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Rohith Vemula Blamed For Suicide, Probe Says Mother Not A Dalit

The one-man judicial committee said that Rohith’s mother faked Dalit status to avail the benefits of reservation.

Updated
India
5 min read
Rohith Vemula and Radhika Vemula, his mother, who according to a probe, has  faked being a Dalit. (Photo Courtesy: <i>The News Minute</i>)

The one-man judicial committee set up by the HRD Ministry following the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, submitted a 41-page report in August.

Rohith Vemula committed suicide on 17 January 2016 by hanging himself from a ceiling fan.

According to the report submitted by former Allahabad High Court judge AK Roopanwal, Vemula’s mother had falsely branded herself as a Dalit to avail the benefits of reservation.

Key Takeaways From the Report

  • Radhika Vemula ‘branded’ herself as a Dalit.
  • Rohith was himself responsible for the suicide and not some external factor. Personal frustration key factor in suicide.
  • Rohith didn’t face any discrimination.
  • Rohith’s expulsion and his suicide are mutually exclusive. His expulsion was in fact, ‘most reasonable’.
  • MLC Ramachandra Rao, Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani were only discharging their duties.
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The commission was formulated on 28 January, 11 days after the death of Vemula, and is based on the accounts of around 50 people, including students, teachers and staff members. The retired judge also met the joint action committee, which was at the forefront of the agitation after Vemula’s death.

Rohit Vemula (left) and the place where he ended his life. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)
Rohit Vemula (left) and the place where he ended his life. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

The commission was set up to investigate the circumstances leading to Vemula’s death and to review the existing grievance mechanism at the HCU and suggest reformative measures for the same.

The other findings include:

Radhika Vemula’s Caste Certificate Not Genuine

The caste identity of Radhika Vemula, Rohith’s mother became a point of contention for Roopanwal. It is to be noted that Vemula was raised by his mother and hence the judge delved into her caste deeply. Almost four of the 12 pages in the report are dedicated to find out Vemula’s mother’s caste identity.

The committee also dismissed Radhika’s claim that her foster parents had told her that her biological parents were Dalit as unbelievable. It led to the conclusion that Radhika claimed to be from the Mala community only to avail the benefits of reservation.

The judge has also used the caste certificate furnished by Radhika during the birth of her second son Raja Chaitnaya Kumar in 2014 to establish her non-Dalit status. At that time, she used Vaddera which is a non-Dalit backward caste.

The committee concluded that since his mother is not a Dalit, Rohith inadvertently becomes a non-Dalit and that his caste certificate was issued rather carelessly.

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However, earlier, Rohith’s brother had rejected this claim saying that despite their father being from the backward class, their lived experience is shaped by a Dalit identity coloured with discrimination. Even Rohith mentioned this in his letter.

Rohith Didn’t Face Discrimination

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

The report also dismissed the claim that Vemula faced discrimination. It also claimed that the university’s decision to expel him and his batchmates was due to political interference. This, the commission, justified by citing a gap of five days between interim report of the nine-member proctorial board and Dattatreya’s letter to Irani.

The Indian Express quotes the report as saying, “Moreover, this cannot be believed that the report, which was prepared by nine people, could be obtained by pressure. How nine people could be influenced by anybody, political or non-political when none of them was directly under the control of anybody?”

Smriti Irani Just Did Her Duty

(Photo Courtesy: Rohith Vemula/Facebook; Smriti Irani/PTI)
(Photo Courtesy: Rohith Vemula/Facebook; Smriti Irani/PTI)

The report also said that Smriti Irani, along with BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao and Cabinet Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, simply carried out duties in their individual capacities without any personal bias against Rohith Vemula.

Suicide Not Driven by Politics

Roopanwal also claimed in the report that Vemula’s suicide was completely unabated and was of his own accord and not because of any third party, be it the university administration or the government.

Speculating the reason behind Vemula’s suicide, the report suggested that since the university’s decision to expel Vemula and his friends was challenged in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and the result was due on the day he committed suicide, the anticipation of the result could have led to the suicide.

It even said that expelling Vemula was perhaps the ‘most reasonable’ decision that the University could have taken.

Students in Delhi protest against the suicide of Rohith Vemula. (Photo: PTI)
Students in Delhi protest against the suicide of Rohith Vemula. (Photo: PTI)
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According to an Indian Express report, the probe is said to have claimed that “His suicide note is on the record, which shows that Rohith Vemula had his own problems and not happy with the worldly affairs.

He was feeling frustrated for reasons best known to him. He wrote that there was no urgency for understanding love, pain, life and death but he was rushing after them. It indicates that he was not happy with the activities going around him.

He also wrote that he was all alone from childhood and was an unappreciated man… He did not blame anybody for his suicide. If he would have been angry with the decision of the university, certainly either he would have written in the specific words or would have indicated in this regard.

But he did not do the same. It shows that the circumstances prevailing in the university at that time were not the reasons for committing suicide. The whole reading of the letter shows that he was not feeling well in this world and under frustration ended his life.”

Vemula’s Letter to the VC Discounted

Rahul Gandhi at the Hyderabad University with protesting students. (Photo: PTI)
Rahul Gandhi at the Hyderabad University with protesting students. (Photo: PTI)

The commission also discounted the letter Vemula wrote to the vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile on 18 December 2015. In the letter, Vemula had raised a sharp concern over discrimination faced by Dalit students and he even demanded cyanide and rope as a panacea for the induced misery.

However, the very fact that the suicide took place a month after the letter was written was enough evidence for the committee to discredit it as a reason behind the suicide.

University’s Equal Opportunity Cell Non-Functional

The judicial commission has noted that the University’s equal opportunity cell is not functional and the effectiveness of the grievance redressal committee needs to be strengthened.

It however, doesn’t account as to why has the administration been so inefficient.

(With inputs from The Indian Express and The News Minute)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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