Rohith Vemula's family reject commission report, claim caste discussion diverts investigation

Rohith Vemula's brother, Raja Vemula on Friday alleged that the report of the commission, constituted by the HRD ministry after the Hyderabad university scholar's death, was aimed at saving the BJP Union Ministers, Vice-Chancellor of Hyderabad Central University and ABVP members.

The Justice Roopanwal Commission, in its report to the HRD ministry, has given a clean chit to Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya, sources said. The University authorities too have been absolved of any blame for Vemula's death as the commission has held that they were not working under political pressure. Raising questions on Vemula's Dalit status, the commission has said the material on record did not establish it and attributed his suicide to personal reasons, according to sources.

According to a Firstpost article, Following Vemula's suicide his caste identity has been at the centre of the conflict since if it is established that he was a Dalit and was discriminated against, strict legal action could be taken against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Hyderabad universitty Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile and all the accused according to the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act.

Earlier, the Guntur district collector that had first headed the inquiry into Vemula's caste had claimed that Rohith Vemula was a Dalit. Later, he doubled back on his statement, claiming that a fresh probe was required as his caste status was burried in "ambiguity." The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) dismissed the commission report, saying that both the district collector and the statutory body claimed in different reports that Rohith Vemula belonged to the Dalit community.

 Rohith Vemulas family reject commission report, claim caste discussion diverts investigation

File photo of Rohith Vemula. @akslal/ Twitter

"The entire commission report has aimed at saving BJP Union Ministers, Podile Apparao (HCU Vice-Chancellor) and BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao along with ABVP members. Despite District Magistrate, Guntur's report, National Commission for Scheduled Castes Report which clearly stated my brother Rohith Vemula as Scheduled Caste, the present government is making all efforts to divert the reports of authenticated bodies," Raja Vemula said in a Facebook post.

"The agenda of the BJP and RSS are clearly manifested in the report of the commission, which does not take in to account the butchering and enslaving of Dalits, raping and murdering Dalit woman, pronouncement of social boycotts in villages and educational institutions, instead attack on the affirmative policies extended through reservations, and demand for a ban on reservations," he alleged.

In the same Firstpost article it is said that the judicial commission report stated that Vemula's mother "branded" herself a Dalit to attain caste benefits and that the decision to expel Vemula from the hostel was "most reasonable." It is learnt to have raised questions about Vemula's caste status as a dalit saying that there is no proof that his mother V Radhika belonged to "Mala" community. The commission  report noted that Vemula's mother was not told the names of her biological parents by her foster family, according to the sources. It is therefore unlikely that she would have been told the caste of her biological parents, the commission is understood to have said.

According The Indian Express article, Radhika Vemula's foster mother Anjani Devi, gave adequate indication that her daughter was aware of her Dalit identity, based on a recorded conversation before her death. Anjani Devi belonged to the Vaddera community which classifies as OBC and not SC but her daughter's biological parents belonged to the Mala caste which is classified as SC. Radhika retained her SC Mala identity after separating from her alcoholic husband. The commission report had asked how Anjani Devi and her husband could have disclosed the information of Radhika's biological parents' caste if they hadn't even revealed their names to her. Radhika was angry and accused the commission report of diverting the issue. "Why is caste being given more importance in this inquiry than the reasons and the people who drove my son to commit suicide? No one is talking about the events in the university that led to my son’s death. Every inquiry has taken a wrong direction,’’ she said.

Raja claimed his mother Radhika Vemula was the one who endured a lot of sacrifices and discrimination. "She lost her son Rohith Vemula on account of the socio-political victimisation he had undergone along with four other dalit research scholars from Ambedkar Students Association," he said. "Who is he to decide on our caste. National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) gave a report that we belong to SCs, it is final. All this is done to waste time, assuming people will forget and to rescue whoever are accused under SC/ST Atrocities Case, accused for Rohith's suicide. Reasons for Rohith's death should be brought out," Raja Vemula said in a report by The New Indian Express.

HRD ministry officials have, however, maintained that ascertaining the caste status of Vemula was not part of the Terms of Reference of the Commission. Therefore they would only focus on those recommendations which aim at ensuring that such incidents do not happen in the future.

In its recommendation, the Commission has emphasised that there should be a proper counselling mechanism not just for students but also for research scholars. The Commission has also emphasised that there should be proper grievance redressal mechanisms and equal opportunity cells so that unfortunate incidents like Vemula suicide can be prevented.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Oct 07, 2016 13:20:45 IST