In a fresh twist to the Rohith Vemula case that has divided political opinion on the discrimination faced by Dalit students in India, Manikumar Vemula, the father of the PhD scholar who hanged himself at the Hyderabad Central University campus, claimed that his son was murdered. At a press conference on Tuesday, Manikumar alleged that that his son Rohith's death was homicide and demanded that the government conduct a judicial inquiry to find out the truth.
He also claimed that the suicide note was not written by Rohith, according to the Times of India.
With questions being raised on Rohith's caste, Manikumar, who hailed from Gurajala in Guntur district, said his son was "not a Scheduled Caste person".
(A member of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of India's main opposition Congress party, shouts slogans as he got entangled in police barricade during a protest against the death of Rohith Vemula in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
"We hail from the Vaddera community of backward classes," TOI quoted him as saying.
As protests continued, the Indian Express reported that the university is allegedly considering replacing interim Vice-Chancellor, Prof Vipin Srivastava, with the next senior-most faculty member. Srivastava was given the charge of the institution after VC Aappa Rao went on leave amid escalation of protests last week.
Meanwhile, as many as 60 protesters who were demanding the resignation of HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya over the suicides of Vemula and the three medical students in Tamil Nadu, were detained in Chennai, reported NDTV.
Rohith Vemula suicide case: Students' protest outside University of Hyderabad. pic.twitter.com/jieXZuiIH4— ANI (@ANI_news) January 27, 2016
50 people detained from a students' protest against Rohith Vemula case & the suicide matter in Villupuram (TN)— ANI (@ANI_news) January 27, 2016
The SC and ST Teachers Forum of the HCU have said they would go on a hunger strike demanding the resignation of the Vice Chancellor and the interim head over the issue.
(Members of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of India's main opposition Congress party, shout slogans during a protest against the death of Rohith Vemula in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
"The SC/ST Teachers Forum will go on a hunger strike demanding the resignation of VC P Appa Rao and incumbent VC Prof Vipin Srivastava in order to resume academic and administrative activities," the Forum said in a notice to the HCU Registrar.
Several members of the Forum have given up their administrative responsibilities in solidarity with the agitating students. NDTV reported that a joint committee of student protesters plans to mark Vemula's birthday on January 30 with a Chalo Delhi protest.
Rohith Vemula suicide case: Students' protest outside University of Hyderabad. pic.twitter.com/DxlLZ9bojv— ANI (@ANI_news) January 27, 2016
Six of the seven students of HCU, on hunger strike to protest the suicide of Vemula, have been shifted to a health centre even as the agitators today took out a march to the residence of the interim head of the institution.
The students, who had given a nationwide university strike call, marched to the residence of the Srivastava and then went outside the campus and burnt the effigy of the Vice-chancellor, whose ouster they have been seeking.
"Six (students) were shifted (to the health centre) yesterday", Ravindra Kumar, chief medical officer said. One student is continuing with the hunger strike, which resumed three days back after the first batch of his colleagues who went on fast were moved to the health centre.
But selection of Srivastava as interim head of the institution was stiffly objected to by the students and SC/ST staff forums alleging he headed the Executive Council sub-committee whose decisions were "responsible for the death of Rohith" and was one of the accused in the death of another dalit student in 2008.
Srivastava had yesterday made a fresh appeal to students to help restore normalcy on the campus. Rohith was found hanging in a hostel room on the HCU campus on January 17, sparking strong reactions on the campus and across the country. Rohith and four other students, all from the dalit community, were suspended last year by the varsity for allegedly attacking an ABVP leader.
The suspension of the four students were revoked last week after the issue snowballed into a major political row with the agitation drawing support from parties other than the BJP.
Rohith Vemula suicide case: Congress' Hanumantha Rao takes up vow of silence as a protest at University of Hyderabad pic.twitter.com/ctH1J804HV— ANI (@ANI_news) January 27, 2016
"The University reiterates its appeal to the students and requests the parents and public to bear with us while we make earnest efforts to restore the normalcy at the earliest," the interim V-C said. Srivastava said he and the HCU fraternity deeply condole the "tragic and untimely" death of Vemula.
(With inputs from PTI)
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