An unidentified man hurled a slipper at Union minister of state for road transport and highways Pon Radhakrishnan on Thursday while he was at the house of J Muthukrishnan, the Dalit research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who allegedly committed suicide, in Tamil Nadu’s Salem.
Muthukrishnan, better known as “Rajini Krish” to his friends because of his fondness for Tamil actor Rajinikanth, was found hanging at a friend’s residence in south Delhi’s Munirka area on Monday. He completed his MPhil from the University of Hyderabad in 2015 before joining JNU for his PhD.
While initial reports suggested that he had committed suicide, police are yet to find a suicide note. Muthukrishnan’s parents Jeevanantham and Alamelu have both dismissed claims that their son committed suicide, and also asked for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to formally investigate his death.
Family and friends of Muthukrishnan expressed their anger against the Centre when Radhakrishnan arrived at his residence to express his condolence to his family members. Slogans were shouted against the central government after the minister came out of Muthukrishnan’s house.
A man threw a slipper at Radhakrishnan while he was briefing reporters outside the house.
His last post on Facebook two days before his death spoke about his struggle to be treated fairly, and the shrinking space that Dalit students have to navigate in institutions of higher education.
“When equality is denied everything is denied. There is no Equality in M.phil/phd Admission, there is no equality in Viva – voce, there is only denial of equality, denying prof. Sukhadeo Thorat recommendation, denying Students protest places in Ad – block, denying the education of the Marginals,” he wrote.
Muthukrishnan was referring to a set of recommendations to ensure the non-discriminatory treatment of Dalit students on campuses that were tabled by a committee led by Professor Sukhadeo Thorat in 2011.
The recommendations had included, among other things, the need for enabling provisions for SC/ST students via the development of their English and communication skills, and the establishment of an equal opportunity cell and NET coaching classes so as to ensure they would not be at a disadvantage to more privileged students.
The recommendations are yet to be implemented by any government.
Delhi Police on Wednesday registered a case of abetment to suicide and also under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3 (x) of SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act against unknown persons to probe Muthukrishnan’s death.
Meanwhile, political leaders in Tamil Nadu have unanimously called for a judicial probe into the death of Muthukrishnan.
AIADMK deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran said that it was “unlikely” that Muthukrishnan, who was a part of the political protests at the University of Hyderabad last year following the death of fellow Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, would have killed himself.
DMK working president MK Stalin also called for a CBI probe into Muthukrishnan’s death.
Muthukrishnan’s remains were brought to Salem on Thursday morning. His body, which arrived at Chennai airport at midnight, was brought to the late scholar’s hometown via ambulance. It was accompanied by his father, Jeevanantham, some of his relatives, and a student representative from JNU.
His residence in Arisipalayam saw a steady stream of visitors on Thursday, including members of various political parties, Dalit forums, trade unions, and friends who arrived to pay their final respects to the deceased student.
District collector V Sampath, accompanied by Salem MP V Panneerselvam, laid wreaths on the coffin containing Muthukrishnan’s body, and presented Rs 3 lakhs to the grieving family as consolation.
The last rites are expected to be performed in Salem on Thursday evening.