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Rohith Vemula was a troubled individual, University not responsible for suicide: Inquiry Commission

The Justice (retd) AK Roopanwal Commission has said that Hyderabad Central University (HCU) research scholar Rohith Vemula, who allegedly committed in January 2016, was a troubled individual and did not end his life over the varsity action.

The report, made public on Tuesday, confirmed that Vemula was a “troubled individual” and was unhappy for several reasons. The inquiry commission report by the one-man judicial commission under former Allahabad High Court Judge AK Roopanwal, said, “His suicide note is on the record which shows that Rohith Vemula had his own problems and was not happy 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,” it added.

In addition, the report indicated that the then HRD minister Smriti Irani and BJD leader Bandaru Dattareya were not responsible for the event. Reports at the time of his death suggested that Vemula’s death was a result of disciplinary action against him, prompted by BJP leaders.

“If he would have been angry with the decision of the university, certainly either he would have written in 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 the suicide,” the report said.

It further added that Vemula was not a Dalit by caste – one of the main reasons why the case gained prominence, leading to protests by student groups thus causing disruptions at the university. The student groups had alleged that Vemula was a victim of oppression and discrimination by BJP leaders.

However, the report did address the fact that the university does not have a solid mechanism to redress students for grievances, especially in the case of scholars belonging to “reserved categories”.

Regarding the disciplinary action taken in the case of Vemula, Justice Roopanwal’s report said: “In my opinion, the view taken by the Executive Council was the most reasonable one in the circumstances prevailing at that time. The Executive Council mainly focused that the students should keep concentration on their academic career and not on other things. The leniency shown by the Executive Council itself shows that the university administration was not functioning under any influence or pressure, otherwise, there could be no occasion to be lenient or to reduce the punishment recommended by the Proctorial Board.”

The inquiry commission’s report was submitted to the HRD ministry in August 2016, following the tragic suicide, which created an uproar among students in India. The University of Hyderabad’s Council in November 2015 expelled five students – all of whom were said to be Dalits – from the hostel and barred them from access to public places within the campus premises. Vemula was one of the five students who were expelled.

The diktat from the university came after the five students allegedly assaulted an ABVP student leader. Following his expulsion, Vemula had committed suicide in the hostel on January 17, 2016.

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