The suspension of five Dalit research scholars from the University of Hyderabad took a tragic turn on Sunday when one of them committed suicide.
Rohith Vemula hanged himself in his room in a hostel on Sunday evening, police said. The 28-year-old, hailing from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, was a Ph.D second year student.
The research scholars were expelled from their hostel by the university in December last following a clash with leaders of right-wing student group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). They were evicted from their rooms on last Monday and since then they were forced to sleep in a makeshift tent on the campus.
Terming the suicide as a murder by right-wing groups, Dalit and leftist student groups called for closure of educational institutions in Telangana on Monday. Student groups have also announced that they will stage protest on the campus.
The suspended students and their supporters have been staging protests on the campus for last few days. The students under the umbrella of a Joint Action Committee (JAC) termed the suspension as “undemocratic”, “social boycott” and “inhuman”.
The five students were denied access to hostels and other buildings on the campus except their classroom, library and conferences and workshops related to their subject of study based on the recommendations of a sub-committee of the Executive Council, based on a proctorial committee enquiry. The committee was constituted after an ABVP activist was allegedly attacked on the campus.
The suspended scholars had approached the high court against the expulsion. S. Munna, one of the expelled scholars, had said that they come from poor families and cannot afford to stay outside by paying rent.
The scholars had also alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) mounted on the university authorities to take action against the Dalit students who belong to the Ambedkar Students Association. They cited that union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who is a Member of Lok Sabha from Secunderabad, had written to union Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani, seeking action for “changing the campus for the better”.