Rahul Gandhi Rohith Vemula
Rahul Gandhi joins hunger strike on 'request' from victim's kin. Picture: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi with students protesting the suicide of research scholar Rohith Vemula at the Hyderabad Central University, on 30 January, 2016.IANS

Congress vice-president (VP) Rahul Gandhi joined a 12-hour hunger strike called by students of the University of Hyderabad on Saturday morning. He said that deceased Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula's family requested him to join the protest.

Vemula committed suicide due to the disciplinary actions taken by the university against him and four others. The five students were suspended from the hostel and other public arenas of the institution for beating up an Akhil Bhartiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) leader. The human resource ministry is said to have pressurised the university to suspend the five students on the behest of Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya. 

In retaliation, ABVP in Telangana called for a statewide shutdown of universities on Saturday.

"ABVP strongly opposes the politicisation being done by Rahul Gandhi in Hyderabad Central University at a time when peaceful atmosphere is returning in the university," ABVP national executive member Kadiam Raju was quoted as saying by The Indian Express

Gandhi arrived at the Hyderabad University early on Saturday to join the protest. A candlelight vigil was held to commemorate Vemula, whose birth anniversary is on 30 January. Protests have been underway since Vemula's body was discovered on 17 January. 

"I am here today at the request of Rohith's friends and family, to stand with them in their fight for justice (sic)," Gandhi Tweeted.

"We owe it to him, to the memory of Gandhiji and to every single Indian student who dreams of an India free from prejudice and injustice (sic)," he added on the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Saturday's visit was the Gandhi scion's second to the university after the issue became a national-level agenda.