NEW DELHI -- Lawmakers in both Houses of Parliament debated the explosive incidents involving the suicide of a Dalit student in Hyderabad, and the arrest of Jawharlal Nehru students in a sedition case, which have polarized the nation on questions of free speech, dissent and discrimination, this year.
On the second day of the Budget Session, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani confronted each other in the Rajya Sabha over Rohith Vemula's suicide.
While Mayawati demanded Irani's resignation, the HRD minister blasted the Opposition for using "a child as a political tool."
"Dalit students are being targeted," said Mayawati, while lawmakers from her party rushed to Well of the House shouting "Dalit virodhi ye sarkaar, nahin chalegi, nahi chalegi(Anti-Dalit government won't work)."
"Who uses a child as a political tool?" said Irani.
"Let me reply. If you don't like my answer then I will chop off my head and place it at your feet," she told Mayawati.
During the course of the Budget Session, opposition parties are closing ranks against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government over three issues: the arrest of students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in a sedition case, the violent Jat agitation over quota in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, and Vemula's suicide at the University of Hyderabad.
Vemula, 26, was founding hanging from his friend's room in the Hyderabad University campus in January.
Irate over the Modi government's handling of suicide, Mayawati demanded the sacking of the university's Vice Chancellor, resignation of union ministers linked to the tragedy, and the inclusion of a Dalit member in the commission probing the incident.
"Are we signaling to nation that a judge's capacity to deliver justice will depend on his caste?," Irani shot back.
Irani repeated her earlier claim that a a Dalit professor was on the Executive Council of the university which suspended five Dalit students including Vemula, last year. In a press conference, last month, Irani said that the warden, who did not let Vemula enter the hostel, was also a Dalit. She warned against characterizing his death as a "Dalit versus non-Dalit" issue.
But the University of Hyderabad SC/ST Teachers and Officers Forum rubbished Irani’s claim that a Dalit professor was on the Executive Council.
When Mayawati repeated her demand for a Dalit to be in the committee probing the suicide, Irani said, "Are you saying that a Dalit is a Dalit only if Mayawati ji gives a certificate?”