Hyderabad/Nagpur: Police charged Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya with abetting the suicide of a Dalit scholar at the University of Hyderabad as students clashed with security personnel and authorities clamped prohibitory orders on Monday amid an outpouring of grief and rage on social media.
Officials at Gachibowli police station said the labour minister was also booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act for allegedly orchestrating the suspension of Rohith Vemula and four other Dalit students from the university hostel.
Rohith’s mother Radhika sat on a dharna on the campus along with several students and Dalit organization leaders, saying she wouldn’t move until vice-chancellor Appa Rao explained the reasons behind suspending her son.
Hundreds of police officers were rushed to the campus as a number of Dalit and left-leaning student groups called for a shutdown.
Rohith, a second-year research scholar from the science, technology and society studies department, and others were suspended from the hostel last September following allegations that they attacked a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad after a screening of the controversial documentary Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai.
Students alleged Dattatreya wrote to human resource development minister Smriti Irani, recommending the five students be suspended.
Earlier this month, the five students – all members of the Ambedkar Students Union — were thrown out of the hostel amid allegations that they were denied access to campus facilities, except their classrooms and respective workshops, on recommendation by an executive committee of the university.
Since then, they were protesting against the “undemocratic” “social boycott”, sleeping in a makeshift tent on the campus. They also laid siege to the administrative building in protest.
Student groups at the university have demanded action against Appa Rao and ABVP leader Susheel Kumar – who had lodged the original complaint against the five students.
The 28-year-old hailing from Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh was found hanging at a friend’s hostel room around 7.30 pm on Sunday. The 28-year-old came from a poor background and held a scholarship under the University Grants Commission’s Junior Research Fellowship programme.
As news spread of his death, hundreds gathered at the university and social media was flooded with quotes from his suicide note, where he wrote in great detail about his dreams of becoming a writer and scientist. He also alleged that he hadn’t received his fellowship money for several months.
“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 very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living,” he wrote in the note.