Panel to Probe Rohith Vemula’s Death: A Cynical Denial of Caste Discrimination


There is an anonymous poem called “Mr. Nobody” which makes sly fun of the fact that everyone pleads innocence when things go terribly wrong. This childish poem comes to mind—in a bizarre, tragic form—on reading the verdict of the official panel set up to probe the death of Rohith Vemula. The panel, a judicial commission set up by the Human Resources Development ministry, consists of one man, former Allahabad high court judge Justice A K Roopanwal. 

His report claims that "Vemula was a troubled individual and was unhappy for several reasons". It essentially says no one and nothing is responsible for Rohith’s death. In one stroke, it whitewashes the discriminatory action taken by the Hyderabad Central University against Rohith and his fellow students. It absolves the BJP leaders at whose behest the action was apparently taken. 

The report does more: it rids India of caste like magic. Wear a blindfold, it seems to say, plug your ears, and caste discrimination will go away. To tell people who have been treated as unequal citizens that the inequality does not exist is cruelty. To tell those who are fighting caste inequality that it does not exist is cynical mockery.     

The report is not exactly a surprise, however. Indeed, it is quite predictable. Last year, the enquiry commission report submitted to the HRD ministry began the blindfolding and whitewashing exercise by claiming Rohith was not a dalit; and, of course, by absolving, of all responsibility, then HRD minister Smriti Irani and BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya.

Not all of us need to be blindfolded or suffer from a wilful loss of memory. The Indian Cultural Forum reiterates its solidarity with all those who will continue to ask for justice for all the Rohiths of India.

Also see —

From the Indian Cultural Forum:

Report of the People’s Tribunal on Caste Discrimination and Police Action in University of Hyderabad 

Translating Rohith Vemula’s Poetry

Resolution passed at the Panel Discussion on “Caste, Religion and Lived Culture” at Ambedkar University, January 20, 2016

No More Deaths in Our Universities

Student Narratives of Police Brutality at the University of Hyderabad

Delhi Stands with Rohith Vemula

Rohith Gaya, Dalit Gaya, Mar Gayi hai Lokshahi

India's Fascist Democracy by Anand Teltumbde

Muthukrishnan’s Suicide Brings Back the Prevalence of Structural Discrimination in Institutions of Higher Education by Vidhya

They Chose Death over Humiliation by Vidhya and Tilak Tewari

Radhika Vemula on Bhim Auto by Subhash Gatade

From Godhra to Una by Harsh Mander

Rohith Vemula – Documentary by Srikanth Chintala

Modi Confers Award on Rohith Vemula’s Institutional Killer by Dontha Prashanth

An Inquest into the Death of Rohith Vemula by Panchendra Kumar Naik "Pankaj"

Oorali: a Tribute to Rohith Vemula

A Film from Rohith Vemula’s Last Words​

“Treat dalit women as equals before the law”: Radhika Vemula on Women’s Day

Dalits and the Holy Cow by Meera Velayudhan

From Guftugu:

In Memory of Rohith Vemula (1989-2016)

Posters of Protest

In Bad Taste

Language, Representation and Protected Ignorance

Revisiting the Dalit Experience