A video of 26-year old deceased Rohit Vemula was released by his friends on Sunday as a rebuttal to the Central Educational Ministery commission report that raised doubts about his daily status and had attributed his suicide to personal reasons. In the video featuring Vemula, the PhD scholar says, “My name is Rohith Vemula… I’m a Dalit from Guntur district”. According to the friends who released the video, it was shot a few days before Vemula hanged himself to death in his own hostel room at the Hyderabad Central University, earlier in January 2016. Vemula had committed suicide, a few days after he, along with 4 other students had been suspended by the University and had been barred from living in its hostel. Vemula, a month before his death, had written a letter to the Appa Rao, the Hyderabad Central University’s Vice Chancellor about discrimination based on caste. In the letter, he had also mentioned that the Dalit students in the University should be given “a rope to hang themselves”.
The committee set up by the Education Ministry, chaired by Justice Roopanwal had reported that there was no proof that Rohith’s mother V Radhika belonged to the “Mala” Dalit community. Rohith explains in the video that he was the son of a daily wage labourer and his mother raised them. He also explains that his research fellowship had him admitted into the University’s social science school as a student of the “General Category”. Rohit talks about the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and says that the spat with them wasn’t a unique one. It has to be noted that it was only after the fight with the ABVP, student wing of the BJP, that Rohith and his friends had to face a string actions at the hands of the University.
Rohith talks about his and his friends’suspension from the University and says that the “Recently the university has taken the decision to suspend five Dalit students and they have expelled us from hostel premises and they have said that the notice we serve says that our presence in public places, hostel premises and administration building can be treated as criminal acts.” 3 months following Rohith’s suicide, his fellow students had gone on to accuse union Ministers, Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya of the BJP of putting pressure on the University to punish them. But the Roopanwal commission had absolved the ministers and the University of any allegations gainst them and said that there was no political pressure.
Meanwhile, Rohith’s family and the opposition have alleged that the report was an m,ere attempt to shield the people who drove him into committing suicide. Rohit’s mother talked to NDTV and said that the commission had wrongfully dragged caste into the matter to prove Rohith and his family wrong. Rohith’s friends told NDTV that they had only released the video now as they could only just access it from a laptop that had been seized by the police when they had been arrested earlier in March.