The one-man judicial commission, constituted by the Union ministry of human resource development to probe Hyderabad Central University research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in January this year, has raised questions about the 26-year-old’s Dalit status and attributed his action to personal reasons.
Former Allahabad high court judge AK Roopanwal has also absolved university authorities of any blame for Vemula’s death, saying they were not working under political pressure.
Vemula’s suicide in a hostel room on January 17 this year had triggered a huge political debate with the then HRD minister Smriti Irani coming under attack along with labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya for writing a letter related to the matter.
Vemula was one of the five students suspended by the university’s executive council following allegations of assault on a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an RSS-affiliated students’ body.
The five students – all members of the Ambedkar Students Union – were thrown out of the hostel, denied access to campus facilities, except their classrooms and respective workshops.
Here is the the full 41-page report of the Roopanwal commission on Vemula’s suicide:
1. Though Rohith Vemula is not proved to be a Scheduled Caste person, he always claimed as such on the basis of the certificate “anyhow obtained” by him/his mother. From the whole material available on the records, it appears that there is “no proof at all” that she (Vemula’s mother V Radhika) belongs to the Mala community on the basis of which she obtained Mala caste certificate for the first time from a corporator in whose house she remained for one-and-a-half years.
2. Neither Union labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya nor the then human resource development minister Smriti Irani in any way influenced the university authorities and they were just discharging their functions as the representatives of the public.
3. The “whole reading” of the letter (suicide note) written by him (Rohith) shows that he was not feeling well in this world and under frustration he ended his life. Here I would like to refer to Vemula’s letter dated 18 December, 2015 to the vice-chancellor, University of Hyderabad, regarding the solution for Dalit problems. In this letter, he showed his anger regarding the expulsion from hostel. But I feel that in view of the suicide note, the anger shown in this letter cannot be the reason for suicide. It is because of the fact that the suicide was committed after about one month and by this time the expulsion from the hostel had been challenged in the high court.
4. My view is that there is no evidence of any fact or circumstance on the record, which dragged him to commit suicide, and no one is responsible for his death.