A Year on, Rohith Vemula Case Held up by Confusion Over Caste

An FIR was registered against Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and VC Rao, but a chargesheet is yet to be filed.

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India
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Rohith Vemula was a member of the Ambedkar Students Association. (Photo: Altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

A year after the suicide of University of Hyderabad (UoH) research scholar Rohith Vemula, there has been no headway in the police case registered at the Gachibowli police station under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The case, against Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and varsity Vice Chancellor P Appa Rao, was registered soon after Rohith's suicide in 2016. An FIR was also registered, but a chargesheet is yet to be filed.

When contacted, the police officer in charge of the Gachibowli station told The News Minute:

I am not willing to speak on the Rohith Vemula case. Especially to the media.

This comes a month after Cyberabad police commissioner Sandeep Shandilya told a gathering of reporters that they are yet to receive a reply from the revenue officials of Andhra Pradesh, specifically Guntur, on the caste status of Rohith Vemula, before they could make further progress on the case.

“AP revenue officials are supposed to certify the caste of Rohith Vemula. I wrote to the revenue officials a number of times seeking the caste certificate of Rohith. There is no response from them,” Sandeep Shandilya was quoted as saying.

After submitting a report to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), stating that Vemula was a Dalit, Guntur district collector Kantilal Dande triggered a controversy in June last year after he said that Rohith's caste status was shrouded in “ambiguity”.

Meanwhile, reports this week suggested that the Andhra government was planning to declare that Rohith was not a Dalit, and belonged to the 'Vadedra' caste, which falls under the OBC category. A senior official told the Hindustan Times:

The affidavits submitted by Rohith’s father Manikumar and other family members in the village have indicated that he is a Vaddera. Other villagers have also confirmed his OBC status. We have submitted a report to the Guntur collector Kantilal Dande

When asked about the conflicting report that was submitted last year which said Rohith was a Dalit, the official told the newspaper:

Perhaps, the Guntur officials conducted the study in the Dalit colony where Rohith was staying. But no such enquiries were made in Gurajala, from where his family hailed. We do not know how he got the SC certificate, but his father clearly told us that he is a Vaddera.

Reacting to the reports, the Joint Action Committee for social justice, said in a statement that things had come full circle. "The corrupt and casteist TDP government of Chandrababu Naidu has colluded with the BJP government of Narendra Modi to declare Rohith as a non-Dalit. There are reports in major newspapers that the Andhra government has successfully forced the Guntur collector to change his original report, in which Rohith is listed as a Scheduled Caste (Mala), and turn him into OBC (Vaddera)," the JAC said.

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