In a symbolic move on BR Ambedkar's 125th Birth anniversary, Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula's mother and brother have converted to Buddhism. Rohith’s suicide in January had led to a wave of protests in campuses across the country and renewed debate on treatment of Dalit students in educational institutions.
Speaking at the event, Rohith's brother Raja Vemula said that his conversion is azaadi from the caste system that has plagued the country.
"When Rohith came home last, he did tell us about the caste discrimination he faces in the university. I lost my brother because of caste discrimination. I want azaadi from caste system. This is a life that Rohit wanted," Raja said.
At the venue of the deeksha ceremony, the mother-son duo paid tributes to Dr Ambedkar and bowed before his portrait. Ambedkar, Dalit icon and architect of the Indian Constitution, converted to Buddhism at a grand ceremony in Nagpur in 1956 as he was strongly opposed to the caste system in Hindusim.
Prakash Ambedkar said Buddhist monks gave 'deeksha' to Rohith's mother and brother at a function on the sidelines of a programme marking the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar. "The function to convert the duo to Buddhism was organised after Radhika Vemula approached me and conveyed their wish to embrace Buddhism when I visited Hyderabad recently," he said.
Raja and Radhika Vemula, along with Rohith's childhood friend Riyaz Shaikh and Hyderabad university student Charbad Raju, had left for Mumbai from Hyderabad on Wednedsay. Rohith's elder sister, who is married, has not converted to Buddhism.
Rohith Vemula, 27, committed suicide on January 17 in a hostel room in Hyderabad Central University where he was a PhD scholar after he and four others were suspended from the hostel last year and restrictions were put on their movement by the university administration as part of disciplinary action for allegedly assaulting ABVP leader N Susheel Kumar.
Raja Vemula to CNN-IBN: I lost my brother because of caste discrimination. @ibnlive— Shawan Sen (@shawansen) April 14, 2016
Raja Vemula to CNN-IBN: when Rohith came home last, he did tell us about the caste discrimination he faces in the university. @ibnlive— Shawan Sen (@shawansen) April 14, 2016