Rohith Vemula’s mother meets CM Revanth Reddy as Congress government goes on damage control mode

Hyderabad University research scholar Rohit Vemula's supporters decried the police's closure report, saying the suicide was not properly probed.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published May 04, 2024 | 5:28 PMUpdatedMay 04, 2024 | 5:28 PM

Rohit's mother Radhika Vemula handing over a memorandum to Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy on Saturday, 4 May. (X)

Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula called on Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy on Saturday, 4 May, and requested justice for her research scholar son, who had died by suicide on 17 January 2016.

The meeting came a day after the state police filed a closure report in the Telangana High Court, saying the University of Hyderabad student did not belong to any scheduled caste (SC).

After the meeting, Radhika told reporters that the chief minister had assured her of justice.

On Friday, 3 May, the police said in the closure report that they had no evidence to show Rohith belonged to a scheduled caste community. The report also said that he ended his life fearing trouble if his actual caste was found.

The police also said the deceased research scholar belonged to Vaddera, a backward caste.

The closure report has come as a huge embarrassment to the Revanth Reddy-led Congress government in Telangana. Senior leader of Congress Rahul Gandhi not only joined protests on campus in the aftermath of Rohith’s suicide but the party has also named a scheme to protect marginalised communities after Rohith in their manifesto. Radhika Vemula had even walked with Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra last year.

In what comes as damage control tactics, Telangana police on Friday said they would continue investigation in the case and request for the closure report to be overlooked.

Related: Family to challenge Telangana Police’s closure report

Report trail

The closure report was filed in the jurisdictional court on 21 March 2024. A copy was submitted to the high court on Friday after the accused people requested to discharge them since the closure report was filed in the jurisdictional court.

Meanwhile, the jurisdictional court was yet to act on the closure petition, meaning the case was still on.

After the report was filed, the high court closed the pleas made by the accused for quashing the FIR registered against them in 2016.

The university’s former vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao, former Union minister and incumbent Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatreya, former MLC N Ramachandra Rao, N Susheel Kumar, YK Chaitanya, and N Diwakar have been arraigned as accused in the case.

Related: Further probe in Vemula case despite closure report, says DGP

CM promises fair probe

Radhika told reporters that she explained to Revanth Reddy the circumstances that had led Rohith Vemula to end his life and the harassment he had suffered because he belonged to a scheduled caste.

She said that the chief minister promised a fair inquiry into Rohith’s death. The delegation that met the chief minister pointed out that there was no investigation as promised after 2019 and the police suddenly came out with the closure report saying Rohith was not an SC.

Radhika also pleaded for dropping cases against Rohith’s supporters who were losing job opportunities because an FIR was registered against them.

Rohith’s brother Raja Vemula, who was with his mother, expressed faith in the state government.

Related: Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit, says Telangana police

Police to re-probe case

Director General of Police Ravi Gupta had said that the case would be reopened in the wake of doubts being raised about the investigation. The officer said that the police would file a petition in the high court seeking permission to reopen the case for a fresh investigation.

The Vemula family’s advocate U Jai Bheem Rao said they would wait for the DGP to keep his word. He added that if the promise was not kept, they would approach the court, seeking a re-probe.

Rohith’s supporters said that the closure report sought to absolve the role of political heavyweights like central minister Smriti Irani, former minister Dattatreya, former vice-chancellor P Appa Rao, and others.

Telangana DGP said the closure report submitted to the courts was prepared in November last. Elections to the Telangana Assembly were held on 30 November 2023.

‘Stalled investigation’ 

Rohith’s supporters said that the police had not investigated the case after 2018. They said the ACP concerned assumed charge on 2 March, took the CD file of the case on 18 March, and finalised the closure report after obtaining consent from the Cyberabad police commissioner before filing it in the jurisdictional court.

The closure report included the opinion of the university council. “This report conclusively decided the case of Vemula Rohit and his family members as Vaddera falling under BC A category and it was found that they had obtained SC caste certificate fraudulently,” the police said in the report.

Advocate Bheema Rao said the investigation under the SC and ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act derailed from the beginning.

Speaking to South First, he said that while investigating a crime under the Act, there was no need to go overboard in finding out if the victim belonged to the Scheduled Caste.

If an atrocity was committed on an SC, the focus should be on apprehending the culprit, by taking the statement of the victim at its face value.

In this case, the entire energy of the department was focused on finding out whether Rohit was an SC or not rather than taking action against the culprits, he said.

Advocate blames police

The advocate said that the police should have booked an abetment to suicide case against the accused and prosecuted them. It was not done, he said, adding that the district collector had not conclusively certified that Rohith was not an SC.

The Guntur District Legal Service Authority (DLSC), on a direction from the collector following a plea from the Gachibowli police, entrusted the work of finding out the caste of Rohith Vemula to the district Legal Services Committee (DLSC).

Based on the DLSCs’ report, the collector met 15 witnesses, who stated that Rohith belonged to a Scheduled Caste.

“The report was then sent to the scrutiny committee and that is where the buck stopped,” the advocate said.

“The collector should have pronounced his verdict on whether Rohith was an SC. In the absence of any verdict from the collector, the police cannot conclude that Rohith did not belong to a Scheduled Caste,” Bheema Rao said.

The Vaddera connection

The advocate further said that Rohith had been in his mother’s care since he was three years old after she had separated from her husband.

Though his father belongs to the Vaddera caste, his mother was an SC, and Supreme Court judgments were saying that the children of an inter-caste couple could assume the caste of either of the parents.He said that Radhika’s parents belonged to a Scheduled Caste Mala community. They used to leave her under a tree by the railway tracks where they worked as labourers.

Taking pity on the child, a Vaddera woman adopted her but Radhika retained her SC caste status, he said.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).