National

Modi breaks silence on Dalit student suicide

A signal to BJP not to dig itself deeper into campus protests.

At the end of a week where his party colleagues termed Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, as “psychologically disturbed” after reading his suicide note, and even questioned his Dalit identity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed his death as a “loss to Mother India.”

Mr. Modi’s comments in Lucknow on Friday, at the convocation ceremony of Ambedkar University, were specific enough to mention Rohith’s name, but ambiguous enough about laying blame.

Political opponents like the Congress questioned the Prime Minister’s words. “BJP general secretary Muralidhar Rao questions Rohith’s Scheduled Caste status, Smt Irani justifies suspension of PhD students, Modiji says I am pained. What is true?” said All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Randeep Surjewala.

Smriti assures probe

Within the BJP and the government, it was taken as a sign that damage control measures till now had not yielded anything, in fact had made things worse. “For many reasons, Prime Minister had to speak out in Lucknow, not just because it was at Ambedkar University, or that there was heckling by students, but that the tack taken on the issue by the HRD Minister and party men was clearly making the situation worse,” said a senior source in the government.

Significantly, the Prime Minister’s words came at the same time as HRD Minister Smriti Irani spoke to Vemula’s mother and assured her of a judicial enquiry into the death of her son.

BJP general secretary Muralidhar Rao who had, during a twitter chat on Thursday had questioned Vemula’s identity as a Dalit, said “The Central government’s decision for a judicial commission on the Hyderabad University issue should be welcomed, shows government’s sensitivity and accountability.”

The intention behind the Prime Minister’s words had been to douse tempers and take the sting out of the nation wide protests that have taken place after Vemula’s death, or at the very least, convey to the BJP itself that it was digging itself deeper rather than out.

Much will depend on whether that memo is taken on board.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 5:39:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Modi-breaks-silence-on-Dalit-student-suicide/article14014428.ece

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