Irani ‘misleading’ nation on HCU issue, says Congress

RSTV Bureau

New Delhi: Union HRD Minister, Smriti Irani along with her cabinet colleagues Thawarchand Gehlot and Nirmla Sitaraman addressing a press conference regarding suicide of the young research scholar Rohith Vemula in the University of Hyderabad, in New Delhi on Wednesday, Jan 20, 2016. Photo-PTI

Day after the BJP-led Central government went in a damage control mode over the suicide of Dalit scholar in Hyderabad Central University, Congress party escalated its attack demanding immediate sacking of Union HRD minister Smriti Irani and Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya. The principal opposition party, in particular, attacked Irani dubbing her presser a bid to “mislead” on the issue.

“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 dismissing Union HRD minister’s claims on the issue.

“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 added.

Addressing the press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, Smriti Irani had said that this wasn’t “Dalit vs Non-Dalit fight” as the ABVP leader, who was allegedly attacked, also belonged to the OBC community. She had also said that Bandaru Dattatreya, who is been accused of pressing for action against the Dalit scholar, too belonged the OBC community.

But Irani’s defence has now given Congress party another reason to criticise her.

Claiming that HRD minister’s reasoning justified the unfairness on the part of University authorities, 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”.

Hyderabad:  Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addressing the students agitating over the death of dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at HCU Campus in Hyderabad, Tuesday, January 19, 2016. Photo - PTI

Hyderabad: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addressing the students agitating over the death of dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at HCU Campus in Hyderabad, Tuesday, January 19, 2016.
Photo – PTI

“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,” he said.

The principal opposition party also alleged that the Proctorial Board’s report was changed following the pressure from the university authorities and the HRD Ministry, and statements of ABVP leaders.

“Just on the basis of ABVP leader’s statement, five dalit Ph.D scholars were suspended,” Congress party spokesperson added.

Also reiterating the stand of university’s SC/ST professor forum, Surjewala termed Irani’s claims that executive council’s sub-committee, which justified punishment to Rohith and four other Dalit students, had a Dalit professor as “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 sought to know.

Meanwhile, Congress MP P Hanumantha Rao also took on Smriti Irani saying the young research scholar would not have taken his life had the HRD ministry taken “appropriate steps” as flagged by him in his letters to the ministry.

“The minister had received my letter in November 2014 itself. She did not bother about my letter all these days. What was she and the government doing all these days?” Rao said.

“She remembered my letter only when Dattatreya also wrote a letter. Had the government acted on my letter, Rohit would not have taken such an extreme step,” Hanumantha Rao said reacting to Smriti Irani’s reference to his letters seeking ministry’s intervention on various issues including suicide by students of marginalised communities in four years due to “alleged caste discrimination”.

Rao, however, accused Irani of shirking her responsibility as a minister by trying to downplay the questioned risen over Dattatreya’s letters to Irani seeking action against Dalit students in a matter of alleged attack on ABVP student.

(With inputs from the PTI)