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Indian students protest fellow’s death

23 February 2016 20:26


Thousands of Indian students and teachers staged a protest rally in the capital, New Delhi, to protest the recent death of a student who faced caste discrimination, and the arrest of a student leader on charges of sedition.

The protesters on Tuesday marched from New Delhi’s two main universities towards the Indian parliament, chanting slogans in condemnation of violence by supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist party, and demanding Kanhaiya Kumar’s immediate release.

Kumar, who is president of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s student union, was arrested earlier this month over sedition charges.

Student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar (C) is escorted by police into Patiala Court for a hearing in New Delhi on February 17, 2016.(AFP PHOTO)

Opposition politicians, who were addressing the rally, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of suppressing freedom of expression and instigating caste conflict in the country.

Hundreds of security forces monitored the student rally, joined by thousands of teachers, journalists and ordinary citizens, who waved Indian flags during the march.

The protesters chanted, “We will not tolerate attacks on freedom of speech,” ”BJP government come to your senses,” and “Down with the BJP government.”

Meanwhile, a New Delhi court has remanded Kumar in custody until March 2. Five other students who face similar allegations are expected to turn themselves in to authorities.

The protesters also called for justice for Rohith Vemula, a student of Hyderabad University, who police say committed suicide after being subjected to sustained discrimination on account of his caste.

Indian students take part in a protest rally at Hyderabad Central University in Hyderabad on January 19, 2016, after a 26-year-old doctoral student, Rohit Vemula was found dead at a university hostel. (AFP PHOTO)

The protesters accused Hyderabad University’s vice chancellor of unfairly demanding punishment for five lower-caste students, including Vemula, after they clashed last year with student supporters of the BJP.

Although caste discrimination is outlawed in India, it remains an influential factor in society. The government sets quotas at universities and in jobs to reverse it.

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