PM Modi pays teary tribute to Dalit scholar after suicide

Published: January 22, 2016
Indian PM Narendra Modi PHOTO: REUTERS

Indian PM Narendra Modi PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an emotional tribute on Friday to a young scholar from India’s lowest Dalit caste who committed suicide last week, a death some have blamed on social discrimination.

Modi said India had “lost a son” when Rohith Vemula, a 26-year-old doctoral student, was found hanged on Sunday after he was barred from some parts of Hyderabad University campus.

“(It is sad) when there is news that a young son of my country, Rohith, was compelled to commit suicide… India has lost a son,” a visibly emotional Modi said as he paused to fight back tears.

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“Reason can be on one side, politics on the other, but the truth is that a mother has lost her son and I feel the family’s pain very well,” the premier said in a speech at a university in the northern city of Lucknow.

Television footage showed university students dragging out protesters who shouted anti-Modi insults during his address.

Vemula was one of five students, all Dalits, who were suspended by the university after they were accused of assaulting the head of a right-wing student political group — a charge they denied.

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His suicide has triggered protests in Hyderabad and in the Indian capital New Delhi by protesters who said the students were punished because of their social status.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are frequent victims of violence and prejudice in many Indian states, with cases of discrimination against them often treated as a low priority by local authorities.

There are approximately 180 million Dalits among India’s 1.25 billion population.

The government said on Friday it had set up a judicial panel to investigate Vemula’s death.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Jan 22, 2016 - 8:45PM

    Uff these politicians just need an excuse to show their theatricals . Recommend

  • usman778
    Jan 22, 2016 - 9:53PM

    but wait how many times have our indians friends told us “there is to be no such thing as caste in india”Recommend

  • American Singh
    Jan 22, 2016 - 11:44PM

    I can appreciate that but I would’ve also liked to see Mr. Modi shed some tears for Mohammad Akhlaq (who was killed by goons on suspicion of eating beef) or even mention his name for that matter!Recommend

  • logic
    Jan 23, 2016 - 12:48AM

    Dalits have constitutionaly 49% of seats reserved for them in all government colleges and all government jobs except army in entire countryRecommend

  • Amer
    Jan 23, 2016 - 2:09AM

    Never saw Modi shed a single tear over the thousands of Muslims killed under his watch !
    What a shame ! Recommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Jan 23, 2016 - 1:53PM

    Caste is a very misunderstood subject outside Hinduism . If you are following this case , you will realise that its not caste related . Theres moer to this than that meets the eye . Recommend

  • Pure Ind
    Jan 24, 2016 - 2:12PM

    Please dont relate every death with religion, A life of a Hindu is no less than a muslim & visa versa, secondly are you aware in this very same country sixty six thousand hindu families were targeted killed & raped & forced to leave Kashmir because of their religion much before the Gujarat riots, this was under the nose of the so called secular forces, no one shed a tear & every one has forgotten it. Recently a massive mob of minority community in Bengal ransacked & destroyed Govt. property but all these crimes are covered up for to satisfy a certain community & to look secular. Recommend

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