Rohith Vemula suicide case: Its Dalit leaders restive, BJP calls it conspiracy

Party sources said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who suggested that Union ministers Smriti Irani, Thaawarchand Gehlot and Nirmala Sitharaman should address a press conference clarifying the government’s stand on the matter.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Published:January 21, 2016 3:33 am
Rohith’s mother Radhika at the University of Hyderabad campus, Tuesday. (Express Photo by: Harsha Vadlamani) Rohith’s mother Radhika at the University of Hyderabad campus, Tuesday. (Express Photo by: Harsha Vadlamani)

WITH its Dalit leaders speaking up and its attempt to highlight Dalit student Rohith Vemula as someone who “supported terrorism” finding few echoes, the BJP on Wednesday went into damage control mode.

Sources said the growing protests from the student community and the anguish expressed by Dalit leaders, including the party’s own MPs, came up for informal discussions at the Cabinet meeting. Party sources said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who suggested that Union ministers Smriti Irani, Thaawarchand Gehlot and Nirmala Sitharaman should address a press conference clarifying the government’s stand on the matter.

At the press conference, Irani repeatedly said the suicide of the young research scholar on the Hyderabad Central University campus was not a “caste battle”. She claimed that the protests were being misrepresented with “malicious intent” as a “Dalit vs non-Dalit confrontation” for political gain. However, she did not reply to questions on the BJP leaders’ allegations that Rohith was indulging in anti-national activities inside the campus.

Read: Hyderabad University mulls dilution of punishment, brief closure of institution

BJP had earlier said that “the context of the clash between student groups was Rohith’s stand in support of terrorism, including that against the hanging of Yakub Memon”. However, Dalit leaders, including three MPs belonging to the BJP, took strong exception to Rohith’s activities being branded as anti-national.

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On Tuesday, party leaders at the BJP headquarters maintained that whatever action was taken against Rohith was against his alleged anti-national activities. On Wednesday, they argued that the entire episode looked like a “conspiracy” against the BJP.

“Before every election, there will be a debate on intolerance. Before Delhi elections, churches were attacked and there were a number of incidents in which Dalits became victims ahead of Bihar polls. There were fabricated protests too to malign the BJP. When the truth came out on these issues, everyone was silent,” said party secretary Shrikant Sharma.

Read: Hyderabad University VC denies pressure from HRD Ministry

He alleged that the latest campaign against the BJP was a “conspiracy” to damage its chances in the run-up to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, scheduled for next month. Pointing out that there were suicides by Dalit students on the campus earlier too — one in 2008 and two in 2013 — Sharma said, “No one even sent a condolence message then.”

With sources claiming that Dalit party leaders from different states had expressed their displeasure about the “way the BJP reacted to the incident”, there seemed to be a clear shift in the response to the crisis on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Indian Express Tuesday, BJP leader Sanjay Paswan, party MPs Sunil Baliram Gaikwad (Latur), Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinag (Bijapur, Karnataka) and Ashok Kumar Dohrey (Etawah) had disapproved the branding of Rohith’s protests as anti-national. Paswan and Gaikwad had also sought a statement from the Prime Minister on the issue.

When asked about their demand, Irani repeated that the government just wanted to clarify that the facts were “misconstrued and misrepresented” to “ignite passions” and that it was not a “caste issue” at all.

But the press conference failed to satisfy the party’s Dalit leaders. “The interpretation given by the party in the incident was wrong,” admitted a Union Minister.

“If the party does not do damage control, more Dalit MPs will come out and speak. Of the 84 Dalit MPs, the BJP has 39…They feel that they are always considered a votebank, but never as thought-bank,” said a party leader. Sources in the party admitted that the anguish among the Dalit leaders might acquire significance given the run-up to the spring-summer Assembly elections in five states.

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  1. B
    bharat thakur
    Jan 21, 2016 at 1:18 am
    humanrightsu(dot)wordpress(dot)com Everyone is trying to talk big, no body is trying to resolve the actual problem. This is just a part of Ram Rajya or Raj Dharma, You rule good , people commit suicides and we have to play a responsible role in dumping the bodies. BJP would have done the some if it was in opposition and congress would have reacted the same way if it was in Power, No difference. Why are students agitating, guys just celebrate the death of indian student, It is nothing new to You, You have always celebrated it, You have enjo it, You have been proud of it always.
  2. I
    Jan 20, 2016 at 10:20 pm
    Looks like you want the issue to keep burning. Plenty of students commit suicide, I don't see anyone getting coverage for days.
  3. A
    Jan 22, 2016 at 2:25 am
    When intellectuals look inwards into their own minds, they can become free. Thereafter only they may be able to guide the common people.
  4. P
    Jan 20, 2016 at 11:43 pm
    The suicide by the student is unfortunate. A thorough enquiry is required in the incident and the media /various political parties are taking it as a first incident in the history of India. To digest a major politically changed government almost after 60years Is a horrifying experience to some major political party leaders. If all are joining and put the blame on the government in all fields, it is going tobe a very dangerous /difficult situation for future of the nation.
  5. M
    Jan 21, 2016 at 12:16 am
    Shameless Congress, Sonia and Pappu playing politics over a dead body, for their personal gains, how low the can go ! the student was a intelligent bright PHD scholar and whatever he was doing, its consequences he knew very well, he clearly explains in dying note that no one is responsible for his death so he took sad action for some very very personal reason he did want anyone to know. He was active in politics, learned could have written pages and pages explaining his reasons for suicide if wanted to blame someone.
  6. M
    Jan 21, 2016 at 3:55 am
    We need to learn a lesson from yesterday's terror attack in a Pak University. Whatever the central minister and Hyd University VC did was very much correct. There is nothing wrong in punishing those who break the law irrespective of caste and religion. Never readmit those suspended students unless their cases are cleared by a proper investigation agency. This case should not be written off as a suicide. May be connected with terrorism, Narcotics or murder. Also form a Special Investigation Team to do more probe into the anti national activities or terrorism in all college Campuses that are fast becoming a breeding ground for Anti-national activities and narcotic abuse. It is very easy to lure youngsters into terrorism. Many youths are getting misguided by the false indoctrination of the fake princelling intellectuals. All parents should monitor what their children are doing when they go to colleges. The foreign funded NGO's and benami medias are using the educational insutions in order to achieve their hidden agenda. It is the duty of the matured public to snub the medias that spread rumors and false information
  7. P
    Jan 20, 2016 at 10:33 pm
    Now it is clear that he was not dalit rather Yadav and Jatav. This clarification came from here gmother...will Indian Express and NDTV will apologize?
  8. R
    Rohtash Rohtash
    Jan 20, 2016 at 11:41 pm
    Who is communal..AK, Rahul hi, NDTV..any many other so called "seculars" are actually sickuliars...they always trying to find opportunities where they can make any tiny issue into big issue to gain benefits.
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