Mumbai Protest Rally Against Institutional Murder of Rohith Vemula
1 February 2016: Students, workers, social and political activists held a protest rally today from Rani Bagh in Byculla towards the Vidhan Sabha under the banner of “Justice for Rohit – Joint Action Committee, Mumbai” under the guidance of Adv. Prakash Ambedkar. Students from IIT-Bombay, Mumbai University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Nirmala Niketan, Siddharth College, Govt Law College, Ruparel College, St. Xavier’s college, International Institute of Population Sciences, Vivekananda College, Ambedkar College, and many others are part of the front. Several progressive political forces, cultural groups and local organisations also joined. Some four thousand people joined the protest calling for justice for Rohith and for democratisation of Higher Education in the country. The hundreds of protestors who started the rally from Rani Bagh Maidan were also joined by people from the neighbourhood on the way. The rally continued till the Chakrapathi Shivaji Terminus where the police blocked the protestors where they assembled and occupied the road opposite to the CST station. The rally went on till 5:30 pm in the evening and culminated in CST.
The protestors demanded the culprits behind the institutional murder of Rohith including the Vice Chacellor Appa Rao, Union Ministers Smriti Irani, Bandaru Dattatreya, Ramachandra Rao (BJP MLC), Susheel Kumar (ABVP President) etc be arrested and booked under SC/ST prevention of Attrocities (PoA) Act. Other demands included that the Vice Chancellor be immediately removed, Rohith’s family be compensated with 50 lakhs, an judicial enquiry be instituted to look into this case and other caste discriminatory practices in Higher Educational institutions.
The rally was addressed by Adv. Prakash Ambedkar who said that the issue in University of Hyderabad started after the pressure the government (including Union minister Smriti Irani which resulted in the expulsion of the students even after a earlier committee found no wrong doing. He said that there needs to be proper investigation in this matter and cases should be filed against the culprits . He called for further agitations in this issue across Maharashtra and said that this is just a start in the capital city. He warned that if the government does not take any action, then people will be forced to.
Dontha Prashant, Rohith’s friend and one of the five expelled students in University of Hyderabad also addressed the gathering and detailed the circumstances under which the five Dalit research Scholars were expelled in HCU after pressure from the Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and others. He said that Rohith was fighting against the same Brahmanical forces that ultimately lead to his suicide. He read from Rohith suicide note which hoped for a new beginning, a red sun raising in blue sky, which can shine on the darkness of the saffron that has spread across the nation. Ms. Suvarna Salve, a Dalit student activist part of Samatha Vidyarthi Agadi also said, “There are lot of agitations going on around the country related to the injustices against Dalits and other marginalised sections. RSS and BJP are in power and are perpetuating the injusices, for example the banning of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT-M, the appointment of their supporter in FTII. While the rich and the powerful politicians are ruling the nation, there is severe budget cuts in education, for example the Tribal Hostel in Panvel where the students went on strike last year does not even have minimal facilities. There is a need for all students and others to join the fight against this injustice.
Justice for Rohith- Joint Action Committee, Mumbai also submitted a memorandum of demands to the Governor (State of Maharashtra) asking for the demands to be forwarded to the President.