Beginning the week of one year long commemoration of the ‘institutional murder’ of Rohith Vemula on Thursday, January 12, tomorrow, the campus of the conflict worn Hyderabad Central University (HCU) will host an academic seminar on “Caste Based Atrocities in Higher Educational Institutions.” Chairperson of the ICSSR and former Chairperson of the University Grants Commission, Sukhdeo Thorat along with Bezwada Wilson, of the Safai Karmachari Andolan will address the seminar in detailed presentations.
The pertinent question however is: next week, on January 17 the day Rohith so poignantly ended his own life, will Radhika Vemula be allowed to pay homage at the Veliwada on the campus however?
For student organisations, leaders and the official students union it has been a battle and struggle to keep the protests against the militarization of the campus by controversial Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podille, brought in overlooking many better qualified scholars by the Modi government. The imposition of Podile, his subsequent suspension and re-introduction on May 22, 2016 had renewed outraged protests from the student and wider community. Showing utter disregard to protesting students, however Narendra Modi had ‘awarded’ the VC in early January. On January 3, 2017, prime minister Narendra Modi honoured and awarded Podile Apparao, an alleged plagiarist and a VC accused under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act with “Millenium Plaque of Honour” at the Indian National Science Congress event held at Tirupathi amidst the presence of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandra Babu Naidu and Y.S.Chowdary who were none other than strong lobbyists for Apparao Podile.
There is a strong rumour that the Andhra Pradesh government under Chandra Babu Naidu, will over the next few days declared that “Rohith Vemula” was not a Dalit.
On December 18, 2016, Ambedkarite students of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) have in a detailed and strongly worded memorandum to the President of India, substantiated by 26 authenticated annexures, demanded that he exercise his powers as Chancellor of the university and remove Podile Appa Rao as Vice Chancellor . The memorandum also appeals for directions to the Government of Telangana to implement SC/ST Prevention of Atrocity Act in the criminal case (Cr.No 20/2016, Gachibowli Police Station) against the authorities pending in the High Court
The memorandum says that there is a direct link between VC Podile Appa Rao’s actions and the death of Rohith Vemula.
The Modi regime and its HRD ministry has been on a mission as it were to bury the Rohith Vemula case and shift focus away from brute caste discriminations on the campus to the fascile issue of whether or not Radhika Vemula ‘was a Dalit or not.’ This despite the fact that Radhika and her three children lived and fought the stigmas of caste through their lives, the Collector Guntur certified her dalit caste status and the SC/ST Commission (Chairperson PL Punia) made sharp and strong recommendations on the basis of the crude exclusions faced by the family for decades.
On October 6, 2016, NCSCST Chairperson PL Punia in an exclusive interview to Sabrangindia had pointed out pertinently, that the issue of which caste Rohith Vemula belonged to was never an issue that was part of the Roopanwal Commission’s mandate. Moreover he said that the head of the one man commission appointed by the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) was ‘hired to hired to give a stamp of approval on what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime has been saying all over the country’
What is being dubbed as a predisposed and faulty account produced to propagate the Modi government’s agenda, HRD ministry’s enquiry report on Hyderabad University scholar Rohith Vemula’s alleged suicide has drawn sharp criticism from P L Punia, Chairperson, of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) a statutory authority. Punia has impugned former justice Roopanwal’s authority to investigate Vemula’s caste when the terms of reference of the enquiry commission simply did not mandate this investigation.