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Dalit student’s death: Dattatreya, varsity VC named in FIR


Hyderabad : Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Hyderabad University Vice Chancellor were today named in an FIR over the alleged suicide of a dalit student, triggering massive protests and demands for their removal from their posts.

The issue also 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”.

The dead student, Rohit Vemula, was among the five research scholars who were suspended by Hyderabad Central University (HCU) in August last year and also one of the accused in the case of assault on a student leader. They were also kept out of the hostel.

Facing protests outside her office and residence in the Delhi, Irani reacted saying she would not make any political statement but await the report of a fact-finding committee.

She said the government neither intervenes in the functioning of the university nor does it have any administrative control over it. She shared the grief of the family of the dead student.

The Vice Chancellor said he would quit if the “majority” of the students, faculty and administrative want it.  He said the action against the dalit students had happened much before he had come into the picture and he was working with the faculty to “reduce” the punishment.

“We have registered cases against them based on a complaint from some students. FIR was registered under IPC section 306 (abetment of suicide) and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. (Union Minister) Bandaru Dattatreya, Vice Chancellor Appa Rao, MLC Ramachandra Rao, and students Susheel Kumar and Rama Krishna have been named in the FIR,” Gachibowli Inspector J Ramesh Kumar told PTI.

The body of Rohit, found hanging in the university’s hostel room in the campus yesterday, was sent for post mortem amid protests by students today.

The agitating students demanded immediate removal of Dattareya from the Union Cabinet.

“Dattatreya should be removed from the Cabinet. Ramachandra Rao should be removed from the MLC post. Vice Chancellor should be sacked,” said D Prashant, one of the five suspended students.

The students alleged that Dattatreya was instrumental in suspension of the students from the university.

However, dismissing the allegations against him over the alleged suicide, Dattatreya said he has nothing to do with the issue.

“Anti-social, anti-national activities were going on in the university. ABVP activists were beaten up. At that time ABVP gave a representation. I forwarded the representation to the Ministry (of HRD). I don’t know what action they did. BJP or I have nothing to do with the incident…,” Dattatreya said.

Tension prevailed in the campus this morning when the police tried to move Rohit’s body to hospital for postmortem.

Last night, a letter purportedly written by Rohit was found in the hostel room where he allegedly committed suicide. in which he had purportedly stated that he held nobody responsible for his death.

“I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, police jostled with students while taking away Rohit’s body to ambulance which carried it to hospital for postmortem.

“The body was sent for postmortem. Though there is no untoward incident being reported on the campus, we see some tension-like situation here,” a police official said.

Joining the students, some of the teaching faculty also demanded action against those responsible for the incident.

“The incident is very sad. The (five suspended) students were on strike for the past 15 days. The VC should have heard what Rohit said in his letter (wrote on December 18). This university has history of Dalit students committing suicides. So authorities should have been more sensitive,” said Deepa Srinivas, Associate professor of Social Sciences at the Hyderabad University.

Earlier in August 2015, Dattatreya had written to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani alleging that Hyderabad University had become “a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics.”

He had also alleged that the university administration had turned into “a mute spectator to such events”.

The minister also wrote that Sushil Kumar, president of ABVP in the campus, was manhandled when he protested against the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) when the latter held protests against hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.

The five research scholars were suspended from the hostel for rest of their study period for allegedly attacking Kumar.

Rohit, along with other four suspended students, used to sleep in a tent outside the campus gates for the past few days as they were denied access to the hostel.

The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice of the varsity in a statement demanded that any family member of Rohit be provided employment, besides compensation of Rs 50 lakh.

Meanwhile, strongly condemning the “discrimination” against dalits in the Hyderabad Central University, the YSR Congress today demanded a CBI probe into the suicide incident.

“Dalits are being discriminated in the University and the Vice Chancellor has been the main person behind the suicide of a dalit student. We demand that action should be taken against him and a CBI probe should be ordered into the incident,” YSRT Congress leader Nalla Suryaprakash told reporters here.

“The Vice Chancellor has the blessings of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (N Chandrababu Naidu) and some central leaders. The issue was boiling since long and with the suicide of the student, it has reached a flash point which the authorities are trying to hush up. We demand a CBI inquiry and the dismissal of Vice Chancellor,” he said.

Meanwhile, several students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai boycotted classes, field work and other institutional activities today to condemn the “institutional murder” of Rohit.

Students gathered in front of Dining Hall, Old Campus, from 9 AM to protest the scholar’s death.

About 100 students are continuously participating in the protest, a member of the Joint Action Committee of TISS, Mumbai said.

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