19/01/2016 2:47 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Dalit Student's Suicide: Grief, Protests And Blame Game


NEW DELHI -- Even as the suicide of a Dalit student in Hyderabad unleashed an outpouring of grief and sparked protests in several cities, the tragedy, which reveals discrimination inside an educational institution, deteriorated into an exploitative blame game on Tuesday.

Speaking at Hyderabad Central University today, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi echoed the sentiments of student protestors when he said that the situation for Rohith Vemula's suicide was created by the educational institution,

Appa Rao Podile, Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad University, and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, a lawmaker of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While warning against politicising the issue, Gandhi said that freedom of expression was being crushed in educational institutions across the country. "Vice Chancellor has not had the decency to meet Rohith's mother," he said.

Protestors have accused Podile and Dattatreya for the expulsion and ostracisation of five Dalit students including Vemula after they allegedly beat up an activist from BJP's student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad during the agitation over the execution of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon in August.

The five students, who were banned from common areas of the university including the hostel and cafeteria, were reportedly living in a tent on campus for the past few weeks. Vemula was found hanging in a friend's room on Sunday.

An FIR has been filed against Dattatreya, who wrote to Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani about the “anti-national acts" of the Dalit students, urging her to take action against them. Podile has also been booked in connection with the suicide.

On Tuesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise over the suicide.

"Modi govt constitutionally duty bound to uplift Dalits. Instead Modi ji's ministers got five Dalit students ostracised and suspended," Kejriwal tweeted. "It's not suicide. It's murder. It's murder of democracy, social justice and equality. Modi ji should sack ministers and apologise to the nation."

While students raised slogans for justice at the University of Hyderabad, Gandhi met with Vemula's mother. "I have come here not as a politician, but as a young person, who feels what we are going through," he said.

BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi likened Gandhi's visit to "sprinkling salt on wounds." "There is a need to put balm on wounds, but Rahul ji is going to Hyderabad to sprinkle salt on wounds," he said.

Meanwhile, BJP's Dalit leader Sanjay Paswan slammed his own party. "The stake holders of power politics must take serious note of Rohith Vemula episode or be ready to face wrath, revenge, revolt, reactions," he said.

All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi, the firebrand lawmaker from Hyderabad, also attacked the Modi government over the suicide.

"The death of Rohith Vemula should shake the confidence of people in Modi govt," he tweeted. "Hope BJP govt realises that it takes immense sacrifices and struggle for a Dalit, Muslim family to send their children to premier education institute."

The Congress Party has also demanded the resignation of the HRD minister Smriti Irani, who has argued that the central government has no control over administrative decisions of Hyderabad Central University.

Accusing the HRD Minister of "misguiding" the country, Congress Party spokesperson Kumar Selja told reporters that Irani had written a number of letters on the issue, PTI reported.

"There is much more than what meets the eye. The Prime Minister must speak out on the matter and take action against the ministers," she said.

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