Shiva Sai Ram who worked for ABVP-UoH but quit later, writes about how Rohith Vemula was targeted, abused and tortured by ABVP
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“An event from the past haunts me. The reminder of that is “Ganesh Chaturthi”. In the year 2013, during my association with ABVP, an incident involved me Rohith and the one who is responsible for his institutional murder (Susheel Kumar). It was during Ganesh Chaturthi, when a huge debate sparked in the Facebook groups of UoH regarding the celebration of the festival and pseudoscience being peddled by the right-wing on its name. I being fiercely religious and bigoted tried to defend the celebration of the festival. There were multiple people arguing against my position and one of them was Rohith. We as a group (read Ganesh Utsav committee as ABVP works in mysterious ways) were aware of the atheist identity of Rohith and others. The debate wasn’t going in our favour where we got heavily outnumbered by people arguing against the festival. It was at this juncture ABVP decided to resort to what it best does. Witch hunting.
I was relatively new to the organisation (approx. 2 months) and didn’t know how it functions behind closed doors. It was decided that they would witch hunt those involved in the debate by filing a “blasphemy case” against them. I was asked to take the screenshots of their posts and comments and mail them to few email id’s of people who weren’t students (one of them being Susheel’s brother). I did the same and sent them the screenshots. After a secret discussion among themselves, they decided that Rohith would be their sole target. Their basis of the complaint would be a poem posted on his timeline by Rohith which was originally written by revolutionary telugu poet Sri Sri on the hindu god Ganesh. Another post in which Rohith humorously asked why the birthdays of Superman/Spiderman etc aren’t celebrated like we celebrate Vinayaka Chaturthi.
The case resulted in the arrest of Rohith and him being placed in the local police station for 2 days (as far as I remember). There was jubilation among the ABVP ranks following our successful step to “teach Rohith a lesson”. Rohith was released later (complete details of the case unknown) and made a post regarding the way an attempt was made to muzzle his voice.
There have been countless instances of which I’m ashamed to have taken part as a member of ABVP, but this one is the most haunting one of them all where it involved me getting directly involved in witch hunting Rohith. This isn’t the only incident where Rohith was singled out. The seniors inside the organisation had so much hatred against Rohith and his outspoken attitude in whichever political organisation he was. This led to him being constantly hounded and cornered both in online and offline spaces. It might be hard to apologise for this as Rohith is no more, but revealing this hatred out on the very occasion it was committed relieves me of the immense guilt I hoard for all my activity and association with right-wing groups. I’m attaching various screenshots to support the claims I’m making here.
People who are today denying the way Hindutva forces actively drove Rohith to suicide might not be aware of the relentless abuses and torture he had to go through for taking a political stance against casteist-communal-fascist politics of the Sangh Parivar. This is how an “institutional murder” is committed. This is how marginalised groups like dalits, adivasis and religious minorities are “witch hunted” by the state, police and hindutva groups. It’s never too late to realise the folly of these groups and rise in rage against their politics of hate!