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Rohith Vemula hitting headlines once again

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After so many months, when Dalit politics has gone in cold storage across the country the Commission was constituted by the HRD Ministry to look into the circumstances leading to the death of Rohith Vemula came with new examination. The report says, his suicide note is on the record, which shows that Rohith Vemula had his own problems and was unhappy with worldly affairs. He was frustrated for the reasons best known to him. He also wrote that he was all alone from childhood and was an unappreciated man. This also indicates his frustration. He did not blame anybody for his suicide.

After Rohith committed suicide, Vemula’s family members, friends besides political parties alleged that he was a victim of caste discrimination. Vemula’s suicide had triggered a huge political furore with the then HRD minister Smriti Irani coming under attack along with labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya for having written a letter related to the matter. In 2016, it was reported that the Justice Roopanwal Commission had stated that material on record did not establish that Vemula was a Dalit and attributed his suicide to personal reasons. Interestingly, the report also gave a clean chit to Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya besides absolving HCU authorities of any blame for Vemula’s death.

An inquiry conducted by the one-man judicial commission has found that ‘personal frustration’ not discrimination on University of Hyderabad campus drove him to commit suicide. Vemula’s mother, V Radhika, claimed to be a Mala (Dalit) to back the caste certificate issued to her son by a person named Uppalapati Danamma, then a corporator, with whom she stayed for one and half years. Radhika’s claim that her foster parents told her that her biological parents were SC was “improbable and unbelievable. It added that Vemula’s caste certificate was issued without any proper inquiry. The evidence on record shows that she belongs to Vaddera Community and, therefore, the Scheduled Caste certificate issued to Rohith Vemula cannot be said to be a genuine one and he was not a Scheduled Caste candidate.

Vemula was born on 30 January 1989 in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh to Manikumar Vemula and Radhika. He was an Indian PhD student at the University of Hyderabad, belonging to the Mala community. His father is from Veddera (OBC) community and his mother is from Mala (scheduled caste) caste. In July 2015, the University reportedly stopped paying him the fellowship of ₹25,000 (US$370) per month after he was “raising issues under the banner of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA, though a university official denied the allegation of non-payment of scholarship, citing the delay on “paperwork. Beginning of August 2015 Rohith Vemula and four ASA members protested against the death penalty for Yakub Memon, a convict in 1993 Bombay bombings in which 257 people were killed. They also condemned the ABVP attack on the screening of the documentary ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ in Delhi University. On 3rd August 2015, Rohith Vemula and other ASA activists demonstrated at the Hyderabad campus. In response, ABVP’s university unit president Nandanam Susheel Kumar called them “goons” on Facebook.

The next day Kumar was taken to hospital and operated for an acute appendicitis, but stated that he was “roughed up by around 40 ASA members who barged into his room. According to news in various newspapers, an anonymous ASA member stated, “When we confronted Susheel in his hostel room, he tendered a written apology in the presence of the university’s security officer. But the next day he got himself admitted in a hospital and alleged that members of ASA had manhandled him. The university ordered an inquiry while ABVP lodged a police complaint. The ABVP wrote to BJP MP from Secunderabad and Union Minister Dattatreya, alleging that the ASA members were indulging in ‘casteist’ and ‘anti-national’ activities. Dattaatreya stated that he “forwarded the letter on my official letterhead to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani. The letter was then forwarded to the university’s Vice-Chancellor professor P. Appa Rao. In response, further action was taken against Rohith Vemula by college on 5 August 2015, expelling him from his hostel along with the other four members of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), while “ABVP’s Kumar was let off with a warning.

In September the five students were suspended, a decision which was upheld at 17 December 2015. Meanwhile, his family struggled to help him, and Rohith Vemula had to borrow money from a friend. At 3 January 2016, after the suspension was confirmed, “the five moved out of their hostel rooms to a tent they set up inside the campus and began a relay hunger protest. On 17th January 2016, Rohith Vemula committed suicide hanging himself with a banner of the Ambedkar Students Association. In the suicide-note, which he left behind, he blamed the “system” for his death. According to the suicide note, he committed suicide in the room of one Umma Anna, in whose room he was staying after being expelled from the hostel by the authorities at the University of Hyderabad

His suicide sparked protests and outrage from across India and gained widespread media attention as an alleged case of discrimination against Dalits and low status caste in India, in which elite educational institutions have been purportedly seen as hotbeds of caste-based discrimination against students belonging to lower caste.

 (Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on feedback@www.afternoonvoice.com)

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Tamanhttps://authorvaidehi.com
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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