Rohith Vemula Was Not a Dalit: HRD Ministry Probe Panel Report

A new judicial committee set up by the HRD Ministry claims that Rohith Vemula was not a dalit. 

3 min read
Rohith Vemula Was Not a Dalit: HRD Ministry Probe Panel Report

A Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) judicial commission submitted that Hyderabad University scholar Rohith Vemula, whose suicide caused a national outrage, did not belong to the Scheduled Caste (SC); effectively saying that he did not belong to the dalit community, reports The Indian Express.

The report has been submitted by former Allahabad High Court judge AK Roopanwal to the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The claims made by the report regarding Vemula’s identity are significant, especially because External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Union Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot had also questioned his caste identity.

Both the ministers had said that Rohith Vemula’s suicide was being projected as a case of caste discrimination simply to fuel sentiment. According to the Ministers, Vemula belonged to the Vaddera community – a caste that falls under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

Students in Delhi protest against the suicide of Rohith Vemula. (Photo: The Quint)

Reaching a concrete conclusion on Vemula’s caste identity is important because the FIR lodged by police under the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act names HCU Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya for abetting his suicide.

I cannot answer your questions. Please direct all your questions on the contents of the report to the government.
AK Roopanwal

He, however, didn’t deny submitting the report.

You seem to be more knowledgeable than me on this issue. I was out of the city for the last five days and haven’t seen this report. Maybe it was submitted to the UGC. I will have to check and get back.
Prakash Javadekar, HRD Minister

Rohith Vemula’s brother Raja dismissed all the claims made by the commission. He said, “We lived like dalits. We were raised in a dalit community. Yes, my father was from a backward class, but whatever we know is from our experience of living like dalits. We have been discriminated against all our lives. Rohith referred to this in his letter too.”

Vemula hanged himself in his room. (Photo: The Quint)

Vemula’s heart-wrenching letter referred to his birth as a ‘fatal accident’. It read:

“My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.”

It is to be noted that the report submitted by Justice Roopanwal is different from the report submitted by Guntur District Collector Kantilal Dande to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).

The Chairman of the NCSC, PL Punia, said that the District Collector is the final authority on this matter and his report already established Rohith as a dalit. He even added that there was no need for this new committee.

The BJP government and its ministers have been trying to prove since the beginning that he was not a dalit. Obviously, they want to favour their minister who is facing an FIR. There can’t be a bigger example of anti-dalit mentality by this government. It’s a conspiracy against dalits.
PL Punia

A new judicial committee was established by the HRD Ministry this year on 28 January after the fact-finding committee held the University responsible for Rohith Vemula’s suicide. The findings of the report also claimed that students felt discriminated against on campus.

In November 2015, the Executive Council of the University had expelled five dalit students and barred them from entering public places on Campus and their hostels. They were allowed to only attend lectures and carry their research.

This punishment was meted to the students for allegedly assaulting an ABVP student leader.

Following this, Vemula committed suicide in his hostel room on 17 January in what is widely believed to be an issue of caste discrimination. Since then, the issue has become a political flashpoint.

(Source: The Indian Express)

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