India rocked by suicide of Dalit PhD student

Allegations of mistreatment by university raises questions of discrimination against 'untouchable' caste

January 26, 2016
Indian flag

There is fierce debate in India over the suicide of a Dalit PhD student in a case that has ignited concerns over discrimination against lower castes in the country.

Rohith Vemula, who was studying life sciences at Hyderabad Central University, died on 17 January after the university stopped paying him scholarship money and suspended him after a political clash with the student wing of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), newspaper reports say.

His death has triggered protests by students across the country and calls for the vice-chancellor of Hyderabad to resign.

Mr Vemula was a member of a pro-Dalit group, the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), which clashed with the BJP-linked Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the summer of 2015, during which the head of the ABVP claimed that he was assaulted by Mr Vemula’s group.

An investigation into his death by the Indian Express claimed that following this incident, the university stripped him of his stipend because of his political campaigning.

He was “steadily isolated by campus authorities and his appeals – many of them anguished and sometimes cloaked in irony – went largely unheard”, the newspaper claims.  

In the months leading up to his suicide, he was short of money and had borrowed from a friend, according to the newspaper.

A university official responded that Mr Vemula’s stipend had become “stuck” due to “lapses in processing the paperwork”.

Mr Vemula and four others were suspended from the university in September 2015. Earlier this month they moved out of their university rooms to tents on campus, and started a hunger strike.

On January 24, Hyderabad’s vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile went on leave, according to the university.  

Earlier today, Hyderabad appealed to students, who have blocked the campus in protest, to allow the university to return to normal.

Following the uproar over Mr Vemula’s death, Hyderabad has dropped punishments against the other four ASA students and paid Rs 8 lakhs (£8,235) to his family. It pointed out that there had been no court case filed against the university.

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Related articles

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Vice Principal DURHAM UNIVERSITY
Reader/Professor of Race and Education LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY
Professor of Teacher Education LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest