The Congress on Thursday demanded the sacking of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani from the cabinet for “misleading” people about the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters here that the “anti-Dalit mindset of the BJP and the RSS” has been manifesting itself over the last 20 months in various forms across the country.
“The minister has hoodwinked, misled the country and it is one more attempt on part of the (Narendra) Modi government to perpetuate their anti-poor and anti-Dalit agenda. She should be sacked forthwith,” Surjewala said.
Vemula ended his life on Sunday. He was staging a protest along with four other Dalit research scholars over their suspension following an alleged clash with some leaders of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a students wing of the RSS.
Surjewala said union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, “on whose letter the HRD ministry had pressurised for expulsion of the five Ph.D. Dalit students”, should also be removed from the cabinet.
He said a university board had, in its first report, revoked the suspension of the five Ph.D. Dalit scholars and alleged that its decision was reversed under pressure of the HRD ministry and the vice chancellor.
He said the SC/ST Forum of teachers of Hyderabad University also has found fault with some of Irani’s remarks.
Surjewala said Irani and the Bharatiya Janata Party should tell if the university had taken action against the five Dalit scholars for their slight verbal argument with the campus ABVP chief.
“Was the quantum and nature of punishment justified? Does the HRD minister and her colleague Bandaru Dattatreya feel that anyone who does not agree with the opinion of the BJP or ABVP activists is anti-national?” Surjewala asked and added that there was no apology for the mistakes.
Surjewala also asked if Irani should “as a mother” and custodian of educational institutions not have visited the family of Vemula to offer condolences.
The Congress spokesperson asked Irani if she agreed with her ministerial colleague Ramvilas Paswan’s suggestion that there should be an inquiry into the scholar’s death.
Surjewala sought action against vice chancellor Appa Rao, BJP legislator Ramchandra Rao and Dattatreya. “They should be arrested in the case,” he said.
Surjewala said adequate compensation should be given to the family of Vemula.