HYDERABAD: Shouting slogans and holding placards, hundreds of students on Tuesday angrily protested the death of an Indian student who, along with four others, was barred from using some facilities at his university in the southern tech-hub of Hyderabad.

The protesters accused Hyderabad University’s vice chancellor and a federal minister of unfairly demanding punishment for the five lower-caste students after they clashed last year with a group of students supporting the governing Hindu nationalist party.

Police are investigating whether actions by the officials contributed to the 26-year-old doctoral student’s death, which they say was a suicide. He had been a member of a group representing Dalits, the lowest caste in India’s Hindu caste hierarchy.

The demonstrations in Hyderabad drew nationwide attention, with TV channels running updates throughout the morning. The students have boycotted their classes and were holding a sit-in in the university. “We want justice,” they shouted as scores of police stood by.

Police detained eight students overnight following day-long protests on Monday.

Students in Mumbai university also held protests and demanded the removal of the Hyderabad University vice chancellor.

Rohith Vemula’s body was found hanging in a hostel room, weeks after university authorities barred the five students from staying in the students’ hostel or using the library or other facilities. The five had been living in a tent outside the gate of the university since their suspension on Dec 21.

University officials had cleared the five Dalit students in a preliminary inquiry into the clash, but reversed that decision in December and ordered that they be suspended.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2016

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