A video, reportedly shot days before Rohith Vemula committed suicide at the University of Hyderabad in January this year, shows the scholar saying he belonged to the Dalit community.
"Jai Bheem to all. My name is Rohith Vemula. I came from Guntur. I am a Dalit coming from Guntur district," he says in the video. "I have been a student of University of Hyderabad since 2010. Now I am doing PhD in social science department."
According to multiple reports, the video was found in the laptop of one of Vemula's friends, and was released by them on Monday as a rebuttal to the report submitted by former Allahabad High Court judge A K Roopanwal, who conducted an investigation at the behest of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Roopanwal had concluded that Vemula's mother had "branded herself Dalit without proof". In the video, Vemula's voice catches, as describes himself as the son of an agricultural labour, and how he was brought up by his mother.
"The video was forgotten as the idea to campaign against the UoH administration and VC P Appa Rao was dropped," Munna Sannaki, Vemula's friend and a member of the Ambedkar Students' Association, told The Indian Express. "We found the video last week and decided to release it as many questions are being raised about Rohith's caste, with the Roopanwal Committee saying he was not a Dalit."
In the video, Vemula speaks about his expulsion from the university hostel, and how members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organisation affiliated to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had filed a police case against him in 2012, leading to Vemula's police detention for two days.
The video should be considered as part of the investigation into Vemula's death, his friends hope. Prashanth Dontha, a friend of Vemula who is seen sitting behind him in the video, told TOI, "The investigating authorities must consider the video as a major proof with Rohith himself declaring that he is indeed a Dalit. The police has not acted upon the SC/ST Atrocities Act for months now. In this context, they must proceed and take action against those accused in Rohith's suicide case."
Watch the video below: