HC judge should probe Dalit scholar’s suicide: Congress

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) The Congress on Wednesday demanded the removal of union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and Hyderabad University vice chancellor Appa Rao over the suicide of a Dalit research scholarand sought a probe by a high court judge into their role and that of the human resource development ministry.

Congress spokesperson Deepender Singh Hooda told the media here that the Hyderabad University had stopped payment of the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) stipend to Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide last Sunday, since July 2015 and asked if it was not a case of “clear-cut harassment”.

Hooda accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of keeping silent on the issue.

Vemula ended his life on Sunday. He was staging a protest along with four other Dalit research scholars over their suspension following an alleged clash with some leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a students wing of the RSS.

Hooda said a university board had recommended removing suspension of all five Ph.D. students, including Vemula, but later “changed its stance” under pressure from the vice chancellor and the HRD ministry.

He accused HRD Minister Smriti Irani of trying to mislead the country on the issue.

Hooda also referred to “five communications” of the ministry to the university following a letter by Dattatreya, and said “it clearly demonstrates the malice and malafide writ large”.

Hooda accused the Modi government of “anti-Dalit and anti-poor mindset” and said it had imposed a cut of Rs.19,734 crore in the Scheduled Castes sub-plan in 2015-16 and a cut of Rs.305.78 crore in the post-matric scholarship scheme for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in 2015-16.

“Instead of apologising for the tragic loss of Rohith Vemula, Mrs. Smriti Irani is shamelessly describing it as ‘not dalit vs anti-dalit issue’. The Congress demands that the prime minister breaks his silence and takes concrete action,” he said.

Hooda demanded that suspension of the remaining four Dalit doctoral scholars should be immediately withdrawn, and Dattatreya and Rao should be immediately removed from their posts.

He sought compensation and a job to a family member of Vemula.

“The role of the HRD ministry, Dattatreya, BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao, ABVP activists and university authorities and culpability of Mrs. Smriti Irani must be investigated by a sitting high court judge,” he said.

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