NEW DELHI(PTI): Hours after Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani produced P Hanumantha Rao’s letter to target Congress over Rohith Vemula’s suicide on Hyderabad Central University campus, the senior Congress leader hit back saying the young Dalit student would not have taken his life had the HRD ministry taken “appropriate steps” on his letter.
“The minister (Smriti Irani) had received my letter in November 2014 itself. (But) She did not bother about my letter all these days. What was she and the government doing all these days? She remembered my letter only when (Union Minister Bandaru) Dattatreya also wrote a letter. Had the government acted on my letter, Rohit would not have taken such an extreme step,” Rao, a Rajya Sabha MP, said.
His rebuttal came soon after Irani sought to downplay the letter of Dattatreya, who had sought action on the issue of clash between two student bodies and the “anti-national activities” in the varsity, and her ministry’s five communications to the university as a follow-up, which have been blamed for the suicide.
Referring to Rao’s letter seeking her intervention over various issues including suicide by students of marginalised communities in four years due to “alleged caste discrimination”, Irani told reporters in Delhi that Rohith could have been alive had Congress fixed the problem four years ago. She has said that six letters were sent to the varsity by her ministry even on the complaint of Rao.
However, Rao accused Irani of shirking her responsibility as a minister.
“I wrote (the letter) in 2014. It is not necessary what happened during the (tenure of the) previous government. What have you done after you have taken over? Why have you not taken any action? Why did you follow up only when Dattatreya wrote letter to you? You are responsible for Rohith’s death. Why did you delay taking action? It is only on ABVP’s request (that) you have taken action against Harijan students,” the MP said.
On Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the HCU yesterday, Rao said “Rahul visited the varsity on humanitarian grounds”.
Rohith, a Phd scolar, allegedly hanged himself in a hostel room of the HCU on Sunday. He was among the five students who were suspended by HCU in connection with the alleged assault on an ABVP student leader Sushil Kumar in August last year.