Post-Rohith, tales emerge of discrimination against dalit students


The tragic story of dalits — specifically, dalit students — doesn’t seem to be ending with the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a research scholar at the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide on 17 January. As Rohith’s friends continue their protest just outside the university campus, they are receiving support from more and more students from across the country.

Rohith’s university dalit friends and PhD students — Dontha Prashanth, Vijay Kumar, Seshaiah Chemudagunta and Sunkanna Velpua (he has completed PhD) – who are staging protest have their own tales to tell of being discriminated against in the society, as reported by Indian Express on Tuesday.

Students protest after Rohith Vemula's suicide on 17 January.
Students protest after Rohith Vemula’s suicide on 17 January.

Some of them say they are the first ones in their families to get education – but the discrimination continues even in universities, as has been seen in Rohith’s case.

Prashanth, Vijay, Chemudagunta and Velpua – and members of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) — were suspended by the university along with Rohith. The university extended the olive branch but they have rejected it.

Here are the stories of the four dalit students:

Seshaiah Chemudagunta, 27 years old

* His parents were bonded labourers

* He Joined University of Hyderabad (UoH) in 2009

* He has a non-NET fellowship of Rs 8,000 a month

* He is the first member of his family to attend college

* He wants to become a professor


Vijay Kumar, 26 years old

* His parents are agricultural labourers

* He joined UoH in 2009

* He receives a UGC JRF fellowship of around Rs25,000 a month, and sends most of that amount home

* He hopes to finish his PhD thesis on ‘Welfare state and Dalit education’, and become an IAS officer


Sunkanna Velpula, 36 years old

* His parents are labourers

* He joined UoH in 2005

* He receives an UoH fellowship of Rs 8,000 a month, and sends some of it home

* He completed his PhD last year, and is currently waiting for the viva

* He is considered a guiding force in the ASA

* He met Rohith in 2012 when he (Rohith) was in SFI


Uma Maheshwar, 27 years old

* His parents are labourers

* He joined UoH in 2006

* He gets no fellowship

* He met Rohith more than four years ago, and is among those most devastated

* Rohith used Uma’s room to hang himself to death

* Uma says Rohith could rarely live without Facebook and the internet


Ramji Chintagada, 29 years old

* His father is an excise inspector, mother a primary school teacher

* He joined UoH in 2007

* He gets no fellowship

* He attended Sainik School and Loyola College in Chennai for graduation

* He is present president of the ASA

* Since Rohith’s fellowship money was stopped seven months ago, he would regularly borrow from friends, mainly from Ramji


Dontha Prashant, 26 years old

* His father is a driver, mother an agricultural labourer

* He joined UoH in 2006

* He receives no fellowship

* In 2011, he became the president of the UoH Students’ Union