In 2015, before his elder brother, Rohith Vemula died by suicide, Raja wanted to be a scientist.
After his older brother’s death altered his course of life, Raja became an active part of student movements and protests with his mother, Radhika Vemula. The mother-son duo had taken on the fight Rohith had started against discrimination of Dalits in educational universities.
Raja and his mother were found at various meetings and protests in the country, and Raja had in interviews the struggle was a long-drawn one and it was something which could not be achieved in a given time frame.
His struggle may finally be taking form as his mother announced on Twitter yesterday, that her younger son was now an advocate.
“Raja Vemula, my younger son, is now an Advocate. After 5 yrs, It’s one of the major changes happened in our lives since Rohith Vemula. Adv. Raja Vemula will now work/fight for the people & their Rights in the Court of Law and it’s my “Pay Back to Society". Bless him," she wrote on Twitter.
Raja Vemula, my younger son, is now an Advocate. After 5 yrs, It's one of the major changes happened in our lives since Rohith Vemula. Adv. Raja Vemula will now work/fight for the people & their Rights in the Court of Law and it's my "Pay Back to Society". Bless him.Jai Bhim 🙏
— Radhika Vemula (@vemula_radhika) December 18, 2020
Raja, who had a post graduate degree from Puducherry University, post his brother’s death turned to other means for income. He had started driving a goods autorickshaw between Guntur and Tenali in 2017 to earn livelihood and meet additional expenses.
“Many people offered me a job, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. But if I take up the job from politicians, I will be forced to toe the line with them, which my brother hated. Now that I am on a mission to seek justice and also spearheading a movement I will try for a job later,” he told The Hindu.
Raja said the need for money increased as he and his mother were involved in hectic travelling addressing rallies and meetings all over the country.
With an M.Sc in Applied Geology, Raja had wanted to become a scientist. “My brother’s death came as a bolt from the blue. It will take some time to regain semblance," he had added.
In a 2017 interview to EdExLive, he had mentioned dropping out to pursue law. “I don’t know if I can actually do anything or if I will be able to bring about a change," Raja had said “But I want to be part of the movement nevertheless."
He had further explained why law was the path to justice: “There are three ways in which we can bring about a change — legislature, administration and judiciary." While he felt that they cannot expect any change from the legislature or the administration anymore but he thinks there is still hope for the judiciary.
“Not many of our people are lawyers and even if there are a few, there is no fraternity that exists. I think there is a dire need for fraternity among the lawyers or there will be no one to fight for us," he had said.
“More than geology, you need to change society. Like my brother Rohith, there are many others across universities, so we wanted to take care of those students as well. There shouldn’t be any caste discrimination in universities, that’s why we’re fighting back. Rohith’s story cannot be viewed in isolation—it is symbolic of institutional discrimination and the sacrifices of many Dalit Bahujan people and students. We will fight for the Rohith Act, and until then we will not rest or take a break," he wrote in an op-ed for The Print in 2018.
“Without self-respect, how can we survive in this country?" he had added.
During the pandemic, Raja and his mother had started cooking food for migrant labourers under the ‘Rohith Vemula Seva Sangham’ banner.