Former Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya is an accused in the death of PhD student Rohith Vemula.

UoH University Court ASA says Dattareyas nomination reflects BJPs anti-Dalit agenda
news Controversy Friday, April 06, 2018 - 14:02

The nomination of former Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya as a member of the University Court in the University of Hyderabad (UoH) has angered students belonging to the Ambedkar Students’ Association. The students are questioning how an accused in the death of Dalit student Rohith Vemula can be nominated as a member of the Court.

In the order dated March 27, the Lok Sabha Speaker has nominated three members of Lok Sabha – Bandaru Dattatreya, Gokaraju Ranga Raju and Konda Vishweshwara Reddy as members of the University Court.

The University Court is a body comprising HoDs, Deans, Vice-Chancellor and Lok Sabha members who oversee the annual audit reports and the annual accounts of the University.

Taking strong objection to Dattatreya’s nomination, the ASA condemned the decision of the Lok Sabha, stating that the former union minster was an accused in the death of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student who committed suicide in the campus in January 2016, alleging caste discrimination. Criminal cases were filed against the politician and several others for abetment of suicide, and under the SC/ST atrocities Act, accusing them of driving Rohith to suicide.

Speaking to TNM, Dontha Prashanth, an ASA leader, said that the nomination of Dattatreya reflects the anti-Dalit agenda of the BJP government. “Their agenda is very clear. Dattatreya himself is an accused, a case is still going on against him.”

“The BJP has shown strong anti-Dalit sentiment throughout its history. Now that it has realised that it is going to be defeated in the 2019 general elections, it is speeding up its anti-Dalit agenda,” he alleged.

Sunkanna Velpula, another ASA member, questioned how an accused who had meddled in the internal affairs of the University had been nominated as a member of the University Court. Since the case against him was still pending in court, he wondered how legal powers could be bestowed on the accused.

Writing on Facebook, he said, “Bandaru Dattatreya (BJP MP) is accused of interfering in University of Hyderabad internal issues and dictating UoH administration to take action against to Dalit research scholars which caused for the death of Rohith Vemula. Still the case is pending in court but Bandaru Dattatreya being nominated as "Member of the court of University".  An accused person himself holding the legal power and how can victims get justice (sic).”

Dattatreya had written to the then MHRD Minister Smriti Irani seeking intervention in the affairs of the University, stating that the University had become a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics.”

He complained that the students of ASA had held a gathering against the execution of Yakub Memon and that when former ABVP president Sushil Kumar had objected to it, he was assaulted.

In response to this, a series of letters were exchanged between the MHRD and the UoH administration, resulting ultimately in the expulsion of five Dalit ASA students from their hostels along with several restrictions, including ban on gathering at public places, partaking in discussions and participating in student elections.

The expelled students were Rohith Vemula, Dontha Prashanth, Sunkanna Velpula, Vijay Pedapudi and Seshu.

The expelled students pitched a tent in protest and continued agitating for the expulsion order to be revoked. However, as the protest yielded no result after nearly a month, on January 17, 2016, Rohith hanged himself in the campus. His suicide resulted in a nation-wide agitation against the BJP government, ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani, and the UoH Vice Chancellor P Appa Rao.


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