“My name is Rohith Vemula. I came from Guntur. I am a Dalit.” This is what the PhD scholar said in a video that his friends say was recorded days before he hanged himself at the Hyderabad Central University in January.
Recently, there was an uproar over Vemula’s caste after reports emerged that the Commission of Inquiry formed by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry had raised questions over his Dalit status.
However, replying to an RTI query, the Centre declined to make the report public saying that the file concerned is “under submission”.
In the video, Vemula also speaks about the five students against whom action was taken by the Hyderabad University following allegations of assault on a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). “Recently the college has taken the action to suspend five students from the hostel premises. They have said that our presence in hostel premises and our presence in the administration building can be treated as a criminal act,” he said in the video. He was among the five students who were suspended by the institute.
The HRD Ministry had in February appointed a Commission of Inquiry under Justice (retired) Ashok Kumar Roopanwal to look into the events at the University of Hyderabad, culminating in the death of Vemula.
It was also tasked with reviewing the existing grievance redressal mechanism for students at the university and to suggest improvements. The Commission was asked to submit its report within three-month time. The report has been submitted to the HRD Ministry.
He was found hanging from a ceiling fan in the New Research Scholars’ hostel on the university campus on January 17, 2016. His death had sparked a nationwide outcry with critics alleging that the HRD ministry pushed for the Dalit students to be punished by sending five reminders to the vice-chancellor after Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya complained to Smriti Irani’s department.