‘Shock, dismay, disappointment!’ Family, political outfits outraged as police close Rohith Vemula case

The statement came hours after Telangana Police submitted a closure report regarding the suicide of the University of Hyderabad PhD scholar.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 04, 2024 | 12:41 AM Updated May 04, 2024 | 10:38 AM

University of Hyderabad students gather on 3 May to protest against the Telangana police closure report in the Rohith Vemula suicide case.

Stakeholders in the Justice for Rohith Vemula campaign on Friday, 3 May, said in a joint statement that the authorities had made a mockery of the “institutional murder” of the college student.

The statement came hours after Telangana Police submitted a closure report in the case related to the suicide of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) PhD scholar citing “lack of evidence”.

The closure report also concluded that Rohith was not a Dalit, and that his caste certificate was “fabricated”. Late on Friday night, Telangana police said it would continue investigation in the case.

The suicide by Rohith on 17 January, 2016, not only triggered a nationwide uproar but also sparked a huge political storm.

Opposition parties launched a massive attack on the BJP-led Union government over the issue.

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

The joint statement

Friday’s joint statement came from student unions and backward-class (BC) associations, along with members of Rohith’s family.

The entities mentioned by name at the end of the statement were AIOBCSA, AISA, ASA, BSF, DSU, MSF, NSUI, SFI, SIO, TSF, and UOHSU.

It noted about the final police action in the case: “To our great shock, dismay and disappointment, the [closure] report completely absolves the then vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao, BJP leaders Bandaru Dattatreya, Smriti Irani, and N Ramachandra Rao, and ABVP leader Susheel Kumar of any responsibility for the murder of Rohith Vemula by replicating the exact narratives fabricated by BJP and ABVP.”

It added that the report “further goes on to make grave insinuations about the victims themselves and goes to great trouble to insinuate that Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit but had forged documents to create fake caste certificates”.

The stakeholders then said: “While the distress and disappointment this report has produced are inarticulable, we would like to address some of the glaring inaccuracies, falsehoods and purposeful omissions in the report that have made a mockery of the eight-year struggle for justice against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula.”

Related: Rohith Vemula Act, caste census, federalism are highlights in Congress manifesto

Claims of discrimination

The statement noted that Rohith was a “bright research scholar”, but added that “no ‘meritorious’ achievement removes from Dalits the gaze of criminality that caste society has fixed upon them”.

The stakeholders said then ABVP leader Susheel Kumar tried to frame an appendicitis procedure as hospitalisation due to injuries after he was apparently attacked over a social media post he was forced to take down and apologise for.

They added that despite officials confirming that Susheel Kumar was hospitalised for appendicitis, Rohith was one of the five scholars booked for the “attack” on him.

“ABVP used backdoor channels to get the then Union Minister for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya to write to the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry complaining about ‘anti-national, casteist’ elements at the university,” they said.

“The HRD Ministry under Smriti Irani directly got involved and sent a series of letters to the registrar and vice-chancellor [Podie Appa Rao], asking them to take action against Rohith and fellow Dalit students of ASA (Ambedkar Students’ Association),” they added.

Also Read: Karnataka Dalit youth assaulted for overtaking bike ends life

On the police report

The joint statement also said the closure report in the case:

  • “is, unfortunately, an exact reiteration of the BJP-ABVP narrative around Rohith’s institutional murder”.
  • “from page one is keen on portraying Rohith and his friends as ‘unruly’ mobs prone to violent tendencies”.
  • “has repeated verbatim ABVP’s narrative around Susheel Kumar’s supposed attack ignoring scores of evidence against this blatant fabrication”.
  • “completely ignores the report of the duty security officer, who was the only university official at the site of the incident, who unambiguously asserts that no physical violence took place on the night of the incident, as alleged by Susheel”.
  • “repeatedly refers to an unrelated protest meeting called against capital punishment as support of the Dalit scholars for terrorist activities”.

It added that the report also ignored several testimonies and admissions that went against this narrative.

The statement also said there were “desperate attempts to safeguard Appa Rao, Smriti Irani, and Bandaru Dattatreya”.

It continued: “The report goes to extraordinary lengths to discredit the caste identity of Rohith Vemula. More than half the length of the police report is spent trying to establish the narrative that Rohith was indeed not a Dalit.”

Rohith’s mother said in the past that she was adopted from a Dalit family by Chana Anjani Devi, who belonged to the Vaddera community, which is categorised as a BC.

The statement said: “The report brushes over the ample evidence that attests to Rohith’s SC status but cherrypicks any testimony that discredits this, paying no heed to reliability or conflicts of interest.”

It noted: “The report relies solely on the caste report issued by the Guntur collector on 10 February, 2017, and overlooks the challenge to the report by the family of Rohith.”

Also Read: Dalit show of strength in Karnataka village after Caste Hindus assault youth

‘Most cruel part’

The stakeholders also said in the joint statement that the police report’s “most cruel part” was where it tried to “speculate reasons for Rohith’s suicide”.

They noted: “Completely absolving BJP leaders and the vice chancellor, the report fixes the blame for Rohith’s death squarely on Rohith himself.”

The statement then quoted the part of the police report that claimed Rohith was not a Dalit. “This could be one of the constant fears as the exposure [of] the same would put him to loss of his academic degrees that he earned over the years and be compelled to face prosecution,” the report said.

“There cannot be a greater insult to the life and legacy of Rohith Vemula than this insinuation,” said the joint statement, adding: “It also reveals the fact that the investigation views Dalit-ness simply as a privilege that provides an academic advantage.”

The statement went on to add: “It appears as though the great learnings about the crippling monstrosity of caste that the Justice for Rohith Vemula movement brought to global attention have fallen on deaf ears.”

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)