Politics over the suicide of a dalit Ph.D. student in Hyderabad intensified on Tuesday, with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reaching the city and the BJP-led central government, on the third day of the death, appointing Secretary Anita Agnihotri to ‘investigate’ the death.
Elsewhere, the student community in different parts of the country continued to protest on Tuesday, a day after a large gathering of students made their anger known in front of the HRD Ministry in New Delhi where they were stopped by the police using water cannons.
Even before Rahul Gandhi could meet students of the Hyderabad University, senior Congress leader of his party, Ahmed Patel, said, “I am deeply disturbed to hear about suicide of Rohit Vemula. Circumstances which led to this must be independently investigated.”
“Modi govt constitutionally duty bound to uplift dalits. Instead Modi ji’s ministers got five dalit students ostracised n suspended,” tweeted Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday. “It’s not suicide. It’s murder. It’s murder of democracy, social justice n equality. Modi ji shd sack ministers n aplogoize to the nation. (sic)”
Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party announced in New Delhi that it would protest at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday evening over “driving a dalit student to suicide”.
Meanwhile, in Hyderabad, a police case has been registered against Union Minister of Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya, who is being accused of aiding the suicide with a letter he had written in August.
Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old student at the Hyderabad Central University, was found hanging in a hostel room on Sunday. He left a suicide note, which read: “No one is responsible for my act of killing myself.”
Some media reports said that Venmula was expelled allegedly at the behest of two ministers of the Narendra Modi’s cabinet, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya.
Eight students were arrested on Monday after a night of protests in which a large group of studnets sat with Vemula’s body and raised slogans alleging discrimination against dalits.
On Tuesday morning, the police detained people who were protesting outside the residence of Bandaru Dattatreya.
Vemula and four other research scholars — all members of the Ambedkar union — had been living in a tent outside the university campus gate since they were thrown out of the hostel on 21 December. The university management had asked them to stay away from the mess and other common areas. Vemula’s friends say he was “heartbroken”.
The five students had been accused of attacking an activist of the BJP’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in August, allegedly during a protest against the execution of 1993 Bombay blasts convict Yakub Memon.
The university cleared them in an initial inquiry. But in December, it reversed its decision and took action against the five scholars.
Students have blamed the action on Bandaru Dattatreya’s August letter to Education Minister Smriti Irani, alleging that the university had become a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”.
Besides the minister, Hyderabad Central University Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao also faces charges of aiding Vemula’s suicide.
Union Education Minister Smriti Irani has sent a team to Hyderabad to investigate the suicide.