Congress-led UDF poll manifesto for Kerala promises Rohith Vemula Act

In a bid to end caste discrimination in educational institutions, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala in its manifesto promised the implementation of the ‘Rohith Vemula Act’ if it is voted to power in the state assembly polls.

“Will enact Rohit Vemula Act to put an end to caste discrimination and partiality against students from marginalized sections in schools, colleges and universities,” read the manifesto released on Saturday.

Amal Chandra, former national president of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) said that the inclusion of the ‘Rohit Vemula Act’ in the manifesto is a joint demand of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) units in University of Hyderabad, Central University of Kerala and Pondicherry University.

NSUI is the student wing of Indian National Congress.

“Instead of hollow slogans, rhetoric and lumpenism, the fight against any fascist government, their institutionalised discrimination and assaults should be based on productive dialogues, deliberations and a zeal to get things done,” Chandra said.

In January 2016, Rohith Vemula, the young Dalit academic in Hyderabad University killed himself after he was suspended from university, in a case on caste-related discrimination. He was one of five Dalit students who were protesting against their expulsion from the university’s housing facility and caste discrimination from university authorities. Vemula’s death sparked fiery protests across the country.

The first demand of “Rohith Act” was made by members of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice in Hyderabad University days after Vemula’s death in the presence of students and scholars from across the country.

Promulgation of a ‘Rohith Act’, on the lines of Nirbhaya Act, has been raised as a prominent demand by students of the University of Hyderabad who were agitating over the death of their colleague.

“We demand that a Rohith Act be introduced and implemented which will ensure legislative protection for students from marginalised communities in higher educational institutions,” said the JAC members on 26 January in 2016, a week after Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) leader and research scholar Vemula’s death.