Prof K.Y.Ratnam is the last person one expects to get arrested on charges of destruction of public property or provoking violence. So we were dismayed to find that he is one of the people arrested in UOH along with 27 young students and a faculty member in this week’s crackdown in the University.
But perhaps one should expect that he is on the watch-list of the current Vice Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile. In 2001, Prof Ratnam, then an assistant warden of hostels, was targeted by administrative humiliation, which led to student support and the rustication of eight dalit students from the university. The current vice chancellor Prof Appa Rao Podile was then the chief warden of the hostels. He was the authority who handed out the humiliating posting to Ratnam. He has also been charged with pursuing the rustication of the nine dalit students. His antagonism with Ratnam therefore is well known.
Prof. Ratnam has been one among the SC/ST faculty who have extended whole hearted support to the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice in HCU formed after Rohith Vemula’s suicide two months ago. In the melee which led to his arrest, Ratnam was seen and heard pleading with the police not to be too harsh with the students. And this seems to be the ‘offence’ that he was arrested for. According to those who visited him in the Cherlapally prison he was beaten by the police in the van and in the police station too. And sustained injuries in his face.
Following his arrest he is likely to be suspended from the university. If this happens his course with 72 students is likely to remain unfinished. This would definitely trouble him, being the conscientious teacher that he is. He has had several dalit M Phil and PhD students successfully defend their work under his guidance over the past two decades. And his gentle and persuasive force towards rational thinking in the anti-caste struggles is too well known in the university and the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh too.
A few lines about his other academic credentials will not be out of place here. He started the Centre for Ambedkar Studies in the University of Hyderabad. And is the first teacher to take up Ambedkar’s writings in the curriculum and has taught the issue of caste and oppression in the department of political science. He has been part of a recent collective initiative that published a volume analyzing and criticizing the attempt by the RSS to appropriate the thought of Ambedkar.
Conscientiousness, academic credentials and political commitment seem to be the crimes for which Prof. Ratnam is being targeted by Prof. Appa Rao Podile’s administration. Fortunately they are not crimes in the Indian Penal Code.