NEW DELHI: Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani today did not go to an Urdu conference at Delhi University which she was scheduled to inaugurate, raising questions whether she skipped it as hundreds of students had gathered outside the venue protesting over the Rohith Vemula issue.
The three-day ‘World Urdu’ conference has been organised by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) set up by the HRD Ministry.
Ms Irani is the chairperson of the Council.
Director of NCPUL Syed Ali Karim said “the dates for the event were decided after a go ahead from the minister. However, we did not receive any information from the minister’s office that she will not be coming.”
Minister of State, HRD, Ram Shankar Katheria, and HRD Joint Secretary SS Sandhu who were among the Chief Guests also gave the event a miss.
There was, however, no official reason for cancellation of Ms Irani’s participation. Senior officials in the HRD Ministry, when asked, did not comment on the issue.
Students from various varsities across Delhi, who have been protesting the alleged delay in justice to Hyderabad varsity Dalit scholar Vemula, who committed suicide last month, gathered outside the conference venue and shouted slogans demanding Ms Irani’s resignation.
Strict security arrangements were in place to avoid any untoward incident in view of the protest. The event began with a keynote address by BJP lawmaker MJ Akbar on “200 years of Urdu Journalism”.
The journalist-turned-politician deliberated upon how one person cannot simultaneously pursue two professions and how Urdu journalism has changed over the years.
The three-day conference will see paper presentations from Urdu scholars across the globe including those from Bangladesh, Mauritius, Qatar, Dubai and Canada among others. Cultural activities, including “Aalmi Mushaira” and play titles “Main Urdu Hun”, will also be part of the event.
Meanwhile, students from Jamia Millia Islamia also joined the ongoing movement in the capital demanding justice for the Dalit PhD scholar who was found hanging on January 17.
While the students from JNU had earlier this week called off their hunger strike after 10 days, vowing to continue the protests, three students from Jamia today decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike, demanding the resignation of Ms Irani.