UoH student orgs seek Congress intervention in Rohith Vemula suicide case closure

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: In a collective statement, student groups from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) have decried the Telangana police’s closure of the Rohith Vemula suicide case. The students alleged that two of the main investigating officers (IO) who drafted the report majorly had “closest links to the false narratives floated by ABVP and BJP”, and also that the cops had flouted rules of the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocity Act.

Calling for intervention into the case by the ruling Congress government, the UoH students on Friday also held a rally in the campus in protest against the closure of Rohith Vemula’s suicide case. They also expressed ‘shock’ that the police’s investigation completely absolved ex-UoH vice-chancellor Prof Appa Rao, then union ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani, and ex-BJP MLA Ram Chander Rao in the case. They had all been booked in the case following Rohith’s death on January 17, 2016.

Last month, the Gachibowli police which was investigating the suicide of Rohith Vemula filed a closure report in the matter. The police has absolved the accused, and in its report also surprisingly said that Rohith Vemula is not a Dalit or that he doesn’t belong to the Scheduled Caste (SC) category.

UoH student groups have censured the police and said that the report “goes to extraordinary lengths to discredit the caste identity of Rohith Vemula”. In their statement, the organisations said, “More than half the length of the police report is spent trying to establish the narrative that Rohith was indeed not a Dalit. 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.”

Rahul Gandhi’s support to Rohith Vemula’s mother

It may be recalled that in 2016 it was none other than ex-Congress president Rahul Gandhi who protested and demanded action against the accused. He had even visited UoH and held sit-in protests, and the Congress had then supported the ‘Justice for Vemula campaign’ in 2016 after Rohith Vemula died by suicide and protests erupted in the UoH campus.

Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula was even asked to join the Congress during Gandhi’s recent Bharat Jodo Yatra. Moreover, Rahul Gandhi himself said that the ‘Rohith Vemula Act’ would be implemented to safeguard SC, Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and minorities. So far, the Congress has not commented on the matter.

Aside from that, the UoH student groups also decried the police closure report for saying that Rohith took his own life over supposed fears of his caste status being revealed. The police also stated that it may have been one of Rohith’s fears that it could have resulted in loss of academic degrees or even prosecution. The report said that Rohith was “aware that he does not belong to the Scheduled Caste”.

Background and suicide

Rohith died by suicide in January 2016, ending his life after days of protest by sitting out in the open along with four others for months after being evicted from their hostels in mid-2015. They were punished and asked to vacate their hostels after getting into an online altercation with an Akhila Bhartiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) member named Susheel.

While the ABVP member was let-off eventually, Rohith and his friends, who were in the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), were punished. The UoH student groups also criticised the police closure report.

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This was predated by then Secunderabad MP and former minister Bandaru Dattatreya writing to then Union HRD minister Smriti Irani that “anti-national” activities were undertaken by students in UoH. That led to the administration also looking into the matter, and the altercation between ASA members and the ABVP member eventually ended up punishing Rohith and his friends.

After committees were set up to look into the matter, eventually under Appa Rao the UoH administration suspended the five Dalit scholars from the ASA, which has been since termed a ‘social boycott’.

“The police report is, unfortunately, an exact reiteration of the BJP-ABVP narrative around Rohith’s institutional murder. The police report from page one is keen on portraying Rohith and his friends as ‘unruly’ mobs prone to violent tendencies. The report has repeated verbatim the ABVP’s narrative around Susheel Kumar’s supposed attack ignoring scores of evidence against this blatant fabrication,” stated the the UoH students in their statement.

The UoH administration then also barred the ASA students from access to their schools/departments and libraries apart from revoking access to their hostels and other public places. The police report interestingly justifies this by stating that it was done to ‘prevent them from committing further disturbance in the administrative block in the name of protest.’

The punishment by the UoH administration to the ASA students was upheld in December 2015, after which Rohith died by suicide on January 17. This led to a huge uproar and massive protests by students. A case was registered against former UoH VC Appa Rao, Dattatreya, ex-BJP MLA Ram Chander Rao, and others, alleging that they also played a part in Rohith’s death.

In a letter that he left, Rohith wrote many things, but also that he blamed no one for taking his own life. However, before that, he had written a sarcastic letter to Appa Rao over the treatment meted out to Dalit students in UoH.

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