Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday targeted Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya over the suicide by a Dalit scholar, saying the ministers and the vice chancellor have "not acted fairly" that forced him to take the extreme step.
Rahul flew in here from Delhi in the morning and drove straight from the airport to the University campus where he addressed the agitating students.
Rahul alleged that the institution instead of operating fairly has used its power to "crush" the freedom of students to express.
"The vice chancellor and the minister in Delhi have have not acted fairly. What is the result. The result is that the youth, who came here to improve the country, to learn and to express himself, was put in so much pain that he had no option but to kill himself.
"Certainly he has committed suicide but conditions for his suicide were created by the vice chancellor, the minister and the institution," he told the students, one of whom said before his speech that they did not want any politicising of the issue.
He demanded "strictest punishment" for the vice-chancellor and the minister holding them "responsible" for the death of the research scholar.
Gandhi, however, did not name Irani who had over the weekend attacked him in Amethi accusing him of failure in addressing issues of youth in his constituency.
After meeting the students, Gandhi upped the ante against Irani and Dattatreya and the vice chancellor, by observing in a tweet: "The VC and Union ministers in Delhi have not acted fairly. This youngster was put in so much pain that he had no option but to kill himself."
The dalit student Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide on Sunday night, was among the five research scholars who were suspended by Hyderabad Central University (HCU) in August last year and one of the accused in the case of assault on a student leader. They were also kept out of the hostel.
Union Labour Minister Dattatreya and Hyderabad University Vice Chancellor Appa Rao and three others were yesterday named in an FIR lodged with the Cyberabad police over the alleged suicide of the dalit student.
Rahul said there was "no question of the Vice Chancellor remaining" and criticised him severely for not even meeting the mother of the deceased.
"There are certain people responsible for it. Vice Chancellor is among them. The minister is among them," Gandhi said insisting that whoever is responsible for this outcome has to be punished in strictest terms.
The Congress Vice President also chose the occasion to flag the need for a legislation to protect the interests of the students.
"We should not let the ball fall here. We should keep the flag up. In the future, we should create a legislation, a law which gives certain minimum rights to every Indian student, minimum rights with regard to the freedom of ideas and expression.
"One can express those ideas regardless of who they are, what caste they are, where they come from, what religion they have," Gandhi said.
In a series of other tweets, Gandhi said, "Any student can come to the University- whether he belongs to any caste or religion. He should feel that I can say what I want to say.
The idea of a University is that young people can come and share their thoughts."
"These students were protesting against the unjust expulsion and social boycott of Dalit students on campus.
Met students of the Ambedkar Students Association, Hyderabad University," he said in the other tweets.
"There are certain people who are responsible for this boy’s death. The Vice-Chancellor is among them. The Minister is among them and the people that have applied pressure on this boy from expressing his ideas are among them.
Whoever is responsible for this "outcome" (the death) has to be punished in the strictest manner possible", he said.
Earlier, Gandhi, who was accompanied by senior Telangana Congress leaders, paid tributes to Vemula by garlanding a memorial "stupa" put up in the university. He also spent some time with family members of Vemula and consoled them.
Gandhi is the first major leader from a national party to visit the University after the incident.
A two-member Trinamool Congress delegation led by party MP and national spokesperson Derek O’Brien is going to Hyderabad this evening to express solidarity with the students protesting against the alleged suicide.
RPI leader Ramdas Athawale would be visiting the student’s family in Hyderabad tomorrow. Students wing of NCP also held protests at various places in Maharashtra.
Some student leaders tried to clarify that this issue was "not Congress versus BJP" for them and they do not want politics on it as the protest is to seek justice for the victim.
Noting the contention, Gandhi said there is some discussion that the issue should not be politicised.
"There is no question of politicising it. But what has happened here is that some youngsters wanted to express certain ideas. The institution instead of operating fairly used its power to crush," Gandhi said.
He said that a legislation is required to ensure the autonomy of institutions and one that it "does not allow the central government to impose" conditions on institutions that leads to such incidents.
Going hammer and tongs at the Vice Chancellor, the Congress leader said that whenever any such incident happens in a university when some student commits suicide or dies due to accident or illness, decency and dignity demand that the man in charge of running the University meet the family members.
Alleging that the Vice Chancellor did not bother to meet the mother of the victim, he said it was an "insult" not only to family members of the victim but the entire nation.
Assuring the students that they are not alone in this fight, Gandhi said that he has come to the campus not as a politician but a young person who feels what the students are going through.
"Compensation has to be paid to Rohit…And it is perfectly valid demand that his family should be paid five crore rupees", he said, adding compensation also meant respect and job for the bereaved family.
"I have come here for Rohit but Rohit is not alone. All of you in this university are not alone," he said.