Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) strongly condemns the brutal police action against the students of the University of Hyderabad. The students, who were exercising their democratic right to protest, were lathi-charged, beaten and manhandled and women students were mauled and threatened with sexual assault. Students and faculty members were forcibly dragged into police vans, thrashed and moved from thana to thana to prevent them from contacting their lawyers and families. They have also been mercilessly beaten while in custody. As many as 34 students and three faculty members have been sent to jail – the beatings have continued even after remand.
For the last two months, the students of the Universty of Hyderabad have been protesting the institutional murder of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. Their campaign for justice for Rohith has reverberated across the country and has rallied thousands in support of their call for an end to caste discrimination in educational institutions.
The police action follows hard on the heels of the re-appearance of the VC on the campus. This individual is one of the key actors in the events leading to Rohith’s death, and stands charged with offences under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. He was supposedly on indefinite leave pending the results of the inquiry instituted against him, and the students protested against this stealthy attempt at his re-instatement with a gherao of the VC’s lodge.
The response of the Government of Telengana and the University has been to turn the campus into a war zone. The students are under siege – hostel messes have been locked down, electricity and water have been cut off and the gates sealed to prevent the entry of media persons and “outsiders” trying to provide food, water and medical aid to the injured. Students who have volunteered to keep the kitchens running to feed their comrades have been beaten and their provisions confiscated. At least one of these volunteers is critically injured and still not out of danger. The media is being fed with concocted reports that are contradicted by video footage taken by students, with testimonies describing the attacks and showing their injuries. The continued presence on the campus of large numbers of armed police tells its own story.
The strategy of the BJP government – to crush all dissent and establish a totalitarian saffron regime in institutions of higher education – is now visible in campuses across the country, from Hyderabad to JNU, Pune and Chennai. The HRD Ministry is brazenly using every possible instrument to foist their regressive, limited and flawed version of education on the academic community. The government has shown its willingness to use force to stifle critical enquiry and independent thought, and to silence dissent and questioning.
We stand strongly with the students of the University of Hyderabad in their struggle to protect democracy on the campus and to challenge and combat casteism and discrimination in educational institutions. We salute them, and their comrades in struggle in universities across the country, for bringing new energy and hope to our democracy through their determined opposition to the repressive casteist, communal and patriarchal ideology and world view that the Hindutvavadi regime seeks to foist on us.
We salute Radhika Vemula for her determination to claim justice for her son and for the lakhs of Dalit students who are daily facing violence and discrimination in their pursuit of education.
We condemn the actions of the state government, which has shown its subservience to the Modi sarkar and cynically sold out its commitment to the students without whom Telengana would not have come into being.
- Immediate withdrawal of police from the campus.
- Immediate release of all arrested students and faculty.
- Suspension of P Appa Rao.
Judicial enquiry into the role of the HRD Ministry, the HRD Minister and Sri Bandaru Dattatreya in inciting violence against Dalits on campus.
Independent enquiry into the incidents of violence on the campus including the role of the ABVP in vandalising the VC’s office.
Action against police personnel named by students in their complaints.
Passage of the “Rohith Act” against caste discrimination in education.