Facing a raging protest from Opposition parties over the death of 26-year-old Dalit scholar of Hyderabad University, HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday called a press conference and said that the suicide of Rohit Vemula was not a caste issue.
"Being a mother and a minister, I am very upset with the death of Rohith Vemula. Police has started investigating the matter. In the past, HRD Ministry received several complaints about the Hyderabad University," Irani said.
Defending Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya in the case, Irani said, "Dattatreya was not the only MP to raise his concern into the matter. Congress leader Hanumant Rai wrote several times demanding probe into increasing number of Dalit student's suicide in Hyderabad University. Also, Rohith's suicide note did not name any minister or organisation. My attempt is an appeal to everyone that Rohit Vemula's suicide was not based on caste issue."
"Some media channels and Opposition parties are portraying Rohith Vemula's suicide as caste issue which is not right. The action taken by the University was right and was upheld by the committee. Irani also refuted charges that she put pressure on the university vice-chancellor to take action against the Dalit students.
Rohith Vemula was a second year PhD student and was highly involved in student politics. He was one of the five Dalit students who was suspended from the Hyderabad University in August last year for being involved in a clash with an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader. In early January, Rohith, along with five other Dalits was evicted from his hostel and since then they were sleeping in open in campus. Frustrated with his expulsion from the University, he committed suicide on January 17.