Rohith Vemula a Dalit, Action under Atrocities Act Mandatory: NCSC Chairman PL Punia

Image: Business Standard


Rohith Vemula and his family is and were always Dalit, says the Guntur District Collector, Kantilal Dande

NCSC will direct Cyberabad Police to file act on the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities (POA) charges against  Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Vice-Chancellor, HCU P. Appa Rao

As the Guntur District Collector has certified that Vemula’s caste was Hindu Mala (Scheduled Caste), “Telangana police will have to act on atrocity charges pressed against the accused in the PoA case, failing which they will be in violation of constitutional provisions and the law”, Mr. Punia has told The Hindu.

Further, the media has reported that the National Schedule Caste Commission (NCSC) will direct Cyberabad police to act on Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities (PoA) charges slapped against five persons including Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Vice-Chancellor of University of Hyderabad P. Appa Rao in connection with Rohith Vemula suicide case. This was stated by the NCSC Chairman P.L. Punia in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

The Commission’s direction will be based on Guntur District Collector’s report on Mr. Vemula’s caste status, Mr. Punia has said.  “In the meeting which is to be convened next week, the Commission will table the report and ask Cyberabad police to act on it,” he said adding that the Guntur Collector has already sent a copy of the report to both the investigating officer and Cyberabad Commissioner C.V. Anand.

The NCSC Chairman said that the District Collector is the highest authority in issuing caste certificate. “The Collector’s certification in this case was based on the data and documents provided by Revenue Divisional Officer and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Guntur. As per the documents, a permanent Caste certificate was issued to Rohith Vemula by the Guntur Tahsildar in 2005. His caste was always recorded as Mala (SC) and with the Collector certifying this, the police should go ahead with the proceedings,” Mr. Punia said. The NCSC is legally bound to ask police an explanation if a PoA case goes unattended, he said.The NCSC received the Collector’s report last week, Mr. Punia confirmed.

On February 25, Teesta Setalvad had, in Sabrangindia raised pertinent questions about the speech made by the minister for human resources development (MHRD), Smriti Irani in parliament.  Among the questions raised were, 'Is it or is it not true that senior functionaries of the GOI, including two central ministers (both women) have questioned the authenticity of Dalit identity of Rohith?' Secondly, 'After January 17, 2016 and the tragic step that Rohith Vemula took, did or did not the GOI appoint Ajit Duval, National security Advisor the Task to investigate the real caste of Rohith Vemula?  Moreover, the writer had asked, 'Did the trail not begin politically: with the Vice President, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Hyderabad,  Nandanam Diwakar writing to Central minister Dattareya, (August 10, 2015), seven days before the latter writes to Irani, a letter in which wrong and exaggerated accounts of ABVP student, Susheel Kumar’s injuries are given as well as a litany of political opposition to Ambedkarites listed? '

Further,  the Times of India also reported on June 16, that the delay in the investigations under the SC/ST Act was because the Hyderabad police was deliberately delaying investigations. Reportedly, the Vice Chancellor is yet to be interrogated despite the NCSC having given the green signal for it, sections of the faculty have alleged.

In a vindictive action that has drawn further protest and outrage, the university administration has suspended two professors, KY Ratnam and Tathagata Sengupta for supporting the peacefully protesting students on March 22. The suspension order is dated Hune 13 and there has been a relay protest since June 14. The administration and the Modi regime appear to be taking full advantage of the vacation period when students numbers diminish at the university.

Is the University of Hyderabad (UoH) management working hand in glove with the police to `protect' Appa Rao Podile? Most definitely, allege students and faculty members, pointing to the lackadaisical attitude of the police in fast-tracking probe into the Rohith Vemula suicide case, which names vice-chancellor Podile as an accused. And this, despite the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) green-flagging the VC's interrogation, they say .

“Minutes of the NCSC meeting reveals that the commission had instructed the police to go ahead with the investigation -nearly two to three weeks ago -on the basis of the brief submitted by the additional district magistrate of Guntur. Despite this, the police has not questioned or arrested Podile. It is clear that political pressure is leading to the delay in this matter,“ alleged Prashanth Dontha, a close friend of Vemula. He hoped that the police will soon interrogate the VC under the SCST Atrocities Act. Accusations about the powersthat-be trying to “safeguard“ Podile are being voiced even by faculty members, who have condemned the police for deliberately dragging its feet on the case and making “lame excuses“ to delay the process.

“It appears that the police is giving all sorts of reasons to manipulate the circumstances. Based on the magistrate's report, they must ideally go ahead with the investigation. But the police is only safeguarding Podile by saying that they haven't heard from the Andhra Pradesh government on Vemula's caste,“ said Sudhakar Babu, convener, SCST Teachers Forum. He appealed to the police to be more proactive in handling the matter.

Incidentally, Guntur Collector, Kantilal Dande, in his report tabled recently before the NCSC, has confirmed that Vemula was a Dalit. This came five months after the PhD scholar committed suicide on January 17.
Speaking to TOI, advocate S Gunaratna, representing Vemula's family, said that he intimated the Hyderabad high court about the Guntur collector's report last Monday . “Five petitions filed by the accused had sought relief from arrest. Now, with the collector's report, we will file a fresh petition to cancel those relief petitions,“ Gunaratna said.

Meanwhile, feigning ignorance about this development, the police claimed it is yet to receive a copy of the collector's report. “I did not receive any report either from the Guntur authorities or the commission about Rohith's caste,“ said M Ramana Kumar, assistant commissioner of police, who is the investigating officer in the case. SabrangIndia's repeated efforts to get a response from the Telangana government administration (Home Secretary, Director General of Police) received no response. On contacting Commissioner of Police, CYV Anand, he requested us to get in touch with the Investigating Officer (IO) who too did not offer a response. Amongst other questions, Sabrangindia had asked whether the criminal cases against 29 students and two faculty members of the HCU had been withdrawn. On March 27, during the State Assembly session which had turned turbulent on the violent police action against students and faculty of HCU, chief minister, K Chandrasekhara Rao had promised to convey to the 'PM the mood of the House.' It is the Telangana (Hyderabad) police that had allegedly misbehaved with the student protesters and faculty while the government tried to shrug its shoulders off the movement saying that the matter related to a Central University.

Meanwhile, the relay hunger strike by Tathagata Sengupta and K Y Ratnam, who were suspended by the university executive committee, intensified on Wednesday, June 15 . Members of the All India Students Association joined the agitation, terming the suspension as “unwarranted“.

In the meantime, a fresh statement issued by the Hyderabad University management insisted that the two faculty members were suspended strictly in accordance with Rule 10 of the Central Civil Services (classification, control and appeal) Rules, 1965. According to the rule: “It is the duty of an employee, who is arrested for any reason, to intimate the fact of their arrest and the circumstances connected therewith to their official superior promptly, even though they might have subsequently been released on bail.“The statement added: “The two faculty members have failed in this respect and hence were issued a memorandum on June 13 requesting them to explain why disciplinary action should not be initiated against them in terms of CCS (CCA) Rules 1965.“




Related Articles