New Delhi: SC/ST commission chairman PL Punia on Sunday refuted claims made by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj while reiterating that Hyderabad university scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide earlier in January was a Dalit.
"He was a member of the Scheduled Caste. Some people are only trying to water down the issue. Rohith and his siblings were brought up by a single mother, so how can any law determine his caste by that of his father who had left the family years ago?" Punia told reporters.
Swaraj has earlier said that Rohith Vermula, was not a member of the dalit community.
Punia also hit out at those who targeted Rahul Gandhi for joining the hunger strike led by the students Punia said: "I am thankful to Rahulji for standing up so strongly for the cause of Dalits."
Punia also claimed that Rohith's mother was a Dalit and so are his other siblings and they have certificates to establish their claims. "How can he belong to a different caste then," Punia, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, said.
Punia, who visited Hyerabad Central University a day after Rohith committed suicide, said: "I met the university officials and his friends, including those who were suspended from the hostel, and I believe Rohith was a Dalit."
Punia also claimed that he had asked the University authorities to ensure action on the FIR lodged against those responsible for Rohith's death in which University VC and Union labour minister Bandaru Dattetreya had been named as accused.
Rohith, a PhD student at the university, committed suicide by hanging himself in his room.
Rohith and five other students were suspended by the university in August 2015 in connection with an alleged attack on an ABVP leader.
The HCU has already revoked suspension of the four students, following uproar over Vemula`s suicide.