In the second such protest in less than a week, thousands of students from various universities across the country on Tuesday took to the streets in the national capital demanding justice for Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and protesting the Jawaharlal Nehru University crisis.
The students marched from Ambedkar Bhawan in central Delhi’s Jandewalan to Jantar Mantar, the capital’s protest hotspot, where they were first joined by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and then by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The protesters, including hundreds of students from University of Hyderabad and Osmania University, raised Ambedkarite slogans such as “Jai Bhim” and demanded justice for Vemula, alleging that the Centre was responsible for his suicide.
Students from universities in the national capital, such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Jamia Milia and Ambedkar University, joined the march condemning the police action in JNU while demanding immediate release of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.
Vemula’s mother Radhika and brother Raja also participated in the march.
In his address, Rahul mounted a shrill attack on the Modi government and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, accusing them of crushing voices of dissent of college and university students across the country.
He also pitched for a law to protect them from “discrimination” and “suppression”.
“We need a law to ensure that students in colleges and universities do not face discrimination and their voice is not stifled,” he said.
Accusing the Centre of muzzling the voice of students across universities in the country if they differ with ideology of RSS, Rahul said Congress will fight for bringing a law to check such “suppression”.
He alleged that government was trying to suppress not only the youths but also the Adivasis, Dalits and other weaker sections.
In his address, Kejriwal said the Centre was at “war” with the students of the country and asked the prime minister to “mend his ways”. Otherwise, he said, students will “teach him a lesson”.
“If Modiji does not mend ways then very soon the youth and students will come together to teach him a lesson,” Kejriwal said, adding “I had said earlier, ‘Modiji students se pange mat lena’ (don’t mess with students). Otherwise they will rock your government and you won’t have a clue,” he said, amid loud cheers.
A major protest against the JNU row was organised in the city last week where a large number of students, academia, intellectuals and rights activists had participated.