Hyderabad: Alleging that the conditions for dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's suicide was created by Vice Chancellor, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and the institution, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the university has used its power to crush the Dalit students.
“Vice Chancellor has not had the decency to meet Rohith's mother...it's an insult to the institution and country and every student ,” Gandhi said, and added that the Minister in Delhi has not acted fairly.
“Rohith came here to improve this country, to learn and express himself. He was put in so much pain that he had no option but to kill himself,” Gandhi added.
Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday interacted with the protesting students of the University of Hyderabad, where a Dalit scholar committed suicide. The body of the dalit research scholar was found hanging in the varsity's hostel room, which sparked massive protests.
In a letter to HRD minister Smriti Irani, Dattatreya had sought action against the “anti-national acts” happening on the University of Hyderabad campus. The students alleged that Dattatreya had influenced the HRD ministry and pressurised professor Appa Rao Podile to take action against Dalit students.
Assuring that the he was with the students of the university, Gandhi added, “My door is always open for Rohith's family and all other students protesting here, I shall help you in every way possible. I do not come here as a politician but as a young person. I want to make sure that everyone can proudly speak his mind.”
Protests escalated on Tuesday over Rohith's death with activists of a local outfit demonstrating outside the residence of Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who has been accused in the case, demanding his immediate resignation.
Rahul Gandhi visited the University of Hyderabad and interacted with students over the issue even as several students in campuses outside the state came out of classes in solidarity with their counterparts here.
The activists of TJYF (Telengana Jagruti Youth Front), a cultural outfit headed by TRS MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha, raised slogans outside the house of Dattatreya at Ram Nagar here and blamed him for the death of Rohith Vemula, who was found hanging in his hostel room on Sunday, triggering angry reactions.
Holding placards, the protestors demanded that the minister should resign immediately.
"Thirty seven of the protesters were taken into preventive custody when they held a dharna near the Union Minister's house," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Zone) V B Kamalasan Reddy said.
They were later let off. On the university campus, scores of students, who intensified their protests, demanded that Dattatreya, BJP MLC Ramchander Rao, university's Vice Chancellor P Appa Rao and two ABVP leaders, against whom cases were registered for abetting suicide of Rohith, be jailed.
Raising slogans like "We want justice", they held Dattatreya and others responsible for Rohith's death and took out a rally on the campus.
Resignation of the Vice Chancellor, immediate revocation of suspension of the four students by the university, employment to a member of Rohith's family, an ex-gratia of Rs 50 lakh were among the other demands made by the agitators.
Rohith was among the five research scholars who were suspended by the university in August last year and also one of the accused in the case of assault on a student leader.
A two-member Trinamool Congress delegation led by party MP and national spokesperson Derek O'Brien is going to Hyderabad this evening to express solidarity with the students protesting against the alleged suicide.
Earlier, speaking to reporters on the University campus, Congress MP V Hanumantha Rao alleged that university Vice Chancellor Appa Rao was responsible for the suicide of the student, and demanded his suspension.
He further alleged that a "social boycott" was imposed on the students (who were suspended earlier), including the dalit research scholar who allegedly committed suicide.
A group of students was also trying to install a memorial for the deceased student, Rohit, on the campus.
"We are going to keep the university shut till all our demands are met," a girl student said and alleged the whole development betrayed the "casteist mentality" prevailing in the higher echelons of the society.
Another student said, "No assault took place against any ABVP leader, including Sushil Kumar. There is a political agenda. Why he (Dattatreya) is interested in writing letters against our students to the HRD."
Meanwhile, in Pune, the students of FTII sat on a day-long hunger strike outside the institute's gate here, expressing "solidarity" with students protesting over the alleged suicide.
The hunger strike started with eight students and slowly other students too are joining the protest, FTII Students' Association president Harishankar Nachimuthu said.
Another students' body representative Yashaswi Mishra said, "We feel that the unfortunate incidents like death of Rohit Vemula is an institutional murder. The very ideology that led to this devastating tragedy has to be fought across.
We stand together with the students' community fighting for quality of education, beyond caste, class and biases."
"We condemn the government's attempts to suppress and crush voices of disagreement, and at this hour of crisis stand together with the larger student fraternity," he added.
In Mumbai, several students held a protest outside the office of Mumbai University in Kalina area to condemn the dalit student's death. Students wing of NCP also held protests at various places in Maharashtra. RPI leader Ramdas Athawale would be visiting the student's family in Hyderabad tomorrow.
Dattatreya, Rao and three others were yesterday named in an FIR lodged with the Cyberabad police over the alleged suicide of the dalit student.
The issue took a political turn with allegations that the extreme action was a result of discrimination against dalit students at the behest of Dattatreya, who had written a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, seeking action against their "anti-national acts".