Noted writer Ashok Vajpeyi has decided to return the D Lit given to him by Hyderabad University in protest against the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.
“A dalit student, Rohith Vemula, who wanted to be a writer was driven to commit suicide due to anti-dalit and intolerance of dissent shown. I have decided to return the award in protest against university authorities, (who were) presumably acting under political pressure,” Vajpeyi told PTI.
The former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman, who was awarded D.Litt (Doctor of Letters, honoris causa) by the Central University of Hyderabad few years ago, said the institution has “acted against human dignity and knowledge”.
Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar, who committed suicide on Sunday night, was among the five research scholars who were suspended by the University in August last year over the alleged assault case. They were also kept out of the hostel.
The issue took a political turn with allegations that the extreme step taken by Rohith was a result of discrimination against dalit students at the behest of Dattatreya, following his letter to Irani, seeking action against their “anti-national acts”.
Rohith was found hanging at the Central University’s hostel room in the campus on Sunday, triggering protests from fellow students this morning.
Police have booked Dattaterya, the vice-chancellor of University of Hyderabad Appa Rao and two members of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for abetment of suicide by 26-year-old Rohith Vemula, who was among the five research scholars suspended by the university and also one of the accused in a case of assault on a student leader.
An umbrella organisation of student groups launched an indefinite strike at the university, seeking the vice-chancellor’s resignation, escalating their protests over the suicide.
Protests over the suicide spread to cities other than Hyderabad on Tuesday as opposition parties mounted pressure on the BJP-led NDA government to sack Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya for allegedly driving the scholar to end his life.
Vajpeyi was among the first to return his Sahitya Akademi award to the government, criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not speaking up against various incidents of violence against writers and activists.
A total of 39 writers had returned their awards protesting against the Akademi’s alleged silence on the murder of fellow writer and Sahitya Akademi board member MM Kalburgi as well as against the growing “communal atmosphere” following the Dadri lynching incident.
(With inputs from agencies)