NEW DELHI: The suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad University created an uproar in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, as Bahujan Samaj Party members raised slogans against the government and angry exchanges were seen in the house of elders.
The issue was raised by BSP leader Mayawati soon after the house met at 11 a.m.
"This is not the first time a Dalit student committed suicide," the BSP leader said.
"Rohith Vemula was an Ambedkar supporter. The RSS did not like this, he was exploited," Mayawati said referring to B.R. Ambedkar, the author of the Constitution who was a Dalit.
This was followed by sloganeering by BSP members, who called the government "anti-Dalit".
Amid the din, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned five times in the pre-lunch session, and when the house met at 2 p.m., angry exchanges were witnessed between Mayawati and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani.
Mayawati wanted the government to disclose if there will be a Dalit member oln the judicial committee looking into the circumstances around Vemula's suicide in the Hyderabad University.
"A Dalit professor was there whose decision you would not have accepted... You want to say Mayawati ji, a Dalit is a Dalit only if Mayawati ji gives a certificate?" Irani said, causing a huge uproar among the protesting members.
Angry exchanges were seen between Irani and Mayawati, as BSP members once again raised slogans demanding justice for Vemula's family.
They alleged that the government was anti-Dalit.
"Rohith ke parivar ko, nyay do, nyay do", "Dalit virdohi sarkar, nahin chalegi, nahin chalegi", the BSP members shouted incessantly in front of the chairman's podium.
In the din, the house was adjourned for 15 minutes.
When the house met again, Mayawati said the discussion on the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Vemula issues should not be merged.
"These are both important matters... It would have been better had the discussions been separate. When we saw both issues have been taken together, we felt this issue (Vemula's suicide) will be suppressed. So, we had to raise the issue. There was no big demand, we just wanted to know if the judicial committee has a Dalit member. There should have been yes or no answer," Mayawati said.
Irani said: "I am willing to answer any question."
When the government appeared non-committal on including a Dalit member on the judicial committee, Mayawati said: "Had the prime minister (Narendra Modi) been here, he would have agreed to our demand."
Some members, including Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav, suggested that the debate can be taken up on Thursday.
No agreement could be reached and the protest continued, following which the house was adjourned for half an hour, and then again for 15 minutes.
When the house met again, members agreed to take up the debate on Thursday.
"Tomorrow, the government will respond to the point raised by behenji (Mayawati)," Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the response will be given at the end of the debate.
"I do not believe government ministers, but I have faith in you," Mayawati told the chair.
"The other house is functioning very well. I thank you at the good understanding arrived at. I hope tomorrow the house will function smoothly," said Kurien, before adjourning the house for the day.
The death of Dalit student Rohith Vemula triggered widespread protests by the opposition, who demanded action against ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya, who were blamed for forcing Vemula to take his life.