As Rahul Gandhi joined the protests over Rohith Vemula’s suicide for the second day in Hyderabad on Saturday, the BJP unleashed a coordinated attack, accusing the Congress vice-president of “politics of vulturisation” and saying he was using the students as a “tool” in their campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
An ANI report from Thane quoted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as saying, “The facts have come out in the case and as per as my complete knowledge, that student (Rohith) was not a Dalit. By calling him a Dalit student, this whole case has been (made into) a communal incident by some people.”
Rahul came to Hyderabad on Friday for a midnight candle-light procession to mark Rohith’s birthday — he would have turned 27 today. On Saturday, Rahul held a day-long fast, joining the mass hunger strike being held on the University of Hyderabad campus.
It was his second visit to the university to express solidarity with Rohith. In the evening, Rahul, Rohith’s mother Radhika and his brother broke the fast together.
Rahul blamed the “interference” of the Union HRD Ministry for the suicide of Rohith, who hanged himself in a hostel room on January 17. Later, after breaking his fast, he drew a parallel between Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and Rohith’s suicide.
“It is an interesting day as it is not just Rohith’s birthday but also Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary. Nobody has the right to take away the right to search for truth and this is exactly what happened with Gandhiji also and now with Rohith. When you let what has happened to Rohith happen, it will happen to you one day also. My main opposition to Mr Modi and RSS is that they are crushing the spirit of Indian youngsters by imposing their ideas,” he tweeted.
Speaking in Indore, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya called Rohith’s expulsion from Hyderabad University hostel a “small incident”, and said he doubted if it alone led to the “courageous youth’s” suicide. He added, “Those people who are responsible for his suicide are the ones who are agitating to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.”
BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma and spokesperson Sambit Patra accused Rahul of “vitiating” the atmosphere, while Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the Congress was shedding “crocodile tears”.
“Congress and communist parties are trying to make this a political issue and making a beeline to the university, forgetting that nine such incidents happened during the UPA rule. This is part of their anti-Modi campaign across the country,” Naidu told reporters.
“At a place where students go to study, Rahul Gandhi is trying to vitiate the atmosphere,” Shrikant Sharma said.
The party appears to have decided to take the aggressive route again after toning down its stand on Rohith following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech saying he felt the pain of a mother’s loss and calling the Hyderabad student “Mother India’s son”.
Earlier the BJP stand raising Rohith’s “anti-national activities” had caused a political storm, inviting objections from its own Dalit leaders.
On Saturday, the BJP repeated its charge of an Opposition “conspiracy” in the protest, adding that the Congress “frustration” was showing as its leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and most of the party chief ministers were facing serious corruption charges.
Telangana BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao said Rahul and the Congress appeared to be “politically bankrupt and unemployed”. “Why is Rahul Gandhi not in Chennai, where three girls committed suicide almost a week ago? His desperate attempt to earn some petty political expediency has brought him back to HCU campus. This is classic politics of vulturisation.”
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari too joined the attack on Rahul, saying, “Exams are nearing in Hyderabad (university). All the students are busy with studies. The government has (already) announced a judicial probe. Peace has been restored there. Rahul Gandhiji is politicising the issue.”
Rahul, who was visiting the campus for the second time in as many weeks, said in tweets, “I am here today at the request of Rohith’s friends and family, to stand with them in their fight for justice. A young life full of dreams and aspirations was cut short. We owe it to him, to the memory of (Mahatma) Gandhiji and to every single Indian student who dreams of an India free from prejudice and injustice.”
Nearly 2,000 students from various colleges and universities were present at the spot, including Pune’s FTII. In many colleges and Dalit colonies too, small functions were held to pay homage to Rohith to mark his birthday.
ABVP calls two-day protest
Accusing Rahul Gandhi of playing “caste politics” over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, the ABVP on Saturday called for a two-day nationwide protest to “expose the leader’s hidden agenda”. While calling the suicide “sad and serious”, ABVP national general secretary Vinay Bidre said it should not be construed as “a battle between Dalits and non-Dalits”.
“The ABVP contends that Vemula belongs to the Vaddera community and certificates which claim that he is a Dalit are false,” he said.