Protests intensified at the Hyderabad Central University on Wednesday over the alleged suicide of a Dalit research scholar even as more politicians headed to the campus, demanding resignation of Union minister Smriti Irani.
Under attack, the university Vice Chancellor claimed there had been “no pressure” from Union ministers or the human resource development ministry to act against the youth but offered to facilitate talks to restore peace on the campus.
Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury, spokesperson of Trinamool Congress Derek O’Brien and YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy interacted with the students, who have been on warpath demanding justice for 26-year-old Vemula Rohith Chakravarthi who was found hanging in his hostel room on Sunday.
Police took into preventive custody some activists of the pro-CPI All India Students Federation when they tried to hold a demonstration near the residence of Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya, who has been accused of being responsible for the death.
Yechury said the incidents in the HCU are part of a larger issue of Bharatiya Janata Party’s alleged “game” of turning the country into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and demanded the resignation of HRD Minister Smriti Irani and an “independent inquiry” into the incident.
“It is part of the larger issue of intolerance. Intolerance is also part of the larger issue. The larger issue is transform this secular, democratic, republic of India as our Constitution says, into what they want, a rabidly intolerant fascistic Hindu Rashtra. That is the larger game,” the CPI-M leader alleged while talking to reporters.
“We are saying let there be an independent inquiry. It could be judicial, non-judicial, but something which is not foisted by the same minister who has through her pressure created this situation and the unfortunate suicide. So let that be there and all those who are part of this conspiracy, I would call, it’s a criminal conspiracy, according to the new law we passed in Parliament, they must be tried according to the criminal offence,” he said.
“The HRD minister has to go,” Yechury said.
He also said that his party would represent to the president, who is the visitor of the university, and ask him on what basis the HCU was conferred the best university award by him last year.
He said his party MP from Kerala, T N Seema, has written to the President saying that it is not morally tenable for her to continue as a member of the court of the university in the prevailing situation unless the vice chancellor is dismissed by the court.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien on Wednesday said his party would coordinate with other parties in supporting the students agitating against the Hyderabad Central University authorities in the aftermath of the alleged suicide of a Dalit student and ongoing row that has followed.
“This is the fight for justice versus injustice. This is intolerance. There is documentary evidence from whatever we have seen that clearly points to pressure, ruthless kind of pressure. Parliament is closed now but we will bring Parliament here,” he said.
O'Brien, who was speaking in the HCU where he met the protesting students and expressed solidarity with them, said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal would come to the HCU on Thursday, followed by the visit of a Janata Dal-United delegation. “The Delhi CM is coming down and we are coordinating with all the political parties. The boys want the support. We said we will help them to coordinate with all the parties who want to come here. More will come,” he said.
Addressing the protesting students, he said political leaders would support the agitation to be led by the students. The National Democratic Alliance government talked about 'digital India' but what happened in the HCU is “divisive India,” he claimed.
"This country has always prided itself in inclusion but now, we are making it, it is either my way or no way. On one side, his government talks about digital India. Digital India be gone, it is 'divisive India," he said. The TMC MP supported the students' demands, including compensation to the family of the Dalit student Vemula Rohit Chakravarthi, and providing a job to his family.
The incident has snowballed into a major row with BJP’s rivals wading into it and demanding the removal of Irani and Dattatreya, accusing them of being responsible for the death.
The agitating students are demanding resignation of Dattatreya, removal of Vice Chancellor Rao, Rs five crore compensation to Rohit’s family and employment to a member of his family, besides revocation of suspension of four students.
Rallying under the banner of Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, the protestors alleged that the five students were suspended following a written communication by Dattatreya to the Union HRD ministry.
However, dismissing allegations against him, Dattatreya had earlier said, “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 orwarded 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.”
Striking a conciliatory note, the vice chancellor offered to facilitate talks with the students to understand their concern and resolve matters in an amicable manner.
In an appeal, he said, “We are all saddened by the tragic incident in which we have lost the life of one bright student Vemula Rohit Chakravarthi. Let us also join together in sharing the grief with his family members.”
“We also have to note and learn the ways and means to avoid such incidents on our campus. Let us pledge to give our time and thought process to prevent recurrence of such incidents that disturb the peace on the campus,” he said.
“As this semester is a shortened semester and we have a hectic schedule ahead, let us not miss out on class work, research and administrative work from today. It is appealed to all members of the university to put all our heads together and learn to work in this crisis situation,” Rao said.
It is further appealed that a group of senior faculty colleagues and dean, students welfare, need to engage in discussions with the students to understand their concerns, resolve matters in an amicable manner and also to pre-empt such issues of the students in future, Rao added.