Ever since Rohith Vemula committed suicide in January last year, citing severe discrimination by the University of Hyderabad and bemoaning the fate of Dalits, his caste has come under sharp scrutiny.
A latest inquiry by the Andhra Pradesh government declared Vemula as belong to the Other Backward Class and claimed that Vemula is in fact not a Dalit. The District-Level Scrutiny Committee in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, which was reviewing the Dalit status of Rohith Vemula, submitted its final report to the government stating that neither Rohith nor his mother Radhika were Dalits.
And this is not the only inquiry into his caste. In June 2016, Vemula was declared as belonging to the 'Mala' caste — listed as Scheduled caste in Andhra Pradesh, but the District Collector in Guntur did a U-Turn and ordered a fresh probe. Then Justice Roopanwal Commission, a commission led by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (HRD) stated that the material on record proved that he wasn't a Dalit, therefore giving a clean chit to Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani. It has been alleged that Vemula's mother had branded herself as Dalit only to obtain caste benefits and that the university was not at fault for expelling Vemula from the hostel. After this, PL Punia, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) chairman called the judicial commission's report as "fake and fictitious".
But, even a year after Vemula's death, caste is very much at the centre of the discussion — not in terms of the faultlines being ignored in universities, but specifically if Vemula is a Dalit or not.
The latest inquiry declaring Vemula as an OBC and not a Dalit does so based on the testimonials of two people, rejecting the views of five others who were interviewed, according to a Hindustan Times report. Five of those interviewed said that Rohith was a Dalit from the Mala caste, while two said that the was from the Vaddera community (OBC). It is important to note that Rohith was raised by his mother Radhika Vemula who belongs to the Mala caste, she was adopted by Anjani Devi who belongs to the Vaddera community. According to the Hindustan Times report, Anjani Devi confirmed that Radhika was adopted from a Mala construction labourer. According to Supreme Court, adoption doesn't change a person's caste.
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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2017 08:43:28 IST