Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Hyderabad University Vice Chancellor were on Monday 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 Human Resource Devlopment 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 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 said.
The body of Rohit, found hanging in the university’s hostel room in the campus on Sunday, was sent for a post mortem amid protests by students on Monday.
The agitating students demanded the 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. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad 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 on Monday morning when the police tried to move Rohit’s body to hospital for post mortem.