institutes will be headed by people who cannot even clear the 10th standard exam. These people claim dissenters as anti-nationals and seditious. They are going to kill many Rohiths, like us, just for eating beef, for being rational, for being intellectually productive for the country. But we are the real sons of this land and after we are all killed, there will be no nation.
What are you waiting for to support an innocent mother?
Let us all, students from all over the world, become Radhika amma’s Rohith by supporting this anti-caste movement. Let us fight together to help the helpless mother. The mother of this universe.
PC: JAC-UOH, Arpita, Munna.