The BJP on Saturday accused Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi of shedding crocodile’s tear over the suicide by a Dalit scholar after the opposition leader rejoined protesters in Hyderabad, intensifying the political storm over an alleged caste bias in campus.
The Congress leader’s visit to the University of Hyderabad came in the wake of the acting vice-chancellor too going on leave, barely a few days after he had assumed charge from institution’s head Podile Appa Rao, who undertook a similar leave amidst cries for his sacking.
The university campus has turned into the epicentre of nationwide protests after research scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide earlier this month following his suspension along with four other students for alleged assault on a leader of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
“A young life full of dreams and aspirations was cut short,” Gandhi said in a tweet before he started a day-long fast in the morning in a show of solidarity with students who are on the warpath for nearly a fortnight.
He had also participated in a candlelight vigil past midnight along with 2,000 students to mark the birthday of Rohith, who would have turned 27 on Saturday.
“We owe it to him (Rohith), to (the) memory of Gandhiji, to every single Indian student who dreams of an India free from prejudice and injustice,” he added in another tweet.
Rohith’s mother Radhika and brother Raju were also present at the protest site.
Watch | Rahul Gandhi joins hunger strike for Rohith Vemula
The Congress-led opposition has been demanding action against vice-chancellor Appa Rao as well as Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya, who are accused of putting pressure on the university to suspend five students including Rohith.
Gandhi’s visit, however, irked the BJP which launched a coordinated attack on the opposition with several leaders speaking on the same line throughout the day.
In Delhi, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said Gandhi was using students as a “political tool” and alleged that nine cases of Dalit student suicides had taken place in the campus during the UPA rule.
“Congress is shedding crocodile tears simply to gain political mileage…forgetting that nine such incidents happened during the UPA rule,” he told reporters.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said Gandhi’s fast was a classic case of trying to score “political brownie points” and added that the Congress leader always “gatecrashed” into protests of others.
Telangana BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao described Gandhi’s visit as “classic politics of vulturisation”.
The ABVP also called for a bandh of colleges in Telangana in protest against the “politics over dead bodies” by Rahul Gandhi.
Prior to the arrival of Gandhi, the university announced that Vipin Srivastava who took charge as the interim vice-chancellor has proceeded on leave from Friday afternoon.
“Dr Vipin Srivastava who took charge as the interim vice-chancellor of Hyderabad Central University has proceeded for leave from the afternoon of January 29 and the next senior most professor Dr M Pariasamy will perform the duties of the V-C till further orders,” a university official said.
No reasons were given but the protesting Srivastava too had faced angry protests by students who had refused to heed his plea for calling off the strike.
On Saturday, a group of students from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Pune – which had seen similar protests against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson -- also joined the protesters at the university.