Terming as "insulting" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks over suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, agitating students of Hyderabad Central University on Saturday vowed to step up their stir and said the PM's "inaction" reflected his "political interests".
The students rejected an appeal by Minister of state for HRD Upendra Kushwaha who, on a visit to the city, asked them to call off their agitation and assured them of justice, a day after the Centre decided to set up a judicial commission to look into the suicide of Rohith following his suspension by the varsity.
Voicing "dissatisfaction" over remarks by Modi on Friday at a university in Lucknow, the Joint Action Council (JAC) spearheading the stir asked if the prime minister would now take action against his ministers.
"It is highly insulting to have received a condolence statement from Prime Minister Narenda Modi. He has referred to Rohith Vemula as Bharat Mata's son. Joint Action Committee for Social Justice condemns in the strongest possible words, the appropriation of Rohith's politics," the JAC said in a statement.
"Rohith Vemula and the other socially boycotted stood always against the Hindutva and Manuvadi politics which the BJP ministers proudly stand for," it said.
"It is under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Police brutally lathicharged the protesting students, male police officers manhandled women students and detained them. His complicity and inaction on the entire episode of events that unfolded in University of Hyderabad clearly reflects his political interests," it alleged.
The outfit asked if Modi will "take action on the BJP ministers for the injustice meted out to Rohith Vemula and the other socially boycotted research scholars".
Modi on Friday expressed grief over Rohith's death saying he felt the pain.
"...when there is news that a youth of my country, Rohith, was forced to commit suicide, what his family must have gone through. Mother India has lost a son. There will be reasons, there will be politics (surrounding it) but the fact remains that a mother has lost her son. I feel the pain very well," a visibly emotional Modi had said.
Hunger strike enters fourth day
Meanwhile, the hunger strike by seven students entered the fourth day on Saturday while their colleagues continued other forms of protests.
G. Prabhakar, one of the fasting students, said they would like to continue with the fast even as doctors expressed concern over their health.
"We want to continue (fast). Our demands not yet fulfilled. They say (Prime Minister) Modi talked in Lucknow yesterday (Friday) and a judicial committee is appointed and all. You appoint a judicial commission, no problem, but take action against people who actually caused this death," he said.
"(Vice Chancellor) Appa Rao (is the) primary accused; dismiss (him) from VC post. (Union Ministers) Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya wrote letters to university; arrest them. Without arresting, these (judicial commission, etc) don't give us confidence," Prabhakar said.
The JAC said, "After killing Rohit, Appa Rao Podile has put these lives (of fasting students) in danger. JAC for Social Justice reiterates that students will intensify the ongoing struggle until all our five demands are met."
Students' five demands
♦ Removal of the Vice Chancellor
♦ Punishing those responsible for Rohith's death
♦ Dropping the alleged false cases against students and unconditional revocation of their suspension ♦ Giving employment to a member of Rohith's family
♦ Compensation of Rs 50 lakh to his kin
'Centre to act after getting panel report'
Kushwaha, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event here, said that based on the report of the judicial commission set up to look into the matter, the HRD ministry will take necessary steps.
"From the ministry, a two-member fact-finding committee looked into the matter and gave its report. There were some shortcomings as per the report. Based on the report, a judicial commission was set up for further inquiry. The commission will do its work and give report in three months. Based on it, the ministry will take necessary steps," he said.
On the demands of the agitating students for removal of the university's vice chancellor and withdrawal of case against four students, Kushwaha said, "University will look into that. There is no role of the ministry."
When asked about their response to the government deciding to appoint a judicial commission and the university announcing compensation, Rohith's brother Raju said they will discuss the matter with the agitating students.
Rohith's mother would come to the university and talk to the agitating students, he said.
Expressing concern over the health of the fasting students, Dr Ravindra Kumar, a senior doctor of a team which examined them, said, "They have been on hunger strike for the last four days. What we had seen on the very first day and what we see today, it is a rapid deterioration of the medical status. We find their blood pressures are highly fluctuating and their sugar levels unstable."
"We feel that we need to intervene and medically give some support. We have to discuss with the boys and we will see the next course of action," he told reporters.
'Whole country saddened'
Kushwaha said that the whole country was saddened following the alleged suicide of the Dalit research scholar.
"Pura desh dukhi hua, jab ek Vishwavidyalay ke kisi chhatra ne atmahatya ki. Karan uska kya hain ye alag baat hain (the whole country was saddened when a student of a university committed suicide. The reason (behind the death) is another thing)," Kushwaha said in his address at the inaugural ceremony of Navodaya National Integration Meet here.
"Koi vyakti apne jivan me hi, jeene ki umeed chod de, isse badi koi vidambana aur dukh ka vishay nahi ho sakta (if a person loses the hope to live during his lifetime, there cannot be a bigger irony or cause of sadness than this)," the minister said.
"We need such an India wherein no one talks of either killing oneself or killing anyone else. We need to build such an India. And one day definitely such an India will be built," he said.
Kushwaha also said that children have a bigger responsibility towards maintaining the cultural legacy.
"Governments, society and all have accountability towards maintaining our cultural legacy, but children have a bigger responsibility in this regard," he noted.
"This cultural legacy is our identity and it is our responsibility to preserve and work for its growth," he added.