The two Dalit students who interrupted Prime Minister Narendra Modi have told The Indian Express that they were “upset” over his silence on Rohith Vemula’s death.
‘Narendra Modi go back’ and ‘Rohith hum sharminda hain, Dronacharya abhi zinda hai (Rohith, we are ashamed that Dronacharya is still alive)’ — these were the slogans Ram Karan Nirmal and Amrendra Kumar Arya shouted as Modi began his address, before being escorted away by security personnel.
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Both Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke before him, were visibly taken aback by the interruption.
Station Officer at Ashiyana police station Santosh Kumar Tiwari said the students were taken into custody under CrPC section 151 for breach of peace and later released on personal bonds. The two have completed their LLB from Banaras Hindu University and LLM in Human Rights from Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), where they had gone Friday to collect their degrees.
“We expressed what we had in our heart. We also participated in a protest near the secretariat in Delhi,” Arya said.
Nirmal, who comes from Kaushambi, and Arya, a resident of Sant Kabir Nagar, are now flatmates in the capital, where they are preparing for judicial competitive examinations.
“We were upset that our Prime Minister was not speaking on the issue. Today’s protest was only to bring to his notice that people are hurt over Rohith’s death and want an answer from him,” Arya, son of a retired government employee, said. “We both had come to Lucknow on Friday morning to collect our degrees.”
Nirmal, a gold medallist in college and the son of a farmer, said, “We students are deeply hurt over several issues, including the deaths of (Dadri lynching victim Mohammad) Akhlaq and (rationalist Narendra) Dabholkar. I raised my voice today.” He added that he has no affiliation to any political outfit.
Before the start of Modi’s programme, instructions were issued to students to maintain decorum.
BBAU vice-chancellor R C Sobti said that a few months ago, disciplinary action had been taken against Nirmal for taking out a protest march on the campus. He is known to lead protests on various issues, Sobti added.
Sobti said that since the heckling was done by a graduate, there was little he could do. “It was done by Ram Karan. He has completed his LLM and has come to collect his degree. Since he is a graduate, what can I do? The university cannot take action against graduates. It is a democracy… They have already collected their mark-sheet and there is no way to prevent them from taking the degree,” Sobti said.
When contacted, the BBAU Proctor said, “No student from our university has been taken into police custody. The matter was resolved as the student was taken away from the hall.”