Controversy Erupts as BJP Ministers Face Criticism for Remarks on Dalit Icon Rohith Vemula: Full Coverage

Sitharaman urged Gandhi to revisit his previous remarks in Parliament and extend an apology for what she sees as the misrepresentation of the incident and the alleged exploitation of the Dalit community for political purposes.
Student protestors on the evening of 3rd May (File Pic)
Student protestors on the evening of 3rd May (File Pic)Instagram

Hyderabad- Telangana Police's announcement regarding the reopening of the investigation into the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula has provided relief to his family and many progressive organizations. Members of the Ambedkar Students' Association mentioned that there has not been much development.

However, multiple BJP politicians have been making statements maligning Rohith and questioning his caste identity.

"The matter had already been settled when the movement was ongoing. Rohith had repeatedly clarified that he is a Dalit who reads Ambedkar, which is one of the reasons why he was consistently attacked," Ritik Lalan, General Secretary of the Ambedkar Students' Association, told The Mooknayak.

"We have been fighting the allegations and releasing statements revealing the lies of the BJP."

When questioned about the possibility of further demonstrations, it was clarified that discussions are ongoing regarding the need for any additional protests, particularly considering the assurance from the ruling Congress party regarding an investigation.

"But," Ritik continued, "the momentum on campus is quite strong."

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has called upon Rahul Gandhi to issue an apology for what she perceives as his exploitation of the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula.

Sitharaman highlighted that the Telangana Police, operating under a Congress-led state government, has concluded that Vemula's death was not linked to his Dalit background, contrary to earlier assertions.

She asserted that Gandhi allegedly politicized the situation by portraying it as a Dalit issue and accusing the government of pressuring Vemula.

Sitharaman urged Gandhi to revisit his previous remarks in Parliament and extend an apology for what she sees as the misrepresentation of the incident and the alleged exploitation of the Dalit community for political purposes.

In response, many progressive organizations united under the banner of ‘Justice for Rohith Vemula’. The collective published an official statement condemning Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's remarks.

They stated, “We condemn Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's statements as they implicate Dalits and conscious, rational-minded people across the country who fought for Justice for Rohith Vemula as being driven by vested interests. This is a severely degrading statement on Dalit movements. She is overlooking the political interference of the BJP-led union ministers, who had resulted in an illegal social boycott of five Dalits from the Ambedkar Students Association.”

Student protestors on the evening of 3rd May (File Pic)
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The collective further stated that the struggle seeking Justice for Rohith Vemula is based on documentary evidence, not “fictitious narratives peddled by casteist individuals and political parties.”

Echoing his colleague's sentiments, Home Minister Amit Shah also weighed in on the institutional murder of the Dalit scholar.

During an interview with Republic TV, Amit Shah derided the Congress party's campaign regarding Rohith Vemula as lacking substance.

He remarked, "Despite all the uproar from the Congress, there was no electoral gain. It was widely known that Rohith Vemula did not belong to the Dalit community. It was all noise and commotion without any real significance."

However, Dalit activists, including Raja Vemula, Rohith Vemula's brother, have criticized Union Home Minister Amit Shah for ridiculing their efforts to seek justice for the University of Hyderabad research student.

In a statement issued by him and fellow activists, they assert that Rohith's Dalit identity speaks volumes about the extent of discrimination and challenges he faced. They argue that Amit Shah and the BJP, representing dominant caste interests, lack an understanding of the struggles faced by Dalits, as evident from their remarks.

The collective also issued a statement which said, “Rohith Vemula is Dalit, to which no defense needs to be made as his life itself speaks of the quantum of discrimination and struggle, which Amit Shah and the bandwagon of BJP have no clue of, as they represent dominant caste interests.”

According to the collective, Rohith Vemula submitted his SC caste certificate upon admission to Intermediate College at the age of 15, and this status was recognized throughout his educational journey.

From the Hindu College of Guntur, where he graduated, to the University of Hyderabad, where he spent his later years until 2016, his caste was consistently recorded as SC.

Notably, none of the accused, including Nandanam Susheel Kumar of ABVP, Podile Apparao, or BJP ministers, disputed his SC status while he was alive.

Instead, they allegedly perpetrated injustices against him because of his Dalit identity and his admiration for Ambedkar.

It was only following his death that the BJP initiated a complaint challenging Rohith Vemula's Dalit status. This complaint was filed by Darsanapu Srinivasa Rao, who later ran for a BJP ticket from the Vemuru assembly constituency in 2019.

Prior to this complaint, the District Collector of Guntur had affirmed Rohith Vemula's SC status, and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes had reiterated the same.

"Aap Chronology Samjhiye, Amit Shah!"- Ambedkar Students’ Association

In a scathing statement, the ASA highlighted the chronological sequence of events that they allege demonstrate the misuse of power by BJP leaders to criminalize Ambedkarite scholars.

  1. ABVP's General Secretary Krishna Chaitanya filed a false complaint accusing ASA members of assaulting then ABVP-HCU President Nadanam Susheel Kumar. However, the allegations were dismissed by the Proctorial Board based on evidence from the Duty Security Officer and Medical Officer. Instead, Nandanam Susheel Kumar was warned for his objectionable post, and ASA members apologized for questioning him.

  2. BJP MLC Ramchandra Rao conducted a Dharna on the University campus, demanding action against ASA members based on the fraudulent case filed by Susheel.

  3. Bandaru Dattatreya, the then Minister of State for Labour and Employment, endorsed the false complaint and pressured the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to take action against Ambedkarite students.

  4. Following the intervention of the MLC and letters from Bandaru Dattatreya, ASA members were suspended. However, Vice-Chancellor R.P. Sharma revoked the suspension due to irregularities and ordered a fresh inquiry.

  5. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, headed by Smriti Irani, issued letters to the University of Hyderabad without verifying the facts, demanding action against Ambedkarite students.

  6. Apparao Podile, the new Vice-Chancellor appointed during the BJP regime, ignored the order for a fresh inquiry and instead reviewed the revoked proceedings of the Proctorial Board. He illegally imposed a social boycott on five Dalit scholars of ASA, including Rohith Vemula, leading to his institutional murder.

The statement from ASA lays bare the alleged systematic targeting and victimization of Ambedkarite scholars by BJP leaders, ultimately resulting in Rohith Vemula's tragic death.

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