Radhika Vemula’s speech at DYFI National Conference
Dear brothers and sisters,
Neel Salaam, Laal Salaam and Jai Bhim to all of you
Firstly, I want to thank the DYFI for making my son, Rohith Vemula the central figure of such a large, national level conference. I also want to thank the CPI (M) and the SFI for their support throughout the last one year that we have been struggling to get justice for Rohith Vemula. I will never forget the kindness and support shown to me by leaders such as Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat. It will not be wrong to say that the leaders of the communist movement have played a key role in the nationwide uprising that followed my son’s ultimate sacrifice.
In this last one year I have travelled across the country and learnt many things not just about India but also about politics and various ideologies. It is my understanding now that those who are against the Sangh Parivar, the RSS and the BJP are actually more in number that those who are in support of it. But the question arises as to why is the Sangh Parivar able to rule despite not having the support of majority Indians? The answer is simple — The anti-BJP, anti-Hindutva and anti-Brahminical forces are not united.
What I understand is that the only solution to the BJP problem is a coalition of Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis, Bahujans, Women and Communists. If these forces combine, nobody can even think of challenging Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in India. For these progressive forces to work together we must all understand one basic thing, there should be equality between them. Equality sometimes means that that those who have been traditionally powerful should share their power. They should support people who have never enjoyed power to become leaders. Those who have never faced discrimination should not talk about discrimination. instead they should empower discriminated people like Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis and Women to speak for themselves.
Another important thing to remember is that the Dalit movement is different from the Muslim movement which is different from the Adivasi movement which is different from the Women’s movement. And all these movements are different from the communist movement. Understanding that we are different — not higher not lower but different — allows us to develop mutual respect and build coalitions in which we are all equal. Only when this equality is maintained can Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis and Women can work with the communists.
I come here today to speak to you as an Ambedkarite and not as a communist. But at the same time I want to say that being an Ambedkarite itself means that we follow the communist principle of fighting against inequality. Let’s not forget that Ambedkar had started the Independent Labour Party which fought for workers’ rights with a special focus on Dalit workers who were doubly oppressed.
The reason I am saying all this is because the fight in the last one year against the RSS has not been easy. Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Women and Communists have surely worked together but they have also fought against each other on many occasions.
There are reports from Kerala that SFI people have been attacking Ambedkarite and Muslim students. In the process, a poster with my son’s photo was torn. Chitralekha’s problems are still continuing. It is also sad to see that Dalits and Adivasis are still fighting for land in Kerala. A very important adivasi woman leader of Kerala, who was once a powerful and progressive voice, has been forced to join the BJP. Why did this happen?
Some Left leaders met me asking me to be present for a consultation on Rohith Act but I realised later that no Ambedkarite leaders not even my son’s friends from the ASA were invited. How can non Dalits sit and decide what should go into a law for protecting Dalits against discrimination in campuses? We also saw the unfortunate things that happened in HCU and JNU during the elections where the Left did not support Dalit leaders and instead fought against them.
Of course, it takes two hands to clap and maybe there are some mistakes on our side too. But the only way we can move forward is by having an honest and open discussion about our differences. Only when we accept our differences can we work together and this applies to everybody Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Women and Communists.
I am not a political leader and it is left to you people to figure out how to make this coalition work. The only thing I want you leaders to remember is that people like Najeeb’s mother, Jisha’s mother, Akhlaq’s family, the Una survivors and me are depending on all of you to set aside your differences are work together. Our entire lives are depending on this generation of leaders from the Dalit, Muslim, Adivasi, Women and Communist movements.If you are divided there is no hope for us or this country.
Neel Salaam, Laal Salaam and Jai Bhim