The Cyberabad Police on Monday charged Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya with abetting the suicide of a dalit scholar who hanged himself at a Hyderabad Central University (UoH) hostel on Sunday.
Rohith Vemula (26), a second year PhD student at University of Hyderabad, committed suicide on Sunday. Vemula was active in student politics, but had grown increasingly silent after the disciplinary action was initiated against him by the university. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of various student groups said Rohith was highly depressed due to suspension and expulsion from the hostel.
This incident stems from an incident that occurred in August last year, the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), along with Ambedkar Reading Group, University of Delhi, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras, ASA (TISS) in Mumbai and concerned students from IIT Bombay issued a joint statement condemning an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) attack on screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hain. Later, ASA’s University of Hyderabad chapter organised a protest demonstration.
Five dalit students were asked to vacate their accommodation in January 2016 and were asked to find different quarters for themselves. Their living spaces were locked by the hostel administration. One of the reasons cited for this was that the students opposed the death sentences awarded to Yakub Memon.
“No one is responsible for my act of killing myself,” he wrote in a suicide note. In his suicide letter, Vemula wrote that he “always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write…Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt. The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”
Students sat with Rohith’s body all night and raised slogans, alleging that he was the victim of social boycott. The protests intensified after a police team took away the body this morning and arrested eight students.
Rohith and four other research scholars had slept in a tent outside the campus gate since they were thrown out of the hostel on December 21 and asked to stay away from the mess and other common areas. Rohith was “heartbroken”, his friends say.
Students protesting over the death of Rohith had demanded the police to register a case under SC/ST Atrocity Act against BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya while alleging that he had written to the HRD Ministry seeking action against these research scholars.
The students under the umbrella of a Joint Action Committee (JAC) had termed the suspension as “undemocratic” and as a “social boycott” since the five research scholars were denied access to hostels and were forced to sleep in a makeshift tent on the campus.