New Delhi/Nagpur: Rohith Vemula’s family — his brother Raja and mother Radhika – on Friday dismissed Union HRD minister Smriti Irani’s statements in Parliament on his death, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate action against Smriti, Union minister of labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya, Hyderabad University vice-chancellor P Appa Rao, ABVP leader N Susheel Kumar, MP MVP Ramachandra Rao, and others, who they alleged had been the reason behind Rohith taking his life.
Also present at the press conference were some of Vemula’s friends who were banned along with him from the university, apart from his friends of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle. They alleged that the lies were meant to “divert attention from the real issue.”
One by one, they refuted several of Smriti’s claims presented on the floor of the House. Prasanth, who, too, was banned along with him said that it was “an absolute lie” that no police officer or doctor was present at the spot when Vemula was found dead. The student, Vijay, who first found him dead in the room in the hostel, said that when he found Vemula dead, he informed the university security staff, who brought the duty medical officer, M Rajshree, who declared him dead. Soon after Smriti’s comments, Rajshree, too, has independently refuted this claim.
They also contended Irani’s claims that the committee that barred the students from the Hyderabad University was constituted by the previous UPA government, and that it had a member from the SC/ST community.
“The Executive Council that socially boycotted five Dalit research scholars was headed by the newly appointed vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile who was appointed by BJP government,” said Prashanth.
They also said that the initial inquiry committee that was formed to look into the incident on August 3-4, in which the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle lodged a complaint against Susheel for a derogatory Facebook post against the Circle and the consequent complaint by Susheel that he was harmed, did not follow proper procedures.
Both the students and Vemula’s family tried to clear the air on the case of Vemula. “The ACP who declared that Vemula does not belong to the SC/ST community is not the competent authority; the magistrate is a competent authority. Both Vemula’s mother and grandmother had deposed in front of the magistrate, and the matter is still under investigation, and a report is due to be submitted in March,” said Prashanth.
They also alleged that a letter was written by the ministry of human resource development joint secretary Sukhbir Singh Sandhu in his personal capacity to VS Appa Rao urging him to look into the matter, thereby influencing the matter.
“The VC never told me that Rohith had written a letter to him telling him of his troubles in which he asked the VC to hand over some cyanide, or to allow euthanasia for Dalit students. He did not act on it, and never told me that Rohith is suicidal. Till today, he is yet to meet me or Raja,” said Radhika Vemula. “Why did Irani hide this letter from the parliament? What action has Prime Minister Narendra Modi taken on this? He had said that ‘a son of this country has died’. Why does he not talk of the fact that this very country had branded him an anti-national and an extremist?”
Taking a tough stand against Smriti, Radhika said that the matter is not from a TV serial, but the matter of a person’s life. “The woman who raised me was interrogated for five hours, due to which she suffered a heart attack and passed away. They took away the lives of my son and the woman who acted as my mother, how many more lives will they take,” said Radhika.
JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid Shora, too, countered Smriti’s claim that the Delhi Police, MHA and MHRD had acted on an “interim report” of the JNU administration which “prima facie” had found eight students ‘guilty’. Shora said that the “interim report” had taken the “arbitrary” decision to name and suspend students without listening to any defense from the accused, and within a day of the inquiry. Shora added that the suspension was ordered on the basis of “video evidence” which the administration did not authenticate and was subsequently proved to be doctored.