Row over student’s suicide escalates

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 19, 2016

Rage Students protest Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s death, at JantarMantar in New Delhi, on Tuesday SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Protests erupt across the country; politicians target BJP for its ‘anti-Dalit’ agenda

As spontaneous protests continued across the country over Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide, political parties sharpened their attack on the “anti-Dalit” stance of the Central Government.

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya were specifically targeted for allegedly putting pressure on the Central University, Hyderabad, to take action against Vemula and four other students.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi went to express solidarity with the striking students in Hyderabad. Politicians of all hues — from Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar to Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and the Left — attacked the BJP for its “discriminatory and upper-caste mindset”.

Social media was flooded with responses from civil society and student groups against the BJP/RSS’s “upper caste, anti-Dalit” agenda. Noted Hindi writer Ashok Vajpeyi decided to return the D.Lit awarded to him by the Central University, Hyderabad, in protest against its “anti-Dalit” attitude which, according to him, drove the student to suicide.

Besides Hyderabad where protests are continuing, student organisations held rallies and protests in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, as well as in Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pune, in Phagwara, Punjab and outside the HRD Ministry in Delhi. Activists of Punjab Ambedkar Sena Moolnivasi burnt Irani’s and Dattatreya’s effigies.

In Delhi, about 70 students affiliated with the Left-backed All India Students Association (AISA) and Students Federation of India (SFI) and Congress’s student wing National Students Union of India (NSUI) were detained as they marched towards the HRD Ministry.

Kejriwal tweets letters

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal re-tweeted letters from the HRD Ministry to the Central University by way of proof of political interference and pressure on the university to act against the students, who were accused of assaulting a member of the RSS’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

The letters, written between September and November last year, asked the university to act on a complaint by Secunderabad MP and Labour Minister Dattatreya, who is now facing charges of abetting Vemula’s suicide.

“Hyderabad University, a Central University located in Hyderabad has, in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics. This could be visualised from the fact that when Yakub Memon was hanged, a dominant students union, Ambedkar Students Association, held protests against the execution. When Shri Sushil Kumar, President ABVP in the campus, protested against this, he was manhandled and as a result he was admitted in the hospital,” Dattatreya wrote to Irani, urging intervention.

“This is not suicide, it’s murder,” said Kejriwal in a tweet. “On 18{+t}{+h} January, the country watched, numb, as events unfolded to reveal how two powerful Cabinet ministers — Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya — of the Narendra Modi government had endorsed and abetted the ABVP’s systematic targeting and campaign to socially ostracise five Dalit students,” Kejriwal said in a detailed statement later.

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Published on January 19, 2016
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