This is a transcript of the speech delivered by Dontha Prashanth at Velivada in the University of Hyderabad campus after his release from jail on March 29, 2016; it was transcribed by Vinay Shende. The speech has been captured in two videos: Prashanth's speech starts at around the 26:15 minute in the first video, and continues all through the second video. Any discrepancies or errors in interpreting the speech are ours ~ Round Table India
Jai Bhim everyone. At this time, the people who deserve this applause more are the students that made this moment possible and not the arrested students. Rohith Vemula wanted a sense of humanity to be established in this country, where there is no humanity. People are divided in the name of caste, religion, community & creed.
Prashanth's speech starts at around the 26:15 minute
Friends, first we would like to thank all the students, all the faculty, even non-teaching staff and the civil society organizations, different political parties, our advocates viz. Damodar Reddy, Bheem Rao, Bojja Tharakam, Raghunath and a few more and several other people whose participation has been there in this issue. Would like to thank each and everyone of those who have been part of this movement and are willing to take this movement forward.
My friend was whispering in my ear that on 22nd when we were lathi charged and taken in vans, it was the girl students who came and stood in front of us. In fact, it is they who have saved most of the boys who were running out of that scene. I think that appreciation must go to the Girl students who stood there despite receiving severe blows, abuses and humiliating comments. And secondly, it is these brave students. Students were beaten, lathi charged. They were made to run from VC's guest house. Stones were pelted. The way women students were - I can't find a word, but for molestation. Students were beaten badly. If Harish takes his clothes off, the injuries are still physically visible. But what happened after that must be commended. Even after all these beatings, abuses from police, the students have still resisted the entry of police, resisted the entry of Appa Rao who made sure that all students are arrested. They got themselves arrested to save Justice for Rohith. This is unprecedented.
The motive behind the violence was to suppress the movement. Instead, what happened was that the movement has expanded in a way that is unprecedented. When it comes to how all of us were abused, in the van when we were taken to different Police Stations – we were treated as murderers. We were taken from one police station to another police station. When one person tried to share the information from a mobile about which police station we were in, that person was brutally beaten up. We were then moved to Moinabad police station, which is far away from the Cyberabad Commisionerate. In a very secret manner, we were produced in front of the Magistrate at 2 pm, violating all principles of the Constitution. We were branded as Anti-Nationals.
These days, the term Anti-National has become so common, that these BJP fellows don't even understand what the nation is. Bandaru Dattatraya was saying he will celebrate Ambedkar Birth Anniversary. All of us said this fellow who branded Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) as casteist, extremist and anti-national - he doesn't even know what a Nation is. He doesn't even kow what Ambedkar has said about the Nation. Ambedkar has said. "There is NO Nation. India is not a nation". It is nothing but divided into castes. Castes are Anti-national". Once you have taken birth in a particular caste and you are embedded with the value of Casteism, then you are Anti-National. This fellow Appa Rao is an Anti-National! How can we become Anti-National?
Kathi Padma Rao when he visited the University (I am a Dalit and I don't hesitate to say that I am a Dalit) - he said:
O Dalit! Dalit!
Child of the land of Bharat!
You are the first civilsed man
Who created the cities on the banks of the Indus!
O Dalit! Dalit! (translated from Telugu - Ed)
It is we Dalits who have built this Nation, who have built this nation with our sweat and energy, that is what Rohith was also pointing out. But you are still not appreciating his thoughts, the work that we have put up for this term called India. Though there is no brotherhood, no sense of humanity towards us, we still work for others. We believe in Communatarism and not in Sectarianism. But yet you brand Rohith as Anti-National. This fellow V.K.Singh should have sense. Another person ArunJaitley comes from nowhere, who is called as Finance Minister of this country, and brands the students in universities as Jehadis. If these sort of remarks are aimed at the students, then we must understand the particular plot that this RSS, BJP and this Government is using.
Friends, it's these Universities that are raising voice against all anti-student, anti-people, anti-Dalit, anti-Minority policies of this country. Raising voice against all sorts of violence in this country. Raising voice against caste discrimination, that is happening in various Universities of this country. If you don't have any option but to support Caste or Brahminism, then you have to crush these voices that are questioning you. That is what exactly has happened in the University of Hyderabad, since the month of August. When we were branded as Anti-Nationals/Casteists and where Rohith Vemula was PUSHED into a Death Zone, without even considering the letter written by him.
2 months of peaceful protests were happening. Classes were going on. Everything was normal. Prof. Periasamy discusses about an Anti-Discrimination Officer to be appointed at the University. On this, the "henchmen" of Appa Rao, who are certain Deans and Heads of Departments, oppose this move of having an Anti-Discrimination Officer in this University. These fellows come on 22nd of March, vist Appa Rao's home. Alok Pandey would be present. Deans of various schools would be present. ABVP members would be present. But not the students who were seeking Justice for Rohith Vemula.
When we want to make an appeal to the UoH, that Appa Rai is charged under a Case and if the Executive Council has any knowledge of the Constitution, (it should take note that) Appa Rao appealed for bail and didn't get bail, the Judicial Commission is in place, and if he comes to this University, unnecessary atmosphere will be created. He was given a grand welcome by the henchmen. He thought that the movement is suppressed since classes are going on. But he doesn't know that there is anger, anger against himself, Dattatraya, Smriti Irani, which has been continuing all across the country and has only been kept in abeyance, as R.P.Sharma says.
Now when he comes, don't we have a right to peacefully protest against a murderer, who has instigated violence on the campus. I will narrate two instances. I know a friend, who is very close to me, has been an active part of the Movement for Justice for Rohith. There was a thought that was circulating around that VC Appa Rao might come back to this University. When he heard about it, he said " If Appa Rao comes, my whole life will end up in only struggling against him. I better take a TC than stay here". Another friend who is also active in this movement, his mind becomes blank with this though of the Return. He doesn't know what he is doing. He couldn't tolerate the idea that Appa Rao is going to come.
Friends, there are situations that are prevailing that cannot tolerate the name/thought of Appa Rao entering the University. Then how can you expect that we can tolerate his presence in the University?
Distinguished faculty write to the President that he should recall this fellow called Appa Rao. Should an Institution suffer because of an individual? Appa Rao is an individual who has been supported by his Kamma lobby - operated by a Kamma Vice Chancellor, a Kamma Registrar, a Kamma Deputy Registrar (Security), supported by another big Pedda (Big) Kamma sitting in Delh i- Venkaiah Naidu. Is this Hyderabad Central University or Kamma Central University? If you are making this University into a regressive space, then do we students need to accept it to be transformed into that state of affairs? I would say BIG NO. I cannot tolerate it because Rohith Vemula doesn't want you to tolerate it. Because Rohith doesn't want Identities to take primacy in this world, instead Humanity should take primacy in this world.
What happened after our arrest? Electricity, water, mess cut down. What happened later? There is a flourishing humanity that has come from outside, not from inside. There are neighbouring residents that have said we will open homes for students. We will offer food for your students. It is a signal of Humanity that has come out of the Justice for Rohith movement. This credit has to be given to everyone who has taken part in the movement. I would see this movement as not just between castes, but between a group of people who are supporting casteism and a group of people that want to annihilate Caste. This is a movement for the Annihilation of Caste. This is for the first time in the history of the country that all students, irrespective of caste, class, vreed has come together and are talking against Caste. This movement has a lot of significance and HCU must be proud of it. HCU is setting an example in this direction.
When we have further press conferences, which produced more of political rhetoric, than the updates we were to tell. There were more intricate things that we faced when we were taken from one jail to another jail. We were told that our human rights are suppressed. When I asked that "Sir, I want to look at the FIR, what charges are framed against us? Who complained against me and the rest of us?" The answer I receive is that "Your human rights are collapsed. Even if I hang you, no one can question."
Now, he need not tell me that my Human Rights are collapsed in this country, as that I knew for a long time. This fellow need not educate me on that. What happened after that is there is a flood of movement that has come across the country, which forced the same police people to call up the Jailor and enquire whether are any complaints that are going from this jail against us. Which means the fight for human rights has started, that is now frightening the same police force that has lathi charged us. This also becomes an important milestone in the entire movement.
I would like to appeal to each and every student that, in a student's career - for one who is participating in the movement - jail is something that is the last that anyone would wish to go. Jail is the last option anyone can exercise. Beyond that is killing the person who has raised the voice. All 27 of us who were in jail have decided that, when we come back to campus, we will take this Justice for Rohith Vemula movement forward. If they want to slap another case, they will take us to the same jail, where we felt that HCU under the rule of Appa Rao is much worse than the jail where we have stayed.
Hence we will fight till Appa Rao is removed as VC, till Justice for Rohith Vemula is reached and till the thoughts circulating among various students are removed. I do not care for anything but only Justice for Rohith Vemula. Thank you. Jai Bhim.