Rohit Vemula death anniversary be observed as Dalits’ Rights Day’, demands mother

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Vemula Radhika, mother of Vemula Rohit, a research scholar who committed suicide last year on the campus of Hyderabad Central Univeristy speaking at a press conference on Sunday demanded that the death anniversary be observed as Dalits’ Rights Day.

It may be recalled that Vemula Rohit committed suicide on January 17 last year. She said that ‘our demand is promulgation of an Act-to safeguard the interests of the downtrodden’. She said that it was unfortunate that those responsible for her son’s suicide were roaming freely in society and some were even honored with awards. It is shame Hyderabad Central University Vice Chancellor V.V.Appa Rao was bestowed with an award in Tirupati recently, she said.

Radhika said that both the State and Central governments are playing caste politics and were keen on proving that Rohit was not a Dalit. She said that though Guntur District Collector had come out with a finding that Rohit was a Dalit, he was forced to initiate a review of it owing to the pressure mounted by the Central Government. She also faulted the appointment of one-man committee under retired judge Roopanwal. She reminded of the Supreme Court ruling that mother’s caste would be applicable to her children, the culprits were busy bringing the reckless father and his caste into the picture. The Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments were yet to pay the ex-gratia, she said.

Rohith Chakravarti Vemula was a PhD student at the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide on 17 January 2016.His death occurred after a controversy which extended over several months starting in July 2015. In July 2015 the University reportedly stopped paying him a fellowship of Rs.25,000 (US$370) per month after he was found "raising issues under the banner of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA)" as part of institute's disciplinary inquiry. On 3 August 2015 Rohith Vemula and four other ASA-activists demonstrated against the death penalty for Yakub Memon, a convicted terrorist involved in the 1993 Bombay bombings and condemned the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) attack on the screening of the documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai in Delhi University. In response ABVP's local leader Nandanam Susheel Kumar called them "goons," where-after Kumar was confronted in his hostel room. The next day Kumar was taken to hospital and operated for an acute appendicitis. He stated that he was "roughed up by around 40 ASA members who barged into my room." The ABVP wrote a letter to Union Minister Dattatreya, alleging that the ASA members were indulging in 'casteist' and 'anti-national' activities. The letter was forwarded to Union Human Resource Minister Smriti Irani, and then to the university’s Vice-Chancellor professor P. Appa Rao, whereafter Rohith Vemula and four other ASA-members were suspended and barred from their hostel. After the confirmation of the suspension in January 2016, Rohith Vemula committed suicide. His suicide sparked protests and outrage from across India and gained widespread media attention as an alleged case of discrimination against Dalits and low status caste in India, in which elite educational institutions have been purportedly seen as hotbeds of caste-based discrimination against students belonging to lower caste.

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