Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s felicitation of Hyderabad Central University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile on Tuesday has evoked an uproar from the family and the colleagues of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula saying Modi’s gesture to the alleged “murderer” is an insult to the late scholar.
Inaugurating the 104th Session of the Indian Science Congress in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, PM Modi honoured and awarded “Millennium Plaque of Honour” to Podile and several other academics during the ceremony on Tuesday.
“All along we have been saying that BJP is shielding the killers of my brother. Today, it has come out in the open. How can Modiji award a person who’s responsible for the death of my brother?” Raja Vemula, the youngest brother of Rohith said in an interview.
“At the time of his death, PM Modi said ‘Mother India has lost a son.. he felt the pain’. Isn’t the award to Appa Rao an insult to Rohith? The message is clear: do anything and there will be no actions against you,” Raja said. He also went on to insinuate that Podile was having close links with RSS and some Union ministers.
Podile, who took over as the VC of Hyderabad Central University in September 201, has been in the centre of the storm since January last year after 26 year-old suspended Dalit Scholar Vemula hanged himself inside a friend’s hostel room.
While a police case was filed under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act against Podile, BJP MP Bandaru Dattatreya and several others, none of the accused were arrested.
The incident had translated into a massive uproar on the streets of India with students demanding arrest and sacking of VC Podile for his alleged “discrimination” against Dalit students. The suicide of Vemula, who went on to become the face of various student movement across India in 201, also rocked parliament after opposition blamed ruling BJP and then Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was “shielding” Podile and some BJP leaders.
The three other Dalit scholars, who were suspended by Podile along with Vemula in 2015 over a campus clash with members of ABVP, also lashed out at Modi. However, their criticism wasn’t restricted to the role of Podile in Vemula’s case only but its impact on the scientific temperament of the country.