This Article is From Jan 22, 2016

PM On Rohith Vemula's Suicide: 'Politics Aside, A Mother Lost Her Son'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula's suicide at a Lucknow university

Lucknow: Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an emotional tribute today to Hyderabad research student Rohith Vemula, whose suicide last week has led to a political controversy and has been blamed by some on social discrimination.

"I can't imagine what his family members is going through. A mother has lost her 'laal' (son). Politics aside, the fact is that we lost a son. I can understand the pain," PM Modi, visibly emotional, said at the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Lucknow.

"(It is sad) when there is news that a young son of my country, Rohith, was compelled to commit suicide...," said the prime minister, pausing to fight back tears.

Two students wearing blue scarves meant for Masters degree scholars shouted slogans as the PM began his speech. They were escorted out of the auditorium.

The Prime Minister's words come at a time his party, especially two of his ministers, are confronting anger after the suicide of the 26-year-old research student at the Hyderabad Central University.

Rohith hung himself on Sunday, days after the university suspended him and four other Dalit students and banned them from the hostel and other common areas on campus for allegedly beating an activist from the BJP's student wing.

Students and the opposition allege that Rohith was subjected to caste discrimination and letters from union ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani compelled the university to punish the five students.

PM Modi's first visit to the Uttar Pradesh capital since he took power in 2014 saves his party much discomfort ahead of polls not just in five states this year and in Uttar Pradesh next year.

Sources say the BJP does not want the perception to grow that it is anti-Dalit. The party perceives that it lost ground among Dalits in Bihar after the killing of Dalit children in BJP-ruled Haryana.

Party sources said he chose the university convocation to speak on Rohith's suicide to reach out not just to Dalits but also the youth, a section that was seen as a big factor in the BJP's 2014 victory.