New Delhi: Escalating its attack on the Centre over the issue of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula's alleged suicide in Hyderabad University, Congress on Thursday demanded immediate sacking of HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya.
"...Irani is lying through her teeth in a bid to protect the ABVP leader. She is misleading the nation by giving false information," Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, seeking to dismiss the claims of Irani on the issue.
Irani had on Wednesday said that the ABVP leader, who was attacked in student rivalry earlier, also belonged to the OBC community as was Dattatreya, who had written a letter to her about the attack.
Insisting that the HRD Minister "justified the unfairness" meted out to Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide, and four other suspended Dalit students, Surjewala said, "She is the custodian of all universities. She committed the unpardonable sin of lying to the nation. She spoke a number of lies to cover up a lie."
"We demand that Union Minister Smriti Irani should be sacked for attempting to hide facts along with Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, against whom an FIR has been lodged," he said, a day after the Congress seemed to have piped down its attack on the Centre.
Dattatreya and Hyderabad University Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao and three others have been named in an FIR lodged with the Cyberabad police over the alleged suicide of 26-year-old PhD scholar Rohith who was found hanging at the Central University's hostel room on the campus on Sunday.
Alleging the Proctorial Board's report was changed due to pressure by BJP, Surjewala said, "Just on the basis of ABVP leader's statement, five Dalit PhD scholars were suspended."
He claimed that following pressure from the university authorities and the HRD Ministry, and statements of ABVP leaders, the Board was forced to overturn their decision.
Surjewala's remarks indicated that the main opposition party was stepping up its offensive on the issue. On Wednesday, the Congress had climbed down from its demand for resignation of Irani in connection with the case but had insisted on a probe by a sitting high court judge against her.
"The culpability of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani should be investigated by a sitting high court judge and the Union Labour Minister should be immediately sacked," another party spokesman Deepender Singh Hooda had said on Wednesday, when asked whether the party stood by its demand for sacking of Irani.
Two days ago, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had also targeted Irani and Dattatreya, saying the ministers and the VC have "not acted fairly" that forced the Dalit scholar to take the extreme step.
Tearing into the arguments put forth by the HRD Minister, Surjewala said she spoke a "blatant lie" that the decision of the Proctorial Board declaring the five Dalit students not guilty was an "ex-parte decision".
He said that the security officer on duty and Dr Anupama Rao had appeared before the board.
Besides, he said Irani's claim that the executive council's sub-committee that justified punishment to Rohith and four other students had a Dalit professor was not correct.
He said that the university's SC/ST Professor forum has stated that the statement of the minister was "false and fabricated".
"Third lie was when she justified hostel suspension of the students by saying that it was hostel warden's decision. Doesn't she know that warden only implement the decision of the University authorities and Executive Council," Surjewala asked.