By Kriti Shrivastava:
On the evening of October 7, around 200 students at the Hyderabad Central University marched in protest against the report of Justice Ashok Kumar Roopanwal, which denied Rohith Vemula’s identity of being a Dalit. Organised by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, the students demanded the annulment of the present report put forward by the one man commission. After an opening speech by professor Shobha at Vellivada, the students marched towards the main gate of the University and blocked the Mumbai Highway for a good fifteen minutes in order to garner attention for their cause. In the two hour long march, effigies of Roopanwal along with that of Appa Rao Podile were burnt while the students shouted slogans like “Justice for Rohith”, “Roopanwal murdabad” and “BJP down, down”.
According to the Indian Express, the report denies the discrimination faced by Rohith Vemula and comes to the conclusion that Rohith had secured the Scheduled Caste certificate only to ‘avail the benefits’ that come along with it. It also ridicules the letter Vemula had written to Appa Rao Podile, in which he had stressed on the discrimination and social boycott faced by Dalit students and asked for rope and cyanide. Students at the protest demanded justification from the authorities regarding the discrimination faced by Rohith Vemula and other students of the Dalit community on campus. Some are looking at the panel report as something which will wipe clean the Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and the Vice-Chancellor of HCU Appa Rao Podile off the FIR registered against them under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The report also justifies the constant interference by these leaders, in the affairs and working of the University. While the report has not been made available to the general public, several media reports have put forward similar concerns with the report. The panel has also reportedly said that Rohith’s mother, Radhika Vemula’s claim that her foster parents had told her that her biological parents were SC was “improbable and unbelievable”.
Seeing Roopanwal as a pawn of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the students claimed that he has performed his task according to the guidelines laid out for him by the BJP leaders. The report is not only unsatisfactory, but should be condemned as it states that Rohith committed suicide out of frustration for reasons which were known to him. A protester said, “We have two major agendas currently.To make authorities realise the real reason behind the suicide and also to elaborate on the kind of discrimination that takes place. Only when we make them aware of the excessively derogatory situation will there be steps taken for the eradication of such marginalisation. Only then the guilty will be punished and it is then that justice will be served.”