The Guntur district administration has certified that Rohith Vemula, the 26-year-old University of Hyderabad research scholar whose suicide in January triggered a nation-wide uproar, was a Dalit and did not belong to the Other Backward Class (OBC) category as claimed by rival student groups and Union ministers.
Guntur collector Kantilal Dande submitted a report to the National Commission of Scheduled Castes last week stating that Rohith belonged to the Hindu Mala caste, a predominant Dalit community of Scheduled Caste in Andhra.
The report was based on a field study conducted by Guntur tehsildar, who interacted with various sections of people in the colony where Rohith was born and brought up, including his relatives.
“Based on the field study, the joint collector had prepared the report certifying Rohith as a Mala. I will appear personally before the commission on June 20 to officially present the facts,” Dande told HT from Guntur, refusing to elaborate further.
The UoH Joint Action Committee for Social Justice is now contemplating filing a fresh petition in the Hyderabad high court, seeking action against the vice-chancellor under SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act.
“Since the government itself has admitted that Rohith was a Dalit, we are consulting our lawyers to file a fresh petition in the court,” JAC leader Sannaki Munna said.
The high court is hearing a similar petition that was filed in January by Rohith’s friends seeking prosecution of the VC, Union minister of state for labour Bandaru Dattatreya and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader Sushil Kumar under the SC/ST atrocities act.
This petition was challenged by Appa Rao, in his quash petition in February, on the ground that Rohith was not a Dalit.
Rohith’s mother Radhika, who always maintained that Rohith was a Dalit, said truth has prevailed.
“We are waiting for the copy of the official report from the Guntur collector. Only after that, we shall decide on filing a fresh case,” Radhika told HT on Friday.
Rohith’s caste identity became controversial after his father Mani Kumar told the media soon after his son’s suicide that he belonged to the Vaddera (stone crusher) community and was not a Mala.
His statement was highlighted by the ABVP and other rival groups to counter the campaign by pro-Rohith groups that there was discrimination against Dalits on the UoH campus. Even Union ministers Smriti Irani, Sushma Swaraj, TC Gehlot and SK Gangwar contested Rohith’s caste and declared that he was not a Dalit.
Radhika, who divorced Mani Kumar, however, opposed Kumar’s claim saying that she and her three children, including Rohith, lived in a Mala village as Malas throughout their lives.