Even as tensions continue to run high over the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, an emotional Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday broke his silence on the issue, saying that he could understand the agony of his family.
"The reasons for his suicide and the politics over his suicide are a different issue. However, mother India has lost a son," Modi said in Lucknow.
The Prime Minister said that it was saddening that 'a youth of my country, Rohith, was driven to commit suicide, Hindustan Times reported.
Modi said that at a time when the entire nation looks up to the youth for inspiration and strength, a news like this brings sadness. He asked youngsters not to take such drastic steps.
PM Modi made these remarks during a speech at the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) in Varanasi. His comments come even as the role of a senior minister in the government in the whole episode has come under a cloud. Media reports say that cabinet Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had written to the HRD ministry seeking intervention in a clash between the ABVP and the Ambedkar Students Association, of which Vemula was a member.
Following Vemula's death, HRD Minister Smriti Irani also addressed a media conference, contending that the death should not be made into a 'Dalit vs non-Dalit issue.' She said that several persons who took action against Vemula belonged to backward castes. Following Irani's remarks, 12 university staffers belonging to the Dalit community resigned from various administrative posts.
Modi's address on Friday was marked by protests as some students raised slogans as he began to speak at the venue. One student was escorted out while some protesters were detained, NDTV reported.
Speaking at a convocation ceremony of the university, Modi heaped praise on Babasaheb Ambedkar, saying, "Ambedkar did a lot for the nation, but education was one thing he was particular about...Ambedkar faced all kinds of insults, but he did not lose heart over them." While praising Ambedkar, Modi struck a note similar to his address to Parliament during the winter session last year.
With inputs from IANS