NEW DELHI -- After four days of protests, an outpouring of grief, and a political slugfest over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, Hyderabad Central University has revoked the suspension of four Dalit students.
Vemula was found hanging in his friend's room in the campus of Hyderabad University on Sunday.
The 26-year-old was suspended along with four more Dalit students for allegedly beating up Susheel Kumar, an activist from the Bharatiya Janata Party's student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, during the agitation over the execution of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon, last year.
The decision to revoke the suspension was made by the Hyderabad University's Executive Council, the same body which suspended the students in November.
While the five students were allegedly ostracised by Hyderabad University, which is headed by Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, a BJP lawmaker, wrote to the Human Resource Development Ministry about the "casteist and anti-national" acts of the students.
The HRD Ministry sent five letters to Hyderabad Central University, asking the educational institution to examine concerns raised by Dattatreya. The HRD Ministry's response is seen as furthering the alleged persecution of the students.
On Thursday, at least ten professors from the SC/ST community resigned from their administrative posts after HRD Minister Smriti Irani told reporters that a Dalit professor had been on the Executive Council which decided to suspend the students.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Irani also said that the warden, who was keeping the five students out of the hostel, is a Dalit. "This is not a Dalit versus non-Dalit confrontation," she said.
Since Vemula's death, students have been demanding the resignation of the Vice Chancellor and a revocation of the suspensions.
Over the past week, the young scholar's tragic death has degenerated into a political slugfest, with politicians making a beeline for the volatile and grief-stricken campus to regurgitate accusations against their rivals.
Following in the footsteps of Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who visited Hyderabad on Jan. 19, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today interacted with the student protestors and met with Vemula's mother.
Calling for the Vice Chancellor's resignation, Kejriwal also demanded that Irani apologise for playing "dirty caste politics." "Smriti Irani spoke one lie after another," he said, referring to Irani's press conference on Wednesday in which she tried to deflect blame from her ministry and the BJP.
Trying to shift the blame on the Congress Party, Irani told reporters that the HRD Ministry had also received letter from the Congress Party lawmaker V. Hanumantha Rao in 2014, raising concerns about several suicides of students from marginalised communities on the campus of Hyderabad University over the past four years.
Pointing out that the Congress Party was in charge when Rao sent his letter, Irani said, "If they had fixed this four years ago, possibly Vemula, would be alive today."
Meanwhile, the All India Trinamool Congress and Janata Dal (United) has sent delegations to express their solidarity with the students protestors at Hyderabad University.
Jumping into the fray, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said that "government terrorism" had led to Vemula's death. “This behaviour that if you are against policies of the BJP government, then you are our enemy and you would be tortured through government terrorism is condemnable and non-democratic," she said.
On Tuesday, Congress Party's Rahul Gandhi said that the conditions for Vemula's suicide was created by the educational institution, its Vice Chancellor and Dattatreya.
Suggesting that freedom of speech was being curbed in educational institutions across the country, Gandhi said, "I have come here for Rohith, but he is not alone. Every student, every university has this problem."
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