"The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity. And nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing."
These were some of the words scribbled on the suicide letter of Rohith Vemula, a research scholar from the University of Hyderabad (UoH), who in a tragic incident, committed suicide on Sunday.
Rohith was one of the five dalit scholars suspended by the university last year, after he got involved in a verbal clash between two student groups in August last year. He was associated with the Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA).
"V Rohit (around 26) was found hanging in the hostel room. He was among the five research scholars who were suspended by Hyderabad Central University (HCU) in August last year and also one of the accused in the case of assault on a student leader," Cyberabad Police Commissioner C V Anand told PTI.
(Police reach the campus late on Sunday, after the news of Rohith's death)
"He was from Guntur and was a second year research scholar. He committed suicide in his friend Uma Maheswar's room. He died roughly around 6 pm," S Munna, co-convenor of the ASA in UoH told The News Minute "
When contacted by the Times of India, Appa Rao Podile, the vice-chancellor said:
I am shocked over the extreme step taken by the scholar. I did speak to the scholars a few days back on this issue. However, I had no clue that he will take such a step.
The entire chain of incidents can be traced back to August 1, when the ABVP disrupted the screening of a documentary on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots at Delhi University, allegedly for being 'anti-Hindu'.
"The ASA held a small protest against the disruption on August 3, following which the university's ABVP president put up a Facebook post which hurt our sentiments, as he called us goons," one of the suspended students had earlier told TNM.
The ASA students then claim that a small, non-violent confrontation followed, with the ABVP President tendering an apology letter in the presence of security, and everyone is said to have returned.
"This issue took a different shape by the next day morning i.e on 4-8-2015 when the ABVP President along with his brother, who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), went to a private hospital and started a drama, that he was assaulted by the ASA. During that time, BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao met the Vice-Chancellor along with some of his party cadre and insisted for action against the 'Dalits', terming them as 'anti-national.' Following this, an enquiry committee was constituted by Professor R.P.Sharma, former Vice-Chancellor under the chairmanship of Professor Alok Pandey," the ASA alleges in a Facebook post.
The Proctorial Board, the disciplinary authority of the institute, conducted a probe into the incident, but the students claim that the findings of the committee and its final decision were contradictory.
The five students have been suspended ever since.
(Rohith (right) carrying a poster of Ambedkar along with other belongings, after his suspension)
On Sunday, mild tension prevailed on the campus after scores of students gathered and held demonstration along with Rohit's body and raised slogans.
They demanded police to register a case under SC/ST Atrocity Act against Union minister and BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya while alleging that he had written to HRD ministry seeking action against these research scholars.
Later reports also suggest that the police on Monday morning forcibly shifted the body of Rohith from the campus to the Osmania government hospital. Eight students were also said to be arrested.