Friends of deceased scholar Rohith Vemula, who killed himself in January 2016, have released a video where the Hyderabad University student is heard reaffirming his Dalit identity. The video is an attempt to rebut the report of a government commission that has concluded that Vemula killed himself because of personal reasons and not discrimination at the hands of the university administration.
In the video, Vemula says that trouble started after a fight with students of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He said that though his clashes with the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party were nothing new, the administration took stern steps against five Dalit students, including Vemula. He says, "Recently the university has taken the decision to suspend five Dalit students and they have expelled us from hostel premises and they have said that the notice we serve says that our presence in public places, hostel premises and administration building can be treated as criminal acts."
Among other things, he also said that he was the son of a daily wage labourer and his research fellowship got him admission to the social science school of the university as a “general category student”. His friends said they could not release the video earlier because they did not have access to the laptop that was seized by the police when they were arrested in March for protesting against the university administration, NDTV reported. They said the video was shot for a Facebook campaign only days before he killed himself.
In its report submitted earlier this month, the Justice Roopanwal Commission has observed that there was no evidence to prove that Vemula’s mother belonged to the “Mala” Dalit community. The Roopanwal Commission had also exonerated the university's Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile and other authorities implicated in the case. Podile had come under fire after Vemula's suicide for allegedly suspending him from the institute because of his caste. While he had taken a two-month sabbatical from the varsity following the incident, the government had earlier said he would not be transferred.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has dismissed the report calling it "totally wrong". The NCSC had earlier concluded that Vemula was a Dalit and suggested that his family be granted benefits such as a house, employment and monetary assistance. Vemula’s friends and family have also criticised the panel findings. His mother said, "It's a report to protect the culprits. They have wrongly gone after his caste to prove us wrong."