Loud anti-government slogans causing an uproar over the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula disrupted the Rajya Sabha Wednesday — the second day of the long budget session of the Indian parliament. The upper house was adjourned five times after members assembled for the day at 11 a.m.
After earlier adjournments in the morning, Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the house till 2 in the afternoon when members refused to let the house function and wanted the government to discuss Vemula’s alleged January 17 suicide.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has 10 members in the house, blamed the central government for the scholar’s suicide in Hyderabad University. They gathered at the chairman’s podium, demanding the government suspend the Question Hour and debate the issue first.
They raised slogans, seeking justice for the family members of the dead student. They alleged that the government was anti-Dalit. “Rohith ke parivar ko, nyaay dou, nyaay dou”, “Dalit virdohi sarkar, nahin chalegi, nahin chalegi”, they shouted incessantly in front of the podium.
BSP leader Mayawati insisted that the government should respond first and debate the issue. “This is not the first time a Dalit student committed suicide,” the BSP supremo said.
“Rohith Vemula was Ambedkar supporter. RSS did not like this, he was exploited,” Mayawati said, referring to B.R. Ambedkar, the author of the Indian Constitution, who was a Dalit leader.
The upper house was forced into five adjournments till afternoon despite Ansari making a passionate appeal to slogan shouting members, requesting them that they should let the Question Hour proceed and raise the issue later in the day. “Disruption of question hour is violation of privilege of individual members. Is the house going on that track,” Ansari asked.
“The questions have been listed and they have to be answered.” The government as well as the chair pointed out that a debate on the Vemula death is listed for discussion later in the day.
But the protesting members didn’t relent and continued with their slogan shouting near the chairman’s podium.
The death of the Dalit student triggered widespread protests from opposition, who demanded action against central ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya, who were blamed for forcing Vemula to take his life.