Telangana police to reinvestigate Rohith Vemula case, says DGP

The Telangana police on March 21 had filed a closure report in the case involving University of Hyderabad (UoH) PhD scholar Rohith Vemula who died by suicide in January 2016.
Rohith Vemula’s family
Rohith Vemula’s family
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Under immense public pressure, the Telangana government has decided to reopen the investigation into the death of University of Hyderabad PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, who died by suicide in January 2016.

Going a step further, Chief Minister Revanth Reddy has called a closed door meeting with Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula, brother Raja Vemula, as well as the student leaders and teachers who were part of the 2016 ‘Justice for Rohith Vemula’ campaign on Saturday, May 4.

The decision to reopen the case came hours after the Telangana police filed a closure report at the high court on Friday, which generated massive public outrage for its offensive language. 

Late Friday evening, the Director General of Police Ravi Gupta issued a statement, “A petition will be filed in the Court concerned requesting the Magistrate to permit further investigation into the case.”

Radhika Vemula and others close to Rohith had expressed doubts in the closure report submitted by the Telangana police. The DGP informed the media that a further investigation would be conducted. 

The closure report into the death of Rohith Vemula, submitted in the court on March 21, absolved the Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, the then Secunderabad MP Bandaru Dattatreya, Member of Legislative Council N Ramachander Rao, and Vice Chancellor Appa Rao. Vemula's brother, Raja, called the police claims "wrong" and made the case that a police officer cannot decide a person's caste. “We are going to meet Telangana Chief Minister Revanth Reddy on Saturday to protest the decision,” he had said on Friday, May 3. 

However, what led to the most outrage stemmed from the report claiming 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 forged without providing any evidence for the same. The family has always maintained that Rohith’s mother, a Dalit Mala by birth, was adopted by a woman belonging to an OBC community. The police however seem to not have taken any of this into account. 

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The report comes four months after the Congress government came into power in Telangana and just 10 days before the state votes in the Lok Sabha polls on May 13. The Congress party had extended support to the ‘Justice for Vemula campaign’ in 2016 with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi even assuring that a law named Rohith Vemula Act would be implemented to “safeguard the right to education and dignity” for the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC) and minorities. In fact, during his recent Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gandhi had invited Radhika Vemula to join the Congress.

According to the police’s closure report, Rohith took his life as “he had his own problems and was not happy with worldly affairs” and absolves university administration and political leaders including Vice Chancellor Appa Rao, against whom the students filed the case. Despite his stellar academic performance, the report also blames Rohith for “appearing to be involved more in student political issues in the campus than studies.”

The University administration in 2015 had ordered that aside from their schools/departments, library and other academic seminars, the students were neither permitted access to hostel, administrative building and other public places nor were they allowed to participate in student elections. The report justified this prohibition claiming that the clause was invoked to ‘prevent them from committing further disturbance in the administrative block in the name of protest.’

The joint action committee that led the agitation in 2016 in the aftermath of PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s death also released a statement on May 3 listing out the glaring omissions and misinterpretations in the closure report.

The students who were part of the JAC said in a statement that ‘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.’

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