Enquiry Commission Report on expected lines: ‘Disturbed’ Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit, exonerated HRD, university

Even as the suicide of Rohith Vemula, the ‘Dalit’ scholar from the University of Hyderabad, had earlier incited widespread protest across the nation, the report on his death presented by a one-man judicial enquiry commission setup by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry comes as a shock to many. In the report, while the commission stated that Rohith was not a Schedule Caste, it also mentioned that university authorities’ action was not the reason behind his suicide. The report further claimed that ‘disturbed’ Rohith was not happy with worldly affairs and committed suicide because of that.

Rohith Vemula’s suicide on 17th January 2016, had triggered heated uproar across the nation, while the rights group claimed that the reason of the scholar’s suicide was the caste discrimination against him by the university. While the Dalits, after Vemula’s suicide claimed that he was from the same community, they further alleged that he was a victim of oppression by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including the then HRD minister Smriti Irani and BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya.

However, the 108-page report by the AK Roopanwal commission stated that as Vemula’s mother belongs to the Mala community, she and her son can’t be considered a Scheduled Caste. Though before the suicide Vemula and four other students had been expelled by the varsity, the report mentions that there is no link between the authority’s action and Vemula’s suicide. It stated that, “no evidence of any factor circumstance available on the record which dragged him to commit suicide and no one is responsible for his death.”

On Vemula’s caste the 108-page report, which can also be found on the MHRD website, stated:

  • “Thus, from the whole material available on the record it appears that there is no proof at all that she (Vemula’s mother) belongs to “Mala Community” on the basis of which later on she obtained Mala caste certificate for the first time from the corporator Uppalapati Danamma. As she is not proved to belong to “Mala Community” hence she cannot be included in Scheduled Caste community. 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 person. Though Rohith Vemula is not proved to be a Scheduled Caste person but he always claimed as such on the basis of the certificate anyhow obtained by him/ his mother.”

On allegations of ill-treatment and caste-based discriminations faced by Vemula at the UoH, the report stated:

  • “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 focussed that the students should keep concentration on their academic career and not to the 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. Thus my view is that it is unacceptable argument of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) or anybody stating in the terms of Joint Action Committee that the university administration took the decision on different dates under the influence of political leaders, i.e. Shri Ramachandra Rao, local MLC, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, Minister for Labour & Employment and Smt. Smiti Irani, Minister for Human Resource Development. So far as this argument is concerned that Mr. Ramachandra Rao met the Vice Chancellor in connection with the incident of 3/4 August, 2015 or that Shri Bandaru Dattatrya, Minister for Labour & Employment wrote a letter dated 17.08.2015 to Smriti Irani, HRD Minister and in turn the HRD Ministry called for the reports from the university, in that regard it is pertinent to mention that all were discharging their duties as public servants. Being the public representative, Shri Ramachandra Rao, MLC took the issue with the University authorities, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, Minister for Labour & Employment wrote the letter to Smt. Smriti Irani, HRD Minister as the MP of the Secunderabad Constituency and the letter written by HRD Minister were just to pursue the matter with the university authorities on the letter of Shri Bandaru Dattatreya. I feel that none of the above in any way influenced the university authorities and they were just discharging their functions as the representatives of the public.”

On accusations that the suicide was triggered by the University action, the report said:

  • “My view is also to this effect that the suicide did not relate to any activities of the university administration or the above political leaders including the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Appa Rao Podile. It was wholly a decision of his own. His suicide note is on the record which shows that Rohith Vemula had his own problems and was not happy with the worldly affairs. He was feeling frustrated for the reasons best known to him. He wrote that there was no urgency for understanding love, pain, life and death but he was rushing after them. It indicates that he was not happy with the activities going around him. He also wrote that he was all alone from the childhood and was an unappreciated man. This also indicates his frustration. He did not blame anybody for his suicide. If he would have been angry with the decision of the university, certainly either he would have written in the 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 whole reading of the letter written by him shows that he was not feeling well in this world and under frustration he ended his life. Here I would like to refer the letter dated 18.12.2015 written by Rohith Vemula to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad regarding the solution for dalit problems, in this letter he showed his anger regarding the expulsion from the hostels. But i feel that in view of the suicide note the anger shown in this letter cannot be the reason for suicide, it is because of the fact that the suicide was committed after about one month and by this time the expulsion from the hostel had been challenged in the High Court. He did not mention anything in his suicide note which were mentioned in the above mentioned letter. This shows that if there was any anger that did not continue by the date of suicide otherwise something regarding the anger shown in the letter would have been indicated in the suicide note. In view of what I have said above, my view is that there is no evidence of any factor circumstance available on the record which dragged him to commit suicide and no one is responsible for his death.”

By Priyam Mukhopadhyay

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