Hyderabad university vice-chancellor on Wednesday denied any pressure from “Union ministers or the ministry” behind the suspension of Dalit student Rohith Vemula whose suicide has triggered outrage across the country amidst allegations of insensitivity against the BJP-led government at the Centre.
Podile Appa Rao, the VC of Hyderabad Central University (HCU) has been booked by police along with Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya and two ABVP activists for abetment to suicide by the 26-year-old research scholar.
“There was no pressure. We took the letters received as routine letters,” he said in reference to allegations that he acted against the five students including Rohith after the human resource development minister wrote to the varsity to act on Dattatreya’s allegations of “anti-national” activities on the campus.
The HRD ministry had written as many as five letters to the varsity on Dattareya’s complaint which also mentioned a “violent attack” on ABVP leader Susheel Kumar. The ministry has maintained it was standard procedure on such “VIP references”.
“I am not sure whether suspension has really been the cause for suicide. At least not from the face of the suicide note as left by the student,” Rao said as he appealed to the students to resume academic activities and “not give space for any political games”.
However, the agitating students appeared to be in no mood to relent as fresh protests rocked the campus on Tuesday where protesters continued their relay hunger strike demanding the VC’s resignation over the suicide which has become one of the biggest political embarrassments for the NDA government.
Besides Hyderabad many cities across the country including in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai were rocked by protests on Tuesday.
Political leaders also continued to make a beeline for the campus a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi made a day-long trip to Hyderabad.
Republican Party of India’s leader Ramdas Athawale had to face the ire of students when he visited the campus on Wednesday.
Athawale had to leave without addressing the students as protestors demanded that he should first withdraw support to the BJP-led NDA government.
Police had to intervene and escort him as students entered into a heated argument with him over his support to the BJP.
“We have no hope in these political leaders (visiting the campus). We would continue our agitation till all the culprits are punished,” said Ayub Rehman, convener of the Ambedkar Students’ Association. The five suspended students including Rohith belong to this outfit.
Later in the day, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechuri are set to arrive on the campus while Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is likely to visit the university on Thursday.
Lok Janshakti Party parliamentary board leader Chirag Paswan and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Ramchandra Paswan will also meet students and Rohith’s family.
Trinamool Congress MPs Derek O’Brien and Pratima Mondal spent two hours on the campus on Tuesday night, interacting with the four Dalit scholars suspended along with Rohith as well as the agitating students.
The parliamentarians will visit the campus again on Wednesday to address the students at the site of their hunger strike.
YSR Congress Party leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who met Rohith’s mother and brother at their house, will also visit the campus.
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi also visited the campus on Tuesday and expressed solidarity with the agitating students.
The university’s shopping complex that is close to the NRS hostel where Rohith committed suicide on Sunday has become the nerve centre of the student agitation.
Meanwhile, the Hyderabad high court which is hearing two petitions related to the incident – one seeking protection for ABVP leader Susheel Kumar on the campus and another filed by the suspended students against the university action – has posted the matter to January 25.