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Rohith Vemula case: HRD report says University attitude unfair to Dalits

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:41 IST

A confidential report filed by the HRD ministry's fact-finding team on the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula at Hyderabad University on 17 January has condemned the university authorities for an unsound process of inquiry that led to the expulsion of five Dalit students in the first place, reports The Economic Times.

Dalit Ph.D scholar Rohith Vemula was one of the five students from the Ambedkar Student Association who had been expelled from the university after a clash with members of the right wing students' party ABVP. Vemula hanged himself on 17 January this year, leading to nation-wide outrage and a reassessment of the attitude towards the Dalit community.

The report, which is confidential as of now, makes points on the following aspects of the case.

1. The inquiry process that led to the expulsion of the five students

According to the report, there are "...gaps in several processes, including the report of the senior medical officer of the University of Hyderabad, the Proctorial Board inquiry of events of 3rd-4th August, 2015."

It was this medical report that had been cited by the ABVP member who said he had been manhandled by the five Dalit students.

The report says that the sub-committee of the Executive Council (EC) "which was tasked with having an in-depth and comprehensive view on the findings of the Proctorial Board has also not carried out the detailed exercise and has not examined the matter afresh as it was mandated". Instead, it "merely reviewed the documents of the proceedings".

On 15 September, 2015, after protests against the order of expulsion by the proctorial board, the university set up a five-member committee led by Prof YA Sudhakar Reddy. However, this committee "pleaded its inability to look into the incident afresh". Eventually, the executive council set up a sub-committee 20 November, 2015, which finally expelled the students.

2. Pressure from the HRD ministry

The fact-finding team quotes university vice chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile as saying that the university authorities had paid little attention to the letters they received from the union HRD ministry urging them to deal with the five students.

3. Communication between university authorities and students

The report says that the university authorities "were not in constant dialogue with the protesting students which escalated the crisis". It adds: "...though channels of communication through Deans, senior faculty and DSW were being used, these were inadequate and this was further completely blocked after Rohith's suicide."

4. Discrimination against students from marginalised communities

The report says there is a "trust deficit and a feeling of academic discrimination among some of the students." It adds that the mechanism to address grievances was "non-functional and defunct and is responsible for enhancing the feeling of deprivation and discrimination among the students from the socially and economically weaker sections".

5. Lapses in administration

The university administration had not addressed concerns such as discrimination for years, even though the sense of it was obvious. The report quotes a letter an MP in November 2014 that called for correction. It also observes that the recommendations of three committees set up to investigate the suicides of students from the Dalit community in 2008 and 2014 had not been implemented.

First published: 17 February 2016, 7:18 IST