Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit, says probe panel set up by HRD Ministry


New Delhi: The one-man judicial commission set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD)  to look into the circumstances leading to the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University, have reportedly concluded that the research scholar was not a Dalit. 

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As per sources in UGC,Former Allahabad High Court judge A K Roopanwal, was appointed by the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani, has submitted his report to the University Grants Commission (UGC) in the first week of August. 

Roopanwal did not deny submitting the report, but declined to comment on his findings. “I cannot answer your questions. Please direct all your questions on the contents of the report to the government,” he was quoted as telling the newspaper. The finding that Vemula was not a lower caste or Dalit is of particular significance to Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and HCU vice-chancellor Appa Rao, as both were named in the FIR lodged by the police under the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act for abetting his suicide.

Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Thawarchand Gehlot had earlier raised questions about his caste and stated that Rohit belonged to Vaddera community, a caste which falls under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

But Vemula's brother Raja rejected the findings of the probe. 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 a Dalit. We have been discriminated against all our lives. Rohit referred to this in his letter too.”

According to The Indian Express, the Roopanwal Commission’s finding is at odds with what Guntur District Collector Kantilal Dande’s report to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) stating that Vemula was, in fact, a Dalit.

The university’s executive panel had in November 2015 expelled five students, all said to be Dalits, from the hostel and barred their access to public places on campus. They were, however, allowed to attend lectures and pursue their research. They were punished for allegedly assaulting a student leader belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a national students’ organisation that owes allegiance to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

On January 17, 2016 Vermula committed suicide. His suicide note referred to his birth as a fatal accident. “My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past,” the note recovered by police stated.

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