Three Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU) students started an indefinite hunger strike to pressure the Centre into taking action against Union ministers Bandaru Dattatreya, Smriti Irani and University of Hyderabad vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile for allegedly abetting the suicide of dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.
The hunger strike by students is a part of the action by Joint Action Committee for med in Hyderabad and Delhi under the ‘ Justice for Rohith’ banner. Similar hunger strikes have also been started in Kolkata.
Lenin Kumar, a PhD student at the School of International Studies, Shubhanshu, a political studies student, and Shushree, a masters student at the Centre for Studies in Regional Development, began the strike on Saturday night at JNU’s administrative block.
Shushree even wrote an open letter to the Centre which starts with same words as Rohith’s letter—“Because I too wanted to be a writer,” and talks about her frustration towards the government attitude.
They demanded that the Centre grant aid to Rohith’s family.
“Rohith’s JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) was the sole source of income for his family. Not only should the financial security of his kin be ensured, his family should have enough to make sure that Rohith’s younger brother can pursue his dreams and ambition in life,” said Shubhanshu.
There is also a demand from the students that an Equal Opportunity Office, like the one in JNU, should be started in other universities as well.
“Recommendations of Prof Thorat Committee report must be implemented and dalit student organisations should also be given freedom from persecution,” said Kumar.
The Thorat Committee constituted under the chairmanship of professor Sukhadeo Thorat made strong recommendations in 2011 to uplift the status of minority students and teachers.