With the alleged discrimination against students from Dalit communities in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) being diverted by questions on Rohith Vemula’s caste identity, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has decided to “seriously intervene” in the issue, the Commission’s chairman, P L Punia, has said.
On Monday, the Commission issued notices and summoned top officers and the vice-chancellor of HCU to appear before the panel in person on February 8 with the Action Taken Report and relevant documents related to Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula.
The notice has been issued to the Chief Secretary of Telangana; Vice-Chancellor of HCU, Cyberabad’s Commissioner of Police, and Guntur District Magistrate.
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The notice was served after a review of the case by the Commission on Monday morning and following the failure of these officers to comply with the Commission’s recommendations dated January 20. The recommendations were based on the findings of a visit to the university on January 18 by a team led by Punia. “Based on (our) discussions with students, the teachers’ association, SC/ST faculty forum of HCU, the vice-chancellor, police commissioner of Hyderabad, district collector of Ranga Reddy district and other people, the Commission had made six recommendations. They were to be complied with and an Action Taken Report was to be submitted within 10 days.” Punia told The Indian Express.
He said while the university has informed the Commission that the V-C could not receive the letter as the V-C office was closed, the others are yet to respond. Punia said he has also recommended a high-level inquiry into how, based on the same facts and statement of the same security officer, the HCU administration first decided to issue only a warning to the Dalit students but then took a U-turn after “interference by the Union HRD Ministry on the letter sent by Union Minister of State Bandaru Dattatreya”.
The Commission’s recommendations are:
Revoke suspension order against the remaining four research scholars (for the V-C to expedite);
The police commissioner should ensure fair investigation on the FIR registered under IPC Section 306 and SC-ST POA Act within the time-frame;
The collector of Guntur district should conduct a socio-economic survey of Vemula’s family and ensure monetary sanction either from the CM’s relief fund or the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan;
HCU should release pending fellowship dues of Vemula;
A high-level inquiry into how the issue took a U-turn after the HRD ministry’s “interference”; and
Inquiry into why Vemula’s body was not handed over to his family, and the police performed the funeral without informing them.