New Delhi: More than 300 members of various students’ bodies on Monday staged a protest outside Shastri Bhavan here, demanding the resignation of the Hyderabad University vice-chancellor over the suicide of a Dalit scholar.
Shastri Bhavan houses the human resource development ministry among others.
The students, many from Left leaning organisations, raised slogans against Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), like “Smriti Irani sharam karo” (Shame on you, Smriti Irani) and “Hindutvawadi faansiwad murdabad” (Down with Hindu fascism).
The protesters gathered outside Shastri Bhavan at about 3 p.m. and displayed placards on the suicide of 26-year-old Ph.D scholar Rohith Vemula, allegedly due to harassment by certain students aligned with right wing groups and the consequent suspension by the University of Hyderabad in connection with the beating up of an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) worker.
Minutes after the protest, Delhi Police deployed heavy security in the area and imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), banning any gathering of five or more people.
Police used water cannons and detained several students as they broke the barricades.
The protesters, carrying pictures of B.R. Ambedkar and raising anti-government slogans, clashed with police.
Vemula, a student of Hyderabad University, hanged himself in his friend’s hostel room on Monday after he, along with four Dalit research scholars, was barred from the university hostel after their suspension. Vemula hailed from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
The research scholars were expelled from their hostel in December 2015 following a clash with leaders of the ABVP, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
They were evicted from their rooms and forced to sleep in a makeshift tent on the campus.
“In one way they (five suspended students) were socially boycotted in an official manner. This was very shameful that the University of Hyderabad boycotted its own students,” said Apurvanand, Delhi University Hindi professor who took part in the protest.
He also said the university should own up its moral responsibility in the wake of the scholar’s suicide and the vice chancellor should submit his resignation.
More than 100 students were detained at Parliament Street police station at around 4.30 p.m.
Jatin Narwal, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), New Delhi, told IANS: “The clashes took place after the situation aggravated. Additional DCP Deepak Guari sustained foot injury during the protest. Five more of our police personnel sustained minor injuries during the scuffle.”
The DCP blamed the agitating students for the incident.
Meanwhile, the central ministry constituted a two-member committee to probe the suicide. The panel will submit its report in two days.
Irani, while expressing sympathy with the student’s family, declined to comment on the incident. She merely said the ministry had no administrative control over the central universities.
Students from the Krantikari Yuva Sangthan (KYS), Students Federation of India (SFI), All India Students Association (AISA), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) participated in the protest.