Tension in Hyderabad varsity over Dalit research scholar’s suicide

Hyderabad: Tension prevailed in University of Hyderabad on Monday over the suicide of one of the five Dalit research scholars following their expulsion from the hostel.

Police intervened to shift the body from the campus to the hospital for autopsy as students resisted their attempts, demanding justice to the student’s family. They also blamed university authorities and a central minister for the suicide.

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Students had locked the body in the hostel room, where Rhoith Vemula allegedly hanged himself on Sunday evening, and were preventing police from shifting the body. A scuffle broke out between the police and the students who were raising slogans of ‘police go back’.

Policemen in riot gear used force to enter the hostel and shifted the body for autopsy.

Large number of policemen were deployed on the campus to prevent violence as Dalit and leftist student groups have called for the university shutdown.

The student groups are demanding resignation of Vice Chancellor P. Appa Rao and Union Minister of State for Labour (independent charge) Bandaru Dattatreya, who allegedly got the five students belonging to Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) sacked.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of various student groups said Rohith was highly depressed due to suspension and expulsion from the hostel. JAC said the student was hurt due to the social boycott.

Rohith, a second year research scholar of science, technology and society studies department, was found hanging in a room in New Research Scholars’ hostel. He used the blue banner of ASA for hanging. In a five-page suicide note recovered from the room, he mentioned how he always looked at the stars and dreamt of being a writer and an established academic.

Hailing from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, Rohith came from a poor family and was University Grants Commission’s Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) holder. In the suicide note, he also wrote that he had not got his JRF funds for past six months.

He along with four other suspended students had been staging protest on the campus for last 15 days. They were sleeping in open to protest expulsion from the hostel. On Sunday, Rohith left the camp to spend the day in NRS hostel room. He was found hanging at 7.30 p.m.

It was in August last year that the five students were suspended following a scuffle with activists of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). It all started when ASA staged a protest on the campus to condemn ABVP’s attack on the screening of the documentary ‘Muzzafarnagar Baqi Hai’ at Delhi University.

The research scholars were expelled from their hostel in December. They 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

They were evicted from their rooms on January and since then they were forced to sleep in a makeshift tent on the campus.