University of Minnesota Stands in Solidarity with the University of Hyderabad

We, the undersigned at the University of Minnesota, strongly condemn the current onslaught on protesting students and faculty at the University of Hyderabad. Following the tragic death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula earlier this year, the UoH community has been questioning the role of the university administration in the circumstances leading to his suicide. Days before he took his life, five Dalit scholars including Vemula were expelled by the university administration. At the behest of the ruling government, they were punished for screening a film which documents the frightening spread of Hindu fundamentalism in India today. In the wake of their expulsion and then Vemula’s suicide, the UoH community spearheaded a nation-wide movement which draws attention to the horrific normalization of caste discrimination and the growing criminalization of dissent in universities in India. Instead of responding to the concerns raised by the movement, the university administration recently reinstated P Appa Rao to the office of the Vice Chancellor. As P Appa Rao has been charged for abetting Vemula’s suicide, this amounts to an utter mockery of the movement and also threatens the integrity of the on-going judicial enquiry about his death. This has rightfully angered the UoH community which registered its protest by peacefully occupying the office of the Vice Chancellor on 22 March 2016.

Since then, the University has entered a state of siege. This protest was violently suppressed by the police and university authorities, in collusion with the student wing of the ruling party. The protesters were verbally and physically assaulted by the police and women students were threatened with sexual abuse. Many had to be rushed to hospital with one student needing critical care. In complete violation of due process of law, 27 people including students and faculty members were taken into police custody and their whereabouts were not disclosed for 48 hours. They were brutally tortured in jail and denied access to legal representation and remedies. On campus, the university administration has imposed a virtual emergency. In the immediate aftermath of the events of 22 March, the administration cut supplies of food, water, electricity, internet connectivity and ATM facilities from campus. Students and staff who attempted to provide relief through community kitchens were also attacked by the police. The campus has largely remained shut off to lawyers, journalists, human rights organizations and ordinary citizens. We are horrified and outraged by this repressive response by the police and university administration and unequivocally register our protest against it. We are also deeply dismayed by the failure of the mainstream media in drawing attention to this onslaught on the University of Hyderabad.

This attack repeats an emergent pattern of collusion between the student wing of the ruling parties, university administrations and the government in crushing dissent in educational institutions in India. The recent attacks on dissenting students all over the country, including at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Film and Television Institute of India and the University of Allahabad among others, amount to a clear threat to democracy. Unsurprisingly, this coincides with a moment when the students’ movement in India is fast gaining steam and is becoming the most forceful critic of the government in power. By violently clamping down on protest, it appears that the government wants to stifle critical enquiry and independent thinking in educational institutions.

In the face of such attacks, students from across the country have come together in a remarkable show of courage, strength and resilience. These demonstrations have also been harshly repressed by the police through detentions, lathi charges and so on. We lend our support to this movement and stand with the University of Hyderabad in their admirable fight against casteism and the criminalization of dissent.

In solidarity with the UoH community, we demand the immediate release of all arrested students and faculty* and the dropping of charges against them. We also demand the withdrawal of police forces from the university campus and legal action against police personnel accused of assaulting the students and faculty. We echo the movement’s call for suspension of the Vice Chancellor and demand a probe into his role, along with that of Smriti Irani (Union Minister of Human Resource Development) and Bandaru Dattatreya (Union Minister of Labour and Employment), in inciting violence against Dalit students. Finally, we strongly support the demand for creating and passing the Rohith Act to address caste discrimination in educational institutions in India.

*In the days since we started collecting signatures for this petition, the arrested students and faculty have been released on bail. However, we strongly condemn their arrest in the first place, and the violence faced by them, and firmly stand with the on-going movement at the University of Hyderabad.

Signed by:

  1. Kriti Budhiraja, Graduate student, Sociology
  2. Miray Philips, Graduate student, Sociology
  3. Suvadip Sinha, Faculty
  4. Siddharth Bharath Iyengar, Graduate student, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
  5. Naomi Scheman, Faculty, Philosophy and Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies
  6. Akshya Saxena, Graduate student, Comparative Literature
  7. Abir Bazaz, Graduate student
  8. Harshit Rathi, Graduate student, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature
  9. Richa Nagar, Faculty, College of Liberal Arts
  10. Ferdinand Mwaka Chipindi, Graduate student, Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development
  11. Mauricio Leon, Graduate student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  12. Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Faculty, Anthropology
  13. Maria Mendez, Graduate student, Political Science
  14. Michael Goldman, Faculty
  15. Ana Claudia dos Santos Sao Bernardo, Graduate student, Spanish and Portuguese
  16. Jigna Desai, Faculty, Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
  17. Quynh Pham, Graduate student, Political Science
  18. Cristy Portales, Graduate student, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
  19. Lalit Batra, Graduate student, Geography
  20. Kai Bosworth, Graduate student, Geography
  21. Anuradha Sajjanhar, Graduate student, Sociology
  22. Devika Narayan, Graduate student, Sociology
  23. Julia Corwin, Graduate student, Geography
  24. Anindita Chatterjee, Graduate student, Geography, environment and society
  25. Peyton Ginakes, Graduate student, Dept of Horticultural Science
  26. V. V. Ganeshananthan , Faculty, English & Creative Writing
  27. K Rahul Sharma, Graduate student, Public Affairs
  28. Ketaki Jaywant, Graduate student, History
  29. Adey Almohsen, Graduate student, History
  30. Robin Wright, Graduate student, Geography, Environment, and Society
  31. Sravanthi Kollu, Graduate student, Asian Languages and Literatures
  32. Nina Asher, Faculty, Curriculum and Instruction, CEHD
  33. Nithya Rajan, Graduate student, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies
  34. Keavy McFadden, Graduate student, Geography
  35. Isabel Arriagada, Graduate student, CLA
  36. Joseph Getzoff, Graduate student, Geography
  37. Sian Butcher, Graduate student, Geography
  38. Elliot James Graduate student    History
  39. Sonali Pahwa, Faculty
  40. Keya Ganguly, Faculty, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature
  41. Sarah Saddler, Graduate student, Theatre arts and dance
  42. Mayank Kohli, Graduate student, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior
  43. Richard Barnes, Former Staff/ Faculty/ Fellows/ Visiting Scholars and Other Affiliates, EEB
  44. Chip Chang, Graduate student, American Studies
  45. Allison Nobles, Graduate student, Sociology
  46. Matt Gunther, Graduate student, Sociology
  47. Gwendolin McCrea, Graduate student, Geography, Environment and Society
  48. Soham Patel, Graduate student, American Studies
  49. Abhay Doshi, Graduate student, Department of English
  50. Alex Manning, Graduate student, Sociology
  51. Maria Rebolleda-Gomez, Graduate student, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
  52. Sara Musaifer, Graduate student, Comparative and International Development Education (CIDE)
  53. jim saliba, Graduate student , Sociology
  54. Jose Manuel Santillana, Graduate student, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Department
  55. Elena Hristova, Graduate student, Communication Studies/Critical Media Studies
  56. Sungok Hong, Faculty, ALL
  57. Meryl Lodge, Graduate student, Anthropology
  58. Rahsaan Mahadeo, Graduate student, Sociology
  59. Anthony Jimenez, Graduate student, Sociology


2 thoughts on “University of Minnesota Stands in Solidarity with the University of Hyderabad”

  1. While the students and staff have been released bowing to international and national pressure, a lot still remains to be done. In the first, the pressure must continue to sustain for a longer period as the VC is still rooted in his seat and casteist politics of the ruling fanatics has not died down. Rohith family has not received justice and the cases against the arrested have not been fully withdrawn. This needs further strengthening of movement and more support from foreign countries along with Indian communities of all walks of life. There are , as Robert Frost said, “…miles to go…”!!

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