Andhra Pradesh is set to give other backward class (OBC) status to Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old PhD student whose suicide at the University of Hyderabad last year triggered a wave of nationwide protests against caste discrimination.
The Andhra Pradesh government is preparing to send the report to the Centre before January 17, Vemula’s death anniversary when student groups have announced programmes to commemorate his memory.
Revenue officials in Guntur district’s Gurajala village said Rohith belonged to the Vaddera OBC caste and wasn’t a Dalit--as claimed by his mother Radhika Vemula and university students.
“The affidavits submitted by Rohith’s father Manikumar and other family members in the village have indicated that he is a Vaddera. We also made inquiries with the other villagers and they, too, confirmed his OBC status,” a senior revenue official told HT.
“We have submitted a report to the Guntur collector Kantilal Dande.”
If sent to the Centre, the report will mean a reversal of the stand taken last year by the collector, who told the National Commission of Scheduled Castes that Rohith belonged to the Hindu Mala caste, a predominant Dalit community in Andhra.
Rohith’s death and protests across universities had pushed the state and Centre on the back foot and given the Opposition, especially the Congress, ammunition to call the government “anti-Dalit”.
“Their report is based on the statement of my father. But why didn’t they record my mother’s statement? Let the AP government come out with the report officially. We are going to challenge it in the court,” Rohith’s brother Raja Vemula told HT.
Once the government clears the OBC classification, a number of cases filed against suspects under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities act will also be dismissed.
When contacted, the collector refused to divulge any details. “We have not submitted any report to the government so far. We shall disclose it as and when it happens,” Dande said.
The collector’s June 2016 report was based on a field study in the colony where Rohith was born and brought up.
“Perhaps, the Guntur officials conducted the study in the Dalit colony where Rohith was staying. But no such enquiries were made in Gurajala, from where his family hailed. We do not know how he got the SC certificate, but his father clearly told us that he is a Vaddera,” the Gurajala revenue official said.
A one-man judicial committee headed by former Allahabad high court judge Justice A K Roopanwal last August also declared Rohith as an OBC. The committee felt that Rohith’s mother might have got the SC certificate to claim the benefits of reservation.