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Politicians head to Hyderabad as protests escalate over Dalit student suicide


Last Updated: January 19, 2016, 17:48 IST

Politicians head to Hyderabad as protests escalate over Dalit student suicide

Rohith, a Dalit PhD scholar, was found hanging at the Central University's hostel room in the campus on Sunday triggering protests from fellow students since Monday morning.

Hyderabad: Students have stepped up protests against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and the Vice-Chancellor over the suicide of Dalit PhD scholar Vemula Rohith in Central University at Hyderabad.

In order to build up pressure over the government to sack the Union Minister, the Telangana Jagruti Yuva Morcha held protest outside Dattatreya's residence in Hyderabad.

Section 144 has been imposed on the campus barring large congregations to avoid any untoward incident.

Meanwhile, Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani has sent a team to the campus to probe the incident. Official sources said that the team led by Shakila T Shamsu, OSD in the HRD ministry, will be accompanied by a Deputy Secretary level officer Surat Singh to look into the entire matter and submit the report to the ministry.

In an attempt to shield the government, Social Welfare Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot has sought a report from the Telangana government in the suicide case. This comes after ICSSR chairman Sukhdeo Thorat met Gehlot on Monday and also submitted a memorandum to Irani on the suicide case. The five expelled student including Rohith had met Thorat on December 28, 2015 in Hyderabad and gave him a memo seeking help. Thorat had asked ministers to intervene in the matter.

"The government has taken a note of the incident and has ordered an inquiry in the matter. There should be no politics over such issues. Our aim is to ensure justice for Rohith's family," said Gehlot.

In an escalation of politics over the issue, leaders across the partyline will visit the University and raise the issue. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi along with general secretary Digvijaya Singh will visit the Hyderabad University and meet students.

Not missing any opportunity to target the government, the Congress accused the HRD Ministry of pressuring the University. "The Prime Minister should intervene in the matter. We demand strict action and inquiry against the people responsible, whether it may be a minister or anyone else. These children were mentally tortured - pushing one of them to suicide. I not only demand the resignation of the Labour Minister but PM should take action against Labour and HRD Ministries," said party spokesperson Kumari Selja.

Both Trinamool Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party are also sending a two-member team to Hyderabad.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal also condemned the incident and demanded a fair into the incident.

The BJP hit out at Rahul for playing dirty politics over the issue. "The incident happened in Hyderabad university is unfortunate and saddening. The offenders should be punished. Bandaru Dattatreya's is a person who is compassionate about Dalits. Targeting him for political gain is not done. Congress is doing negative politics over this issue," said Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

A case has been registered against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and vice chancellor of the Hyderabad Central University in connection with the suicide case of PhD scholar V Rohith. The case has been registered under the SC/ST Act.

"One case was registered on the basis of complaints by students. Investigation is taking place on the basis of complaints made," said Hyderabad DCP Kartikeya Sharma.

The HRD ministry on Monday rejected allegations that its intervention had led to the incident. The ministry has also maintained that it had only sought a status report regarding a clash between two students' associations in August 2015.

Rohith, a Dalit PhD scholar, was found hanging at the Central University's hostel room in the campus on Sunday triggering protests from fellow students since Monday morning.

Amid allegations of interference, a HRD ministry official said it had only sought a status report over the events in Hyderabad after a group of students had allegedly attacked Susheel Kumar, the then President of ABVP unit in the University of Hyderabad.

The issue also took a political turn with allegations that the extreme action by Rohith was a result of discrimination against Dalit students at the behest of Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who had written a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, seeking action against their "anti-national acts".

"No direction was given to the University by the ministry. Only a status report was sought," the official said.

Irani said the government neither intervenes in the functioning of the university nor does it have any administrative control over it.

Giving a detailed sequence of events, ministry sources said on the night of August 3, 2015, a group of students suspected to be belonging to Ambedkar Students Association allegedly attacked Kumar and the Proctorial Board of the University inquired into the matter.

It was the Executive council of the University that then approved the expulsion of five students including Rohith. Ministry sources also emphasised that subsequently, an Executive Sub Committee which included a senior Dalit faculty member and headed by senior most professor was constituted, which upheld these recommendations.

However, later at a meeting of Executive council, a lenient view was taken as expulsion would have deprived the students to continue PhD and it was decided to permit them in their departments, library and academic meetings and not in hostel, administration and other public places.

The decision was challenged by the students in the court. Three of the students also started protest by sleeping in open, the sources added.

The sources also added that Dean Students Welfare had regularly counselled the students to have patience to know the court's decision while the Vice Chancellor had also discussed the issue with them.
first published:January 19, 2016, 11:29 IST
last updated:January 19, 2016, 17:48 IST