Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who visited the University of Hyderabad in the wake of the alleged suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, on Tuesday said that it was the institution which had used "its power to crush" him.
He also said that the University's vice-chancellor had no right to continue in office and the vice-president called for his resignation.
"The idea of a University is that young people from the country can come here and express whatever is in their heart," said the Congress vice-president adding, "whether their ideas are interesting, not interesting, smart, not smart — students must feel that this is an institution where they can say whatever they want to without being punished."
"The idea of university is knowledge and when you try to impose on youngsters one idea, you cause tremendous pain to the passion that the person has," he said. "The institution, instead of operating fairly, has used its power to crush the students," he added.
Rohith Vemula was among the five research scholars who were suspended by the university in August last year and also one of the accused in the case of assault on a student leader.
His alleged suicide on Sunday led to protests all over the country, with activists of a local outfit demonstrating outside the residence of Dattatreya, who has been accused in the case, demanding his immediate resignation.
Rahul met with the family of Rohith and told the gathering that the vice-chancellor and the minister in Delhi have not acted fairly. "What is the result? The result is that this youngster, who came here to improve this country, who came here to learn, was put in so much pain that he had no other option but to kill himself."
He further said that the conditions for Vemula's suicide had been created by the vice-chancellor and Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya. "I agree with the students that he (Vemula) committed suicide but the conditions for his suicide were created by the V-C and the mkinister," he said.
Rahul Gandhi also alleged that the V-C did not have the basic courtesy to meet Rohith's mother. "When the student of a university dies, the men in charge of the university have to show bare minimum respect and courtesy of meeting the deceased's family." He also said that the V-C not meeting Vemula's family members was "an insult not only to this country, but also every single student and teacher in this institution."
Rahul seconded the demands raised by the students and added one more demand of his own. "Students have asked for two things: first point is that a loss has been caused to the family. So compensation has to be paid to Rohith's family. Compensation does not only mean financial compensation but also respect. This boy was going to give them a future," he said.
"Secondly, there are certain people who are responsible for this boy's death. Whoever is responsible for this outcome has to be punished in the strictest manner possible," said Rahul.
Making his third demand, Rahul said, "I have come here for Rohith. But Rohith is not alone. In every university in India, this is happening. It is very important that we carry this flag forward and create legislation that gives certain rights to every single student."
He said his third demand of creating this legislation was to "not allow government to impose on institutions".
"Give Indian students minimum rights. I have come here not as a politician but as a young person who feels what you are going through," Rahul told the gathering.
"I don't appreciate that we don't have the courage to allow students to express what they want," he said, adding that we should aim to "build an Indian where every single person can stand up and proudly say, 'this is what I believe.'"
Earlier, the activists of TJYF (Telengana Jagruti Youth Front), a cultural outfit headed by TRS MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha, raised slogans outside the house of Dattatreya at Ram Nagar in Hyderabad and blamed him for the death of PhD scholar Vemula.
On the University campus, scores of students, who intensified their protests, demanded that Dattatreya, BJP MLC Ramchander Rao, University's vice-chancellor P Appa Rao and two ABVP leaders, against whom cases were registered for abetting suicide of Rohit, be jailed.
Resignation of the vice-chancellor, immediate revocation of suspension of the four students by the university, employment to a member of Rohit's family, an ex-gratia of Rs 50 lakh were among the other demands made by the agitators.
A group of students was also trying to install a memorial for the deceased student, Rohit, on the campus.
(With inputs from PTI)