New Delhi: In December 2015, five Dalit students were accused of attacking the then ABVP president of University of Hyderabad. They were suspended following which one of the students, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide. Four years have passed since Vemula’s suicide and the anger it triggered across the nation. Now his friend, and one of the students who was expelled in 2015, Vijay Kumar Pedapudi, has taken the fight for justice to mainstream politics.
A year and a half ago, a conversation with his professors made him think how politics was the only answer to fulfill his objectives. “I was in student politics for nearly a decade and participated in many social movements. After discussions with professors, I realised that joining mainstream politics was the only way to get our voices heard. Our objectives were not being fulfilled completely in the previous social movements that we were part of,” Pedapudi told News18.
He emphasised on the importance of young and educated people in mainstream politics. “Educated people like us and people who have a better understanding of the society are away from it. Those with little or no knowledge of the society are the people in politics now. Politics is full of big-shot businessmen and criminals. We have an idea of the worst in society and we need to be in mainstream politics to enhance the lives of those in need,” he further said.
His professors put him in touch with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena and the BSP and the alliance came through. “These parties have the objective of enhancing the lives of the downtrodden. Their fight is similar to mine,” he said. Having declared zero assets, Pedapudi is fighting from Parchur district in Andhra Pradesh.
On why he decided to contest from Parchur, an unreserved seat, Pedapudi said the label that the seat comes with is one of the prime reasons why he decided to contest from there.
“In a general constituency, there is negligence towards SC/ST and other backward classes. People are under the impression that in a general constituency, only general candidates can fight. That is not true. Anyone from any community can contest this seat,” he added.
Pedapudi’s resolve to join politics and fight from Parchur was further strengthened after his family’s land was taken over by the government to develop an irrigation canal.
“My family’s land has been taken away by the government to develop an irrigation canal. Our family was dependent on that land. This is not just one case. There have been cases where only Dalits’ land has been taken away by the government. Their cries were unheard. I think contesting from a general constituency will give some hope to my people at least. I have to stand for them,” he said.
He feels there is very little hope for Dalits under the BJP government. Pedapudi looks back at the time his friend killed himself. “Just by having the political power, the BJP ruined our lives. I’m not saying that under the Congress we didn’t witness attacks on Dalits but under the BJP it is completely different. The type and number of attacks in the last five years is unprecedented. Be it the Una case, Hyderabad university incident, Kalburgi murder. There is a lot of intolerance, particularly towards Dalits. Those supporting Buddhism or Ambedkar are being targeted,” he said.
“Change has to come. Between BJP and Congress, Dalits are safer under the Congress,” he said.
Speaking of Vemula, Pedapudi said he was in touch with his parents who expressed their happiness at his contesting the elections. “If Rohith was alive, he would have done the same. There is no doubt on that. He wanted to do something for people. If he was alive, he would have been standing with me.”