After participating in a midnight candle-light march held by the students at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) agitating for late Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi joined the day-long mass hunger strike on Saturday. The late scholar, who committed suicide earlier this month at the University hostel, would have turned 27 on Saturday. While participating in a candle-light vigil and hunger strike, Gandhi also met and spoke with Rohith’s mother and friends.
“I am here today at the request of Rohith’s friends and family, to stand with them in their fight for justice,” he shared on a micro-blogging site Twitter.
“A young life full of dreams and aspirations was cut short. We owe it to him, to the memory of (Mahatma) Gandhiji and to every single Indian student who dreams of an India free from prejudice and injustice,” Rahul Gandhi added in another tweet.
This is second visit by the Congress vice president to the HCU after he had earlier met with the bereaved family and friends of Rohith Vemula. He had accused the Centre and university authorities for the suicide of Dalit scholar.
In another dramatic development, the university authorities asked interim Vice-Chancellor Vipin Srivastava to go on leave hours before Rahul Gandhi’s arrival at the campus late on Friday night. He is replaced by M Periasamy, the next senior-most professor in the university.
Srivastava, who was in turn made the interim VC after Appa Rao Podile went on a ‘long leave’, has also been facing protest by the students as well as the faculty members and officials belonging to Dalit community. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Social Justice, which is spearheading the agitation, has claimed that Vipin Srivastava was the “main accused” in the yet another “institutional murder of Senthil Kumar, a dalit research scholar in the Department of Physics in 2007”.
Earlier, facing protest over Rohith’s suicide, V-C Appa Rao Podile proceeded on leave, saying he was “advised to be little away from campus” to break the current “impasse”.
Ph. D scholar Rohith Vemula had committed suicide inside a hostel on January 17. He and four other Dalit research scholars were barred an entry inside their hostel and even in the students’ mess on the orders of University authorities after they were involved in the incident of allegedly attacking a student leader belonging to Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) last year.
The suicide has snowballed into a major political issue with Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya being accused of pressing the varsity authorities to act against Dalit students over the issue of alleged attack on ABVP leader.
Dattatreya is also named in the FIR along with varsity Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile and three others under the charges of abetment to suicide.
In a related development earlier this week, Hyderabad Central University (HCU) revoked the suspension of four students — D Prasanth, Vijay Kumar, Sheshaiah Chemuudugunta, Velpula Sunkanna — against whom action had been initiated along with late Rohith Vemula.