In a new twist to the controversy over the caste of Rohith Vemula, the research scholar of University of Hyderabad whose suicide in January 2016 triggered a nationwide uproar, the Andhra Pradesh government on Monday served notice on his mother Radhika Vemula, asking her to prove her claim that she was a Dalit.
According to sources, the notice was served by the Guntur district administration on Radhika, in an apparent move to avoid any possible legal hassles in future, if it declares Rohith as belonging to the Vaddera community, which falls under the Other Backward Classes category.
In the notice, the district administration asked Radhika why she should not be declared as an OBC, as she was married to Manikumar, who belongs to the Vaddera community.
Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika during a protest march at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in March 2016. (Arun Sharma/HT File)
If she insists that she indeed belonged to the Mala community, a predominant Scheduled Caste group in coastal Andhra Pradesh, she has to produce adequate evidence to prove her claim.
While Guntur collector Kantilal Dande was not available for comment despite repeated calls and text messages, Radhika’s other son, Raja Vemula, confirmed that she had received the notice from the Guntur administration.
“They gave her two weeks’ time to prove that she indeed belonged to the SC community and not an OBC. We are consulting our lawyers to study the notice and give a proper reply,” Raja told HT.
In fact, the Andhra Pradesh government was planning to send the report to the Centre, declaring Rohith Vemula as an OBC before his first death anniversary on January 17 this year, but it did not do so since it involved some legal problems.
In fact, revenue officials in Guntur district’s Gurajala village, to which Rohith belonged, did a field study and sent a report to the collector indicating that he was a Vaddera and not a Dalit – as claimed by his mother and university students.
On the first death anniversary of Rohith at University of Hyderabad, where hundreds of students staged a protest rally seeking justice for his family, Radhika threatened that she would move the Supreme Court if the government declared that she and her sons were not Dalits.
A one-man judicial committee headed by former Allahabad high court judge Justice AK Roopanwal last August also declared Rohith as an OBC. The committee felt that Rohith’s mother might have got the SC certificate to claim the benefits of reservation.