Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday threw his weight behind one of the demands of the protesting students: to bring in a ‘Rohith Act’ that can put an end to student suicides at universities. If the “power of youth has to be unleashed,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to look into the possibility of making a law to curb discrimination based on caste, religion and gender at universities.
Mr. Gandhi, who was on an 18-hour visit to the University of Hyderabad, warned that if such a law was not introduced, the students would take it upon themselves to fight for it. In his speech, he accused Mr. Modi and the RSS of trying to crush the spirit of youngsters by imposing one idea.
He also drew a parallel between the death of research scholar Rohith Vemula and Mahatma Gandhi, whose death anniversary fell on Saturday.
The BJP has accused Mr. Gandhi of using the death of Vemula as a “political tool”.
Fight repressive forces: Rahul
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who visited the University of Hyderabad and backed the demands of the protesting students, drew a parallel between the death of research scholar Rohith Vemula and Mahatma Gandhi, whose death anniversary fell on Saturday.
“Gandhiji lived and understood truth and he was killed by the same forces which did not want him to say the truth. Rohith was a young man, who was looking to understand where he fits in this universe and he was looking to understand his world. Nobody can take away the search for freedom or truth. Some forces did not want him to express what he saw and they put so much pressure that he killed himself. There are Rohiths in every institution in this country,” Mr. Gandhi said.
Objecting to some students of the university being called anti-national, Mr.Gandhi urged the students to fight forces that curtailed freedom.
Soon after he ended his speech around 5.45 p.m., Mr. Gandhi who was offered lime juice to break his day-long fast by activist Kancha Ilaiah, chose to give it to Rohith’s mother Radhika before ending his fast and leaving the premises.
Mr. Gandhi sat alongside three students who are on a hunger strike since Friday midnight. Mr. Gandhi reached the venue Friday midnight to participate in the candlelight vigil and hunger strike organised on the 27th birthday of Rohith.
A political tool: BJP
The BJP accused the Congress and Mr. Gandhi of using the death of Rohith Vemula as a “political tool”.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said nine cases of suicide of Dalit students had taken place on the university campus during the UPA rule, but Mr. Gandhi hadn’t bothered to go there, instead asking the Opposition parties to wait for the report of a probe ordered by the Centre.