Dalit scholar suicide: Students launch strike, seek VC’s ouster

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
  • Updated: Jan 19, 2016 11:17 IST
Police use water cannons to disperse students during a protest against the HRD ministry in New Delhi on Monday over the suicide of a PhD scholar Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University. (PTI)

An umbrella organisation of student groups launched an indefinite strike at the University of Hyderabad seeking the vice-chancellor’s resignation as protests over the suicide by Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula continued for the second day on Tuesday.

Activists also demonstrated outside the residence of Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who has been charged by police along with the VC and two members of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Arpita, a leader of the students’ joint action committee (JAC) who uses only one name, said they will not allow classes to run till vice-chancellor Appa Rao steps down.

The JAC is also likely to meet with the two-member committee formed by the HRD ministry to probe the death. The panel is expected to reach the varsity on Tuesday afternoon.

The JAC has termed the suicide an “institutional murder”.

Read | Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya charged for Dalit scholar suicide, probe ordered

On Tuesday morning, dozens of activists of the Telangana Jagruti Yuva Morcha, considered the cultural wing of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), held a demonstration outside the residence of Dattatreya in Ramnagar in Hyderabad.

TV footage showed some of the activists being dragged away by police. Sources said the protestors have been arrested and shifted to Musheerabad police station.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also headed for Hyderabad on Tuesday to express solidarity with Dalit students, five of whom were suspended allegedly after Dattatreya wrote to Union human resources development minister Smriti Irani describing the university a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”.

Congress sources said that besides addressing students at the varsity, Gandhi will also meet Rohith’s mother Radhika.

Read | Not suicide, it’s murder: Kejriwal attacks Modi on Dalit student’s death

The visit by Gandhi, who will be accompanied by senior party leader Digvijaya Singh, is seen as an attempt by the Congress to mount pressure on the BJP-led NDA government over the incident after police charged Dattatreya with abetment of Rohith’s suicide.

The party has accused the BJP dispensation of having an “anti-Dalit agenda and mindset” and said the death of the scholar was “deliberately orchestrated by Dattatreya, HRD ministry and their cohorts of ABVP”.

Students protesting over the death of Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar at the Hyderabad Central University who was found hanging in a hostel room on Sunday. (PTI)

Anger and tension continued to simmer at the varsity a day after hundreds of students clashed with security personnel over the death of Rohith while authorities clamped prohibitory orders.

Rohith’s mother also sat on a dharna on the campus along with several students and Dalit leaders, saying she wouldn’t move until vice-chancellor Appa Rao explained the reasons behind suspending her son.

Read | Dalit scholar’s suicide takes political colour, pressure mounts on government

What has come under sharp criticism is the suspension of the students and their “social boycott” on the campus after intervention by the central minister, though the students were let off with a warning by two proctorial board committees, which also did not find any evidence of ABVP leader Sushil Kumar being beaten up by ASA students.

Balladeer Vimalakka demanded immediate resignation of the vice-chancellor. “This is not the first suicide by a Dalit student here. Twelve students have ended their lives due to the harassment by university authorities,” she said.

Read | Death as a Dalit: What Rohith Vemula’s suicide tells about India

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