In a video that has surfaced this week, PhD student Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide earlier this year, asserted that he belongs to Dalit community. The video was shot by friends days before Vemula hanged himself in his hostel room at the Hyderabad Central University. “My name is Rohith Vemula… I’m a Dalit from Guntur district,” the PhD scholar was seen saying in the video.
This was in stark contrast to the observation made by the one-man judicial commission set up by the HRD Ministry on January 28, which raised questions about his Dalit status. You can read more about the report, here. Vemula committed suicide after he and four other students were suspended by the university and barred from its hostel.
In his 41-page report, which was released 11 days after the scholar killed himself, former Allahabad High Court judge A K Roopanwal stated that Vemula’s mother “branded” herself as Dalit to avail the benefits of reservation along with a slew of other observations.
A month before his death, Vemula had written to the university’s vice chancellor, notifying him about caste discrimination.
The report said that expelling Vemula from the hostel was the “most reasonable” decision the university could have taken and personal frustration, not discrimination drove the 26-year-old PhD scholar to suicide. It added that Union Ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani were only discharging their duties and there was no pressure on the Hyderabad Central University authorities.
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The mandate of the commission was to inquire into the facts and circumstances leading to Vemula’s death, review existing grievance mechanism for students at HCU and suggest improvements.
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