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Contradictory claims over Rohith Vemula’s dalit identity

india Updated: Jan 21, 2016 00:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Rohith Vemula

A member of Social Fronts and Students Organisation stage a protest over the death of Rohit Vemula, a doctorate student at the Hyderabad Central University who was found hanging in a hostel room, in Nagpur.(PTI Photo)

Controversies over Rohith Vemula’s Scheduled Caste (SC) status continue even as a certificate from the revenue department of the Andhra Pradesh government shows he was a Dalit.

The certificate bearing the digital signature of K Sivannarayana Murti, the tehsildar of Guntur mandal, states that Rohith belonged to the Mala community, categorised as Schedule Caste.

A section of the BJP in Delhi pointed to a snapshot of a Telugu petition that suggested Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula declared her other son as ‘Vaddera’, a backward but not Scheduled Caste community in the state.

An unverified video also popped up on social media where an elderly woman, claiming to be Rohith’s paternal grandmother, said they were Vadderas.

“There are contradictory claims about the SC status of the student. The caste certificate was issued to Rohith in 2015. He did not apply for it earlier,” a BJP leader said.

The SC certificate gives Rohith’s date of birth as January 30, 1989, but it mentions his name as ‘Rohit’.

A Telangana police team has been sent to his village to ascertain the facts.

Congress leader K Raju, a former IAS from Andhra Pradesh, said, “His father had left Rohith at a very young age. But a Supreme Court order said if a child is brought up in a Dalit environment by his or her Dalit parent, he or she will be treated as a Scheduled Caste.”

In 2012, the SC had ruled that children born out of inter-caste wedlock cannot be denied the benefits of reservation merely on the grounds that one of the parents belonged to an upper caste.

“This presumption may be stronger in the case where in the inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal, the husband belongs to a forward caste. But by no means the presumption is conclusive ... It is open to the child of such marriage to lead evidence to show that he/she was brought up by the mother who belonged to the SC/ST,” the apex court had observed.

The BJP leaders argued that the validity of the case against minister Bandaru Dattatreya would be questioned due to doubts about Rohith’s SC status.