Rohith Vemula: From shadows to the stars

A year after his death, HCU Ph.D student Rohith Vemula’s searing last words continue to remind us of the entrenched inequities, violence and discrimination Dalits face in almost all spheres of life

Photo courtesy: twitter.com/DalitCamera
Photo courtesy: twitter.com/DalitCamera
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NH Features

Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula died a year ago today, alleging prolonged discrimination at Hyderabad Central University. Several students, faculty and supporters at HCU are marking the day as Rohith Shahadat Din, with a march from the Velivada protest site inside HCU—where Vemula and fellow Dalit students had stayed after being expelled from their hostel—to the main gate of HCU.

Dalit Camera has reported on Twitter that police, acting at the behest of HCU administration, have prevented Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula, and other attendees from entering HCU. Radhika Vemula, along with relatives of Dadri lynching victim Mohammed Akhlaq, Dalit victims of violence at the hands of gaurakshak vigilantes at Una, Gujarat and other speakers thus made their addresses in memory of and demanding justice for Rohith, outside the main gate of HCU. Hindustan Times has reported that 18 people including students have been taken into custody by police in protests that followed. Unconfirmed reports are also coming in that Delhi Police has broken up a protest by JNU students in memory of Rohith.


On the first anniversary of his death, we reproduce here the unedited last words of Rohith Vemula, a searing reminder of the entrenched inequities, violence and discrimination Dalits face.

Good morning,


I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.


I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan.


I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.


The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.


I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make sense.


My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”
Rohith Vemula


May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.


I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.


People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.


If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.


Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.


“From shadows to the stars.”


Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.


To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.


For one last time,


Jai Bheem


I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.


No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act.


This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this.


Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.

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Published: 17 Jan 2017, 7:57 PM
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