Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been under attack from opposition parties to act against Union ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani in the Rohith Vemula suicide case, on Friday broke his silence saying he was saddened to hear about the death of the Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad.
“It was saddening to see that a youth of my country, Rohith, was driven to commit suicide,” Modi said during his speech during the sixth convocation ceremony at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Lucknow.
“Reason and politics aside, what must the mother of the student have gone through. There cannot be anything more saddening than a mother losing her son. I can understand their pain,” Modi said.
The issue has snowballed into a political controversy with critics alleging that the Irani-led human resource ministry pushed for Vemula to be punished over an incident.
Vemula, a second year PhD student, committed suicide by hanging himself in his friend’s hostel room on January 17, triggering protests on the campus and as well as in other universities across the country to demand action against those involved in the suspension of the students and subjecting them to social boycott.
He was among five research scholars who were suspended by the central university administration in August last year after being accused of assaulting a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Earlier, as the PM was invited to take to the lectern to address the convocation, a group of five to six students stood up from their respective chairs and raised anti-Modi slogans. They shouted slogans like “Modi go back” and “Inqalab zindabad”.
Security personnel, who were caught off-guard, took a while to whisk the students out of the convocation hall.
Disruption in PM Modi's event after a student chants slogan of 'Narendra Modi Murdabad'. Student escorted out. pic.twitter.com/s6bdGwqxHQ— ANI (@ANI_news) January 22, 2016
The PM continued his speech after the brief disruption, saying: “Babasaheb Ambedkar did a lot for the nation and he was particular about education.”
“BR Ambedkar did not live for himself; he dedicated his life to the nation for the welfare of the marginalised communities,” Modi said. “He proved himself amidst criticism and insults. He didn’t let his commitment go down,” he added.
Modi was attending the convocation ceremony at the university after distributing assistive devices to over 9,000 differently-abled persons and flagging off a new train in Varanasi.
The PM gave away gold medals to three students including 15-year-old Sushma Verma who has become the youngest post graduate in the country. When Sushma touched Modi’s feet, Modi too touched her feet.