The protest of students’ unions against the alleged role of a union minister in the suicide of Hyderabad-based research scholar Rohith Vemula threatens to get bigger with a few student bodies planning to escalate their agitation.
On Tuesday, they erupted in protest on streets and campuses. While the Congress-backed National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) staged a demonstration outside the HRD Ministry in the national capital, the students’ wing of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) protested with banners and slogans at Jantar Mantar.
“We’ve demanded the immediate resignation of HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya. They should be prosecuted for abetment to the suicide of Rohith Vemula. The five letters issued by the HRD Ministry to the vice chancellor and registrar of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) asking whether action had been taken against the Dalit students speaks clearly of the involvement of the ministry and Irani. How can HRD ministry write to the VC without the knowledge of the minister? After today’s demonstration, the NSUI will stage a protest across the country. The government is clearly trying to gag the voice of students in every institution and promote a single ideology,” NSUI president Roji M John told Firstpost.
Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), which had been a centre of students’ protest in 2015, has gone on a one-day hunger strike with a group of students sitting outside the FTII campus.
Devas Dixit, a final year FTII student and member of the strike committee of FTII Association, said “We strongly condemn the incident and five FTTI students are on a hunger strike. This suicide incident and the long strike at FTII last year without any outcome show that the government is utterly insensitive towards students. Any student’s voice of demand or protest has been dubbed as anti-national by the government. In each and every case it has been seen that the government has paid no heed to their demands. It’s only the students, who are at the receiving end and the problems continue to remain as it is.”
The picture was no different at IIT Madras. Outside the IIT campus, Progressive Students’ Group staged a demonstration demanding the arrest of Dattatreya. “We’ve gathered outside the IIT campus to protest against the suicide of Rohith Vemula and the role of Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who acted on a representation by ABVP leader Sushil. Five Dalit students were suspended. We’re demanding an enquiry into the incident, remove Dattatreya and revoke the students’ suspension. Government should also probe into the role of the Union HRD minister,” said Sadashivan, one of the students from the group.
The CPI (M-L)-backed All India Students’ Association (AISA) staged demonstrations in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Delhi, Gandhinagar, Patna and Chandigarh, and burnt an effigy of Dattatreya at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday.
“The five letters from HRD ministry have exposed the ugly face of the government. The government’s involvement in it has become clear. Instead of initiating an independent probe into the incident that occurred in the past at HCU, the government played into the hands of ABVP leader Sushil and forced the university to take action. We’ve demanded immediate resignation of Smriti Irani, Dattatreya and HCU VC, and all should be prosecuted under the SC-ST Atrocities Act,” said Shehla Rashid, member, AISA and vice president JNU Students’ Union, who was a part of the demonstration in Delhi. The organisation would make the fight bigger, its members said.
While the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has called the suicide of Vemula a “national loss”, the right-wing student’s body said “no anti-national activities should be tolerated in university campuses in the country”.
“Bandaru Dattatreya never wrote the HRD Ministry to take action against the students’ group, Ambedkar Students Union, but he pointed out about anti-national activities in the campus. Earlier, we opposed the screening of film ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ and later this group staged a protest after the hanging of Yakub Memon. They put posters saying ‘Ek Yakub ko marenge, to har ek ghar se Yakub niklega’ (kill one Yakub, there will be one Yakub born out of every house). Under the name of Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, these students have been indulging in anti-national activities. All these students’ groups and parties need one issue or the other to target the government. This won’t be tolerated,” ABVP national media in-charge, Shreerang Kulkarni told Firstpost.