India

Hyderabad university shut after protests over Dalit student's death

Students of Hyderabad Central University protesting over Rohith Vemula's death Image copyright SnapsIndia
Image caption Students of Hyderabad Central University want justice for Rohith Vemula

A university in southern India has been temporarily shut after fresh protests over the death of a Dalit PhD student.

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

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

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

Mr Vemula's friends want action to be taken against the university's officials as well as federal minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who is accused of pressurising university officials to take action against the Dalit students.

Students in Mumbai and Delhi have also been holding protests over the incident.

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

The federal government said it had sent a "fact-finding team" to the university.

Several political parties, including the main opposition Congress party and the Dalit-led Bahujan Samaj Party, have also sent representatives to the university.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has also reached Hyderabad to meet protesting students.

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

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 BJP.

They all denied the charge.

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

Social boycott

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 alleged incident.

The five Dalit students were subsequently barred from using the university's housing and other facilities, reports say, prompting their supporters to allege 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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