Hyderabad varsity issue not Dalit versus non-Dalit: Irani

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New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) The suicide of Rohith Vemula, research scholar at the University of Hyderabad, was not a “Dalit versus non-Dalit issue”, and there was a “malicious attempt to project it as a caste battle”, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said on Wednesday.

“There has been a malicious attempt to project the issue as a caste battle. The truth is that, it is not,” the minister said at a press conference here.

Irani said the case was being “misrepresented” and that she was compelled to clear the air on it.

“I am here to clear certain misrepresentation of facts on the suicide of Rohith,” she said.

“It’s not a Dalit versus non-Dalit confrontation,” the minister said, adding that there have been media debates suggesting that Vemula committed suicide due to caste discrimination.

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“I am compelled to put forth certain observation and facts which have been gained from the ground in the larger public interest”, she said.

Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula was found hanging from the ceiling of a room in the New Research Scholars’ Hostel of the central university on Sunday. He was one of the five Dalit students suspended from the hostel.

Students at the university have been boycotting classes since then, alleging that the vice chancellor and union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya pushed for Vemula and four others to be suspended after they clashed in August last year with students from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Irani accused the Congress of trying to use the issue for political gains and said the issue was being used to “ignite passions”.

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She referred to a letter written to the ministry by Congress MP Hanumantha Rao in September 2014 where he talked about suicides by marginalised students in the university for over four years.

“The Congress wants to shoot on this issue, which is expected but unfortunate… the Congress MP says that this problem persisted for four years. If they (Congress) had fixed the problem four years ago, perhaps Rohith’s life could have been saved,” Irani said.

Irani told the press conference that the facts she has put out have been ascertained by local police and the university.

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