[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter months, when Dalit politics is a burning issue across the country important investigation revealed that Rohith Vemula committed suicide due to ‘personal frustration’ not discrimination. An inquiry conducted by the one-man judicial commission has revealed that ‘personal frustration’ not discrimination on University of Hyderabad campus drove student Rohith Vemula to commit suicide. As per the probe, Vemula’s decision to commit suicide was completely his own and not abetted by either the university administration or the government. Another key finding of the commission is that 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 (Radhika) 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 candidate belonging to backward caste. The report dismissed claims of political pressure behind the expulsion of Vemula and his batchmates. It further rejected the possibility that Vemula could have faced discrimination. The report further gave a clean chit to Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani. The inquiry did not take into account Vemula’s December 18, 2015, letter written to vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile in which he alleged discrimination. The fact that the suicide happened one month after the letter indicates that the anger “did not continue.”
Vemula was born on 30 January 1989 in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh to Manikumar Vemula and Radhika. He was a PhD student at the University of Hyderabad. His father belongs to Veddera (OBC) community and his mother hails from Mala (scheduled caste) caste. In July 2015, the University reportedly stopped paying Rohith the fellowship amount of Rs. 25,000 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 pertaining to paperwork. In August 2015, Rohith Vemula and four ASA members protested against the death penalty awarded to Yakub Memon, a convict in 1993 Bombay (now Mumbai) bombings which claimed 257 lives. 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 reports published in various newspapers, an anonymous ASA member stated that, “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. ABVP wrote to BJP MP from Secunderabad and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, alleging that the ASA members were indulging in ‘casteist’ and ‘anti-national’ activities. Dattatreya stated that he “forwarded the letter on 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 five students were suspended, a decision which was upheld on 17 December 2015. Meanwhile, his family struggled to help him, and Rohith Vemula had to borrow money from a friend. On 3rd January 2016, after the suspension was confirmed, five students moved out of their hostel rooms. They set up a tent 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 left behind by him, he blamed the “system” for his death. According to the suicide note, Rohith 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 castes.
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])