Raja Vemula, Jignesh Mevani and Sunkanna Velpula on Rohith Report
We spoke with Rohith’s brother, his friend and comrade Sunkanna, and Jignesh Mevani on the report.
A 41-page report was submitted by the one-man commission, instituted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development to enquire the reasons and circumstances leading to Rohith Vemula’s suicide in August this year. The Indian Express has put out a detailed story about the exact findings of the inquiry.
The report, among other things, emphasise that Rohith was not a dalit, and his mother obtained caste certificates for herself and her sons unconstitutionally. It also states that no political pressure or circumstance abated Rohith’s suicide, and he killed himself because of personal reasons and depression.
A consolidated and protracted dalit movement is sweeping the country. There have been ever-growing demands of introducing and implementing the proposed Rohith Act to check caste discrimination in institutions. At such a time, a huge outrage over the report being somewhat shockingly cavalier, is not surprising.
The Quint spoke with dalit leader jignesh Mevani, Rohith’s brother Raja Vemula, and Dr Sunkanna Velpaly, one of the ASA activists suspended along with Rohith.
Raja Vemula, Rohith vemula’s brother says that this is clearly to shield those involved in Rohith’s suicide from being slapped with caste atrocity cases. “Wh else will there be such an effort to prove that we are not dalits?” Raja also claimed that the report is lie, and they are indeed dalits, and their certificates were acquired legally. He also spoke of the report submitted by Guntur District Collector Kantilal Dande to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) which found no glitches. P L Punia, chairman of the NCSC, has said on record: “The District Collector is the final authority in this matter. He has already submitted a report that Vemula was a Dalit. All records and investigations proved he was a Dalit.”
On 3 August 2015 Rohith Vemula and four other ASA-activists demonstrated against the death penalty for Yakub Memon, and condemned the ABVP attack on the screening of the documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai in Delhi University.In response ABVP's local leader Nandanam Susheel Kumar called them "goons," where-after Kumar was confronted in his hostel room.The next day Kumar was taken to hospital and operated for an acute appendicitis. He stated that he was "roughed up by around 40 ASA members who barged into my room."
The ABVP wrote a letter to Union Minister Dattatreya, alleging that the ASA members were indulging in 'casteist' and 'anti-national' activities. The letter was forwarded to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, and then to the university’s Vice-Chancellor professor P. Appa Rao,whereafter Rohith Vemula and four other ASA-members were suspended and barred from their hostel.After the confirmation of the suspension in January 2016, Rohith Vemula committed suicide.
While talking about how the report is completely purported, Jignesh Mevani said that the question is not even whether Rohith was a dalit or not. “Why can’t a backward caste person be discriminated on caste lines?”
This is a false report. It does everything else but probing the reasons and circumstances which lead to Rohith’s suicide. They are obviously trying to shield Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya. Listing out details of Radhika Vemula’s personal life is both in bad taste and defamatory.
Mevani also said that he is planning a series of programmes on this absolutely “false and baseless” report.
Dr Sunkanna Velpula was one of the ASA activists who was suspended by HCU, along with Rohith. Dr Velpula received his PhD very recently. He refused to being the degree conferred on him by Vice Chancellor Appa Rao on the convocation stage.
Sunkanna has no faith in the Indian judicial system when it comes to dalits. He says that Rohith was an extremely bright boy who never availed of reservations to get through his education. To say that his mother obtained a SC certificate illegally only to make him get reservations is an insult to all dalit people in this country.
The report contains details of Radhika Vemula’s life events, how she lived with a man who got her those certificates illegally, and her not being born into a dalit family, and her appropriation of the SC status for her benefit. Sunkanna shares the chequered and difficult life story of Radhika Vemula, who due to several abandonments, had to migrate from one situation to the other. She was adopted by a dalit mother, married a non-dalit, separated, and came back to her dalit community to spend the rest of her life.
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