Rohith Vemula closure report: Students group debunks claims made by cops

The joint action committee that led the agitation seeking justice for Rohith Vemula says that the police closure report repeats ABVP's narrative that its leader Susheel Kumar was attacked, ignoring vital evidence.
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The joint action committee that led the agitation in 2016 in the aftermath of PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s death has released a statement listing out the glaring omissions and misinterpretations in the closure report submitted by the Telangana police. It says the police report absolves the then Vice-Chancellor of University of Hyderabad (UoH) Podile Appa Rao, BJP leaders Bandaru Dattatreya, Smriti Irani and N Ramachandra Rao and ABVP Leader Susheel Kumar of any responsibility for the murder of Rohith Vemula by replicating the exact narratives fabricated by the BJP and the ABVP.

The closure report, submitted in the Telangana High Court, said that Rohith did not belong to the Scheduled Caste category and speculated that he died by suicide fearing that his "real caste identity" would be discovered. It also alleges that the caste certificates of the family were fake without providing any evidence for the same. The statement by the committee came down heavily on this claim and said it revealed the fact that “the investigation views Dalit-ness simply as a privilege that provides an academic advantage.”

The students pointed out that the report brushes over the ample evidence that attests to Rohith’s SC status but cherrypicks any testimony that discredits this. It says, “The report relies solely on the caste report issued by the Guntur Collector on 10.02.2017 and overlooks the challenge to the report by the family of Rohith. The report falsely claims that the report of the district collector is final as no challenge against it has been registered. This, however, is completely factually incorrect as an appeal has been filed by Rohith’s mother, Radhika Vemula, with detailed statements of the witnesses. The report fails to mention the testimony of Radhika Vemula and the various experiences of Dalit-ness Rohith Vemula recorded in his own words. By doing so, the report not only displays its insensitivity but also its abject cruelty dismissing the lived experiences of the mother and her son.”

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Telangana police closes Rohith Vemula file, absolves former V-C and BJP leaders

“There cannot be a greater insult to the life and legacy of Rohith Vemula than this insinuation. It appears as though the great learnings about the crippling monstrosity of caste that the ‘Justice for Rohith Vemula’ movement brought to global attention have fallen on deaf ears,” the statement reads, adding that the report spends more than half of its pages to establish Rohith was not a Dalit by brushing over the ample evidence against it.

According to the statement, the police report was keen on portraying Rohith and his friends as ‘unruly’ mobs prone to violent tendencies while repeating ABVP's narrative that its leader Susheel Kumar was attacked without taking vital evidence into consideration. It held the university administration accountable for Rohith’s death, stating that the letter sent by him was most clinching evidence that Rohith was on the verge of taking his life.

“The report completely ignores the report of the Duty Security Officer, who was the only university official at the site of the incident, who unambiguously asserts that no physical violence took place on the night of the incident, as alleged by Susheel. Secondly, it ignores the counter affidavit filed by the then Registrar of the university to the Telangana High Court, which asserts that ‘The allegation that Mr Susheel Kumar was attacked is a little overboard and the petitioner is only trying to generate sympathy of this Hon’ble Court’. The report also ignores the medical certificate issued by the Medical Officer of Archana Hospital Dr Chenna Reddy, which attests to the fact that he was treated in the hospital for appendicitis and that it was not a result of any assault. It also ignores the testimony of the Chief Medical Officer of the University of Hyderabad, who corroborates the same,” the statement reads.

The joint statement further states that the ABVP used backdoor channels to make Union Minister Bandara Dattatreya write to the Human Resource Development Ministry complaining about "anti-national, casteist" elements at the university. It was then that Appa Rao, who was accused of casteism by the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), was brought in as the university's new Vice-Chancellor. “The HRD ministry under Smriti Irani directly got involved and sent a series of letters to the registrar and Vice-Chancellor asking them to take action against Rohith and fellow Dalit students of ASA,” the statement notes.

The report also points out the contradictions in the police report, which lauds the chairmanship of Appa Rao. On page 49 of the closure report, it is said that punishment to students was reduced ‘only to expulsions from hostel for a period of one semester’. “This lie reported on page 49 does not even stand the scrutiny of page 48 of the same report, which states that scholars were barred from entering the hostel till they complete their respective courses/programmes at the university,” the joint action committee’s statement said.

Urging the Congress government in Telangana to take action against the investigating officers in the case, the statement questions the timing of the report being submitted to court immediately after the Lok Sabha elections without handing a copy of the same to the complainant. The statement was issued by 12 student organisations including All India OBC Students Association, All India Students Association, Ambedkar Students Association, Bahujan Students Front, Students Federation of India, Muslim Students Federation and National Students Union of India among others along with the family of Rohith Vemula.

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