Was Rohith Vemula a Dalit


It’s now official. The Andhra Pradesh government has decided to declare Rohith Vemula, the research scholar of University of Hyderabad whose suicide in January 2016 triggered a nationwide uproar, as belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and that he was not a Dalit.

The government has also decided to cancel the Scheduled Caste certificate “fraudulently” obtained by Rohith and his mother Radhika Vemula.

Before doing so, the government on Monday served a show cause notice on Radhika as to why she cannot be declared as belonging to the Vaddera community, which falls under the OBC category.

If she still claims she is a Dalit, she should prove her claim with valid documents to that effect within two weeks.

Rohith Vemula's mother Radhika during a protest march at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in March 2016. ( Arun Sharma/HT File )

Guntur district collector Kantilal Dande told HT that the District-Level Scrutiny Committee (DLSC), which had gone into a review petition challenging the Dalit status of Rohith Vemula, made a detailed inquiry at the field level and submitted a report stating that neither he nor his mother were Dalits and that they had obtained the SC certificate by fraudulent means.

“Based on the DLSC report, we have decided to cancel the Dalit certificate fraudulently obtained by Rohith and his mother and declare them as belonging to OBC community. As part of the procedure, we have served a notice on Radhika to prove her claim of Dalit within 15 days. Otherwise, she and Rohith would be declared as OBCs,” Dande said.

Apparently, the notice was served on Radhika in an apparent move to avoid any possible legal hassles in future.

Radhika’s other son, Raja Vemula, confirmed that she had received the notice from the Guntur administration.

“They gave her two weeks’ time to prove that she indeed belonged to SC community and not an OBC. We are consulting our lawyers to study the notice and give a proper reply,” Raja told HT.

In fact, the Andhra Pradesh government was planning to send the report to the Centre declaring Rohith Vemula as an OBC before his first death anniversary on January 17 this year, but it did not do so since it involved some legal problems.

Revenue officials in Guntur district’s Gurajala village to which Rohith belonged, did a field study and sent a report to the collector indicating that he was a Vaddera and not a Dalit – as claimed by his mother and university students.

On the first death anniversary of Rohith at University of Hyderabad, where hundreds of students staged a protest rally seeking justice to his family, Radhika threatened that she would move the Supreme Court if the government declared that she and her sons were not Dalits.

A one-man judicial committee headed by former Allahabad high court judge Justice AK Roopanwal last August also declared Rohith as an OBC. The committee felt thatRohith’s mother might have got the SC certificate to claim the benefits of reservation.