Dalit student's death sparks Hyderabad protests

Rohith Vemula was a PhD student Image copyright Rohith Vemula's Facebook page
Image caption Rohith Vemula was a PhD student

Protests have been held in a south Indian university over the death of a PhD student.

Rohith Vemula killed himself on Sunday inside the campus of Hyderabad Central University.

He was one of five Dalit, formerly known as untouchables, students who were protesting at their expulsion from the university's housing facility.

Mr Vemula's friends have blamed the university's top official and a federal minister for his suicide.

The police in Hyderabad said they were investigating the role of some university officials as well as federal minister Bandaru Dattatreya in Mr Vemula's death.

Some students also protested in Delhi, demanding action against Mr Dattatreya and clashing with police.

'Social boycott'

Mr Vemula and the four other students faced allegations last year that they attacked a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) - the student wing of the governing Hindu nationalist BJP.

They all denied the charge.

The university cleared them in an initial inquiry, but reversed its decision in December, broadcaster NDTV reports.

Protesters allege that the students were expelled after the minister, Mr Dattatreya, a BJP member, wrote a letter to the federal Ministry of Human Resource and Development, to complain about the scuffle.

The five Dalit students were subsequently barred from using the university's housing and other facilities, reports say, prompting their supporters to say they had been subject to a "social boycott".

Protesters believe Mr Dattatreya was upset because the students were known for campaigning against the policies of the BJP student wing.

But the minister said the letter he wrote was not about the Dalit students.

"Some anti-social elements were disrupting the peaceful atmosphere within the university, I wrote to the ministry seeking action against that," Mr Dattatreya told reporters.

"This suicide does not have any link with BJP. The inquiry report will bring out the truth," he said.

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