Rohit Vemula: Rahul Gandhi Joins Midnight March

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Hyderabad: Rahul Gandhi has joined a midnight march at the Hyderabad Central University campus by students who launched an agitation after the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula earlier this month. The students are holding a candlelight vigil for Mr Vemula, who would have turned 27 today.

However, just hours before Mr Gandhi’s visit today, the university changed its interim Vice-Chancellor. Interim VC Vipin Srivastava has gone on leave for four days. In his absence, M Periasamy, the next senior-most professor, will take charge.

Mr Srivastava, the senior-most professor at the university, was performing the duties after Vice-Chancellor Professor P Appa Rao, named in the police complaint in Rohith Vemula’s death, went on an indefinite leave on Sunday. The university’s decision to have Prof Srivastava officiate in place of Prof Rao had triggered fresh protests.

The SC/ST Faculty Forum and SC/ST Officers Forum had expressed “shock” over the decision to appoint Prof Srivastava as officiating Vice-Chancellor and alleged that he headed the Executive Council Sub-Committee “which has been responsible for the death of Rohith.”

Mr Gandhi had earlier gone to Hyderabad on January 18, a day after Mr Vemula was found hanging in a hostel room, and met the research scholar’s family and companions.

Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya was named in a police case registered after Mr Vemula’s death. He was accused of writing to Education Minister Smriti Irani and seeking action against the research scholar and his companions for “anti-national activities.” The university suspended Mr Vemula and his four companions for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader in August last year.

Rohith Vemula hung himself two weeks after he and four other students were suspended and banned from the hostel, the cafeteria and other common areas for allegedly beating an activist of a rival student union in August.

On Thursday, the university revoked the suspension of Rohith’s comrades, hours after 15 Dalit teachers resigned accusing Union Education Minister Smriti Irani of distorting the facts related to the suicide. Ms Irani had alleged a misrepresentation of facts and proclaimed that the tragedy had nothing to do with a caste battle.

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