Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the suicide of 26-year-old Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University, the issue that has generated a big political storm. Speaking at the convocation ceremony of the BR Ambedkar University in Lucknow, PM Modi voiced his grief over the suicide of a young research scholar.
“…When there is news that a youth of my country, Rohith, was compelled to commit suicide, what his family must have gone through. Mother India has lost a son. There will be reasons, there will be politics (surrounding it) but the fact remains that a mother has lost her son. I feel the pain very well,” he said.
Rohith, the deceased scholar who would have turned 27 later this month, had committed suicide inside a hostel room on Sunday. He and four other Dalit research scholars were barred entry inside his hostel and even in the mess on the orders of University authorities after the 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. Even Unoin HRD minister Smriti Irani has drawn criticism of students, some of the faculty members and political opponents.
Earlier, the convocation ceremony at BR Ambedkar University, where Prime Minster spoke as the Chief Guest was marred by protest by students. Two students, who were donning blue stole, meant for Masters degree scholars, were detained after they shouted slogans as the Prime Minister took to the podium.
Reacting to the incident of protest by the two students, University Proctor Kamal Jaiswal said, “we were taken aback. We had taken all precautions. Action will be taken as per rules”.
PM Modi made the reference to Rohith’s suicide as he lauded Dr. BR Ambedkar, the Dalit icon and Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India.
“…want to take this country in a direction where there is new enthusiasm and self confidence. We are making relentless effort to take the country in the direction of Ambedkar’s dream,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the nation cannot progress without following his vision.
In his about 35-minute speech, Modi repeatedly invoked the name and legacy of Ambedkar and asked students to show strong will and courage in the face of difficulties as the Dalit icon did.
“He did not waste time in complaining and lamenting. He did not seek anything from others. He instead took on the adversities and overcame all obstacles,” PM Modi said.
The Prime Minister also announced number of schemes launched by his government to promote self-employment.
(With inputs from the PTI)