Rohith Vemula, the 26-year-old research scholar >who committed suicide in the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on January 17 this year, belonged to the Scheduled Caste community, states a report, which Guntur District Collector Kantilal Dande has submitted to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).
The report in its operative part reads: “As per the available documentary evidence with the Tahsildar Guntur, Sri. Rohith Chakravarthy Vemula belongs to Hindu Mala caste, which is classified as Scheduled Caste in Andhra Pradesh and his family comes under Below Poverty Line. The statements recorded from the grandmother of Sri Rohith Chakravarthy Vemula and others are also enclosed herein for favour of information."
Advocate S. Gunratan, who represents Rohith’s family, told The Hindu that as per legal provisions, his identity cannot be challenged by a third party posthumously. The inquiry report, based on interviews and fact-finding in April 2016, is also marked to C.V. Anand, Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad, apart from the NCSC. It was filed as an affidavit in the Hyderabad High Court on January 13.
Mr. Vemula’s caste identity was in question soon after his demise as his father Mani Kumar claimed that Mr. Vemula was a Veddera, a caste which falls under Other Backward Classes (OBC).
The NCSC will examine the report this month. Once the report is ratified, it can be used to take further action under the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act, slapped on five persons, including Vice-Chancellor P. Appa Rao and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, according to Mr. Gunratan.
The advocate referring to Madhuri Patil Vs State of Maharashtra judgement pointed out that District Collector or a designated officer appointed by him is the competent authority in issuing Caste certificate. “Now that the District Collector has certified that Mr. Vemula is SC, Mala, a third party including his father or police cannot challenge this in the course of investigation,” Mr. Gunratan said citing Supreme Court’s observation on a judgement of the Aurangabad High Court. Earlier, the Hyderabad High Court refused to stay PoA charges against the Vice Chancellor.
Mr. Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula, a divorcee, had contested her ex-husband’s claim that their deceased son belonged to Vaddera (OBC) community, stating that she and her three children, including Rohith, >had lived in a Mala village as Malas throughout their lives. Ms. Vemula had also stated earlier in various avenues that she was a Mala who was brought up by a Vaddera family.