Four days after Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula ended his life, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student leader with whom Vemula had a tiff which escalated into the latter being suspended from the University of Hyderabad (UoH), said it was Vemula’s ‘activist’ friends who are responsible for the suicide.
“Never thought Rohith could take his life. His death is painful. How come his friends never realised he was in depression? I wish they never came to attack me in the first place. No student wants another student’s life to be destroyed,” said Susheel Kumar in an interview to TV9 on Tuesday.
The events leading up to Vemula’s suicide started in August last year when students belonging to the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), including the deceased Dalit scholar, protested the hanging of Yakub Memon, the chartered accountant convicted in the 1993 Mumbai bombings.
“The ASA activists held a protest meet hailing Yakub Memon on the campus in August. Is it not anti-national to proclaim that thousands of Yakubs would emerge for every Yakub killed,” said Kumar who had at that time posted on Facebook against the protest, calling the students ‘goons’.
Kumar alleged that students from the ASA attacked him over the comment in the presence of university security personnel and forced him to apologise. However, Vemula and the others denied resorting to violence.
Expressing grief over Vemula’s death, Kumar added, “In fact, it is them (ASA members) who pushed him forward in all these activities including the attack on me. (It) Looks like his activist friends actually pushed him into depression.”
Kumar had forwarded his complaint to Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya who in turn wrote a letter to the ministry of human resource development. Following a complaint and probe, five Dalit scholars were suspended from UoH and expelled from the hostel. The university suspension was later revoked.
With students accusing that Dattareya’s intervention led to Vemula’s death, Kumar said he approached the minister because neither the university nor police helped him.
“There is a limit to anyone’s patience. Neither the university, nor the police came to my rescue. That is why I had to approach minister Dattatreya. We then decided to approach the courts so that these students could be made to realise their misdeeds,” Kumar said.
Pointing out that this incident was not a one-off, Kumar put the onus of Vemula’s suicide on ASA once again saying the disagreement with the student body was not about caste or student politics, and that ASA had a history of violence at UoH.
“This is not the first time they have attacked a student. They have a history of attacking or harassing students – Dalits too – who do not agree or oppose their views. ASA members even abused my mother when she came to the campus to meet the authorities after the August incident,” Kumar said.
Vemula’s death has put the spotlight back on student politics with a slew of politicians reaching the UoH campus to show their solidarity. On Thursday, 10 SC/ST professors also resigned from their administrative posts at the university in protest of ‘fabricated responses ’ by HRD minister Smriti Irani to the raging controversy.