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Never talked about Rohith Vemula in letter to HRD: Dattatreya

DalitStudentSuicide Updated: Mar 01, 2016 17:27 IST
Rohith Vemula suicide

Congress had demanded action against Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya over Rohith Vemula’s suicide.(Arvind Yadav/ HT Photo)

Union minister of state for labour (independent charge) Bandaru Dattatreya on Tuesday denied mentioning the name of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar at University of Hyderabad who committed suicide, in his letter to the HRD ministry.

“I never mentioned Rohith’s name (in the letter to the HRD ministry). I never mentioned any student’s name or any organisation of the university as casteist or anti-social or anti-national element? Jyotiraditya has tarnished my image,” Dattatreya told reporters.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had on February 24 accused the BJP-led government of creating an atmosphere of intolerance in the country and alleged that efforts were on to crush any opposing point of view. Speaking in Lok Sabha, Scindia had demanded action against human resource development minister Smriti Irani and Dattatreya over Vemula’s suicide.

“But, I have mentioned the petition which came to me through a BJP vice-president which I forwarded to the HRD minister because whatever activities were prevailing in the university, I wanted to make it correct. I don’t want any punishment for anybody but my intention was only to see that these activities when Yakub Memon incident was glorified, I thought that I should mention that one,” Dattatreya said.

On Tuesday, the BJP hit back in Lok Sabha by pressing for a privilege motion against Congress’ chief whip Scindia for “defamatory” remarks against Dattatreya. BJP’s chief whip Arjun Ram Meghwal accused Scindia of “misleading” the House on February 24 by alleging that Dattatreya had called Vemula “anti-national, casteist and extremist”.

Meghwal said he and many other members, including Dattatreya, had given a notice of breach of privilege against Scindia. He raised the issue amid uproarious scenes in the House as AIADMK members were demanding action against former Union minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti in the Aircel-Maxis issue.

Congress members too rushed to the Well, demanding Speaker Sumitra Mahajan decide on their privilege motion.

Dattatreya accused Scindia of “defaming him and tarnishing” his image by attributing such comments to him that he never made about Vemula.

“My mother used to sell onions. I have always worked for OBCs, Dalits... I have made sacrifices for Dalits,” he said talking about his humble background.

He said his letter to Irani he made no mention of Vemula’s name. “I never made such charge against him.”

Congress members continued to protest with KC Venugopal showing the rule book to Mahajan to which she shot back, saying “Don’t show me the rule book. I know.”

The issue of privilege motion against Irani had created a brief uproar in Lok Sabha on Monday before finance minister Arun Jaitley started presenting the Union Budget 2016-17 with opposition members seeking to know the status of their notices against Irani for “misleading” the House on the Vemula issue.

Vemula and four other Dalit students were allegedly expelled from their hostels following a tussle with students affiliated with Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) - the student wing of the BJP.

(With ANI and PTI inputs)