Rohith Vemula’s mortal remains may have been quietly burned in the pyre on Monday, but the anger in the academic community following his suicide in the Hyderabad University’s hostel is refusing to die down. Vemula was among the five Dalit scholars expelled by the university last year on accusations of beating up a leader from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, but the circumstances of his death have prompted students across the country to ask questions about the university's role in the circumstances leading to his death.
Students in the Hyderabad University campus erupted in protest demonstrations soon after the news of Vemula’s demise broke late Sunday night. The immediate target of their anger were Vice Chancellor Appa Rao and Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Bandaru Dattatreya, whose effigies were burnt. The action against Vemula had followed after these two, reportedly, wrote to Union Minister of Human Resources Development Smriti Irani to inform her of the “anti national” activities allegedly going in the university and asked her to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, student organisations converged in Delhi outside the ministry of human resources development building on Monday afternoon to register their protest as they raised slogans asking for resignations not only of the vice chancellor and the BJP MP but also Minister of Human Resources Development Smriti Irani, holding her responsible for not acting upon the expulsion of scholars from the marginalised community who were barred from campus and all administrative facilities in August last year.
The students claimed that the police quickly intervened and imposed section 144 in the area and used it to detain and manhandle them. Around 70 students were held for hours at the Parliament Street Police Station even as some students were reportedly injured while clashing with the police and had to be sent for medical treatment.
Similar protests and public meetings were held in University of Hyderabad, Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and in Chennai where Ambedkarite student organisations formed committees and gave out a call to mourn Vemula's death.
Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai has established their own Joint Action Committee to look into the circumstances of death and work with past instances to come up with recommendations and potential measures to curtail the bias and alienation towards those from the minorities in educational institutions.
Similar protests are planned for Tuesday as nationwide demonstrations have been called by All India Students’ Association and Students’ Federation of India which will be coordinating these movements across campuses.
Here are some visuals from Monday, shared on social media: