Tag Archives: HCU VC Appa Rao

Statement against the Attack on the ‘Velivada’ in Hyderabad Central University: SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of Hyderabad University

Guest Post by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of Hyderabad University

In the early hours 28th May 2016, at around 2 P.M., the authorities at the University of Hyderabad removed the tents erected in North Shopcom around the Velivada and the venue of protest following the death of Rohith Vemula. This happened in the darkness of night, shrouded in secrecy and utterly insensitive towards the turmoil it was bound generate within the student community. Such an act reaffirms the dictatorial stance of the present administration as well as its intolerance to dissent.

The removal of the tent is a clear act of provocation against students since it is well known that they are emotionally attached to the Velivada and consider it as a place of mourning and memorial for Rohith. Especially for the Dalit students, it remains the site of challenge against caste discrimination. Further, bringing down the posters of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s quotes that surrounded the tent is a grave insult to the Father of the Constitution of this country and an atrocity in itself. It is indeed ironic that the university administration that overtly pronounces its intent  to celebrate Dr.Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary for a year has no qualms about removing his posters, or barring his grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, from entering the university. Such actions unmask the true character of the administration; revealing its deeply discriminatory, apathetic and disrespectful attitude towards Dalits and their leaders.

Perhaps the University officials have long forgotten that a University is not to be ruled and subjugated through the military doctrine of “shock and awe” (who can forget George Bush’s now ill famous use of the term during the military invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003!). Instead, patience, maturity and genuine dialogue with the students alone can help us through these difficult times. Unfortunately, the authorities have acted in an extremely unbefitting manner, without the slightest concern for the feelings of their own students. Further, this act of destruction appears doubly mindless and vindictive because the presence of a tent in the Shopcom area does not harm anyone. In fact, through the scorching summer, many people take shelter under it beating the intense heat—be it the students having their food there or other workers who need to be around the Shopcom area. Therefore, we see absolutely no justification for its removal, that too in such a stealthy and unceremonious manner, taking advantage of the the anonymity of the night during vacation. Clearly the authorities are well aware how heartless and unethical such an action is and the serious opposition that it is sure to encounter if carried out during daytime.

The thoughtless desecration of the Velivada compels us to ask a few critical questions. Is it necessary to instigate confrontations in a campus that is already struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of Rohith Vemula, the brutal lathicharge and imposition of false cases against students and faculty and the continuous harassment of students that takes many different forms? Is it not the urgent responsibility of the administration be a little more receptive to the concerns and feelings of the students, keeping in mind the larger interests of the University? It is a cruel irony that while the administration proclaims to the world that it wants “normalcy” to return to the campus, its actions remain blatantly aggressive, anti-student and discriminatory.

More than four months have passed by since that fateful night when a brilliant young man with immense potential and a strong sense of social justice gave up his life, hounded by the administration on the basis of a fictitious charge and non-existent evidence.  We may recall that the cruel and unusual punishment of suspension from hostels and all common spaces was handed out to the five Dalit students during another vacation—the winter of December 2015. Is it  just serendipity? Or, perhaps vacation is time of total impunity, when all natural and moral laws are suspended and humanity is forgotten? While the Rohith and his friends were forced to spend the cold winter nights out in the open, distraught students protesting the removal of the tent spent the day under the unforgiving Hyderabad sun near the main gate of the University on 28th May until they were pushed away by  the security guards.

Prof. Appa Rao Podile resumed office with the knowledge of a hand-picked teaching and non-teaching staff (after abandoning the University in a state of despair following the death of Rohith) on 22nd March, 2016, without so much as giving prior notice to the interim VC, Prof. Periasamy, fully aware how this would affect the protesting students and friends of Rohith. Now, once again, the Velivada has been desecrated when the world was asleep. We quote what a leading jurist Amita Dhanda had said recently with respect to the events at HCU: “A VC must not only be fair but be seen to be fair.” We leave it to our readers to decide whether the VC has ever acted or appeared to act as fair!

Evidently, the loss of Rohith’s life has not meant nor taught anything to the the University of Hyderabad authorities. Those who had closed their eyes to the evidence that screamed out that  Rohith and his friends were “Not Guilty”, have moved on. They now head important committees and speak on behalf of the University to the rest of the world. As ranks are bestowed upon the University, they brim over with pride and claim credit. It is well beyond their comprehension as to why large groups of students and faculty should hang on to a make-shift Velivada—with walls made up of flex-board images of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jotiba and Savitribai Phule and Kanshi Ram. For them, it is time to “cleanse” and “sanitize” the Shopcom of those disturbing reminders that tell us that “Something is rotten in the state of the University of Hyderabad.”

But the memory of injustice is a powerful tool. The very same structure that has been an eyesore to the administration is our history—poignant, gut-wrenching and yet imbuing our present with direction and the strength to struggle. To recall a stirring line that has emerged through the Rohith Vemula movement: “A spectre is haunting the brahminical academia—the spectre of caste.” We welcome and embrace this history. The Velivada is the place where Rohith spent his final destitute days, anxious that his years of hard work and aspiration to give a better life to his family may come to nought. This is where we come to pay our respects and to remind ourselves that there should be no more Rohiths. Around this very place, a community has gathered—of those who may not have known each other  earlier but who understood how critical it was to work towards a world where “a man is not reduced to his immediate identity”. People thronged to this place from different Universities and from all walks of life to pay homage, and in solidarity. Those who could not come still became part of this imagined community—those from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, the North East, in fact, from every part of this country—threaded together by empathy and experience. Rohith became an icon and a rallying cry because his life struck a chord with the large majority of Dalit  and other minoritized and underprivileged groups in India for whom education is still a humungous struggle. More important, breaking into the bastions of higher education remain acts of transgression and trespassing. Perhaps that is why the august body that passed the fatal judgement on Rohith Vemula did not even bother to maintain a facade of impartiality. Unfortunately for them, the masses of India—the Dalit and the underprivileged, those who are the “wretched of the earth” in the immortal and evocative words of Frantz Fanon, recognized this judgement for what it is, even as it came cloaked in the language of discipline and bureaucracy.

The socially marginalized, struggling parents who dream of a better life for their children instinctively know what happened—they completely and empathetically identify with Radhika Vemula who sent her son to the big University only to lose him forever. Similarly, all those students and teachers who have relentlessly and often silently faced discrimination in the hallowed portals of premier institutions of learning also know. We, the concerned faculty and students at the University of Hyderabad know. We shall not forget. We cannot forget. The administration is bent upon erasing the Velivada. Can they erase our memory? Can they erase the memory of that fateful night of January 17th? Rohith has travelled from the shadows to the stars. We ask Mr. Appa Rao Podile and his believers, “Can you destroy the stars? Because every time, on each dark night, when we look up we will see Rohith Vemula and we will remember what he lived and died for.”

Perhaps the University Administration presumes that a Velivada rightfully and customarily belongs to the margins of the village—far far away from the modern, secular/brahminical, high-ranking spaces of the University. However, through an extraordinary and imaginative act of symbolism, Rohith and his four friends have re-installed the Velivada in the midst of the University, in our hearts and in our consciousness. We need not skirt past it or bemoan the loss of the Shopcom (as the administration has been doing). For us it is a living history of sacrifice and struggle, forcing us to continually work towards a more pluralistic and egalitarian idea of the University.

There is a writing on the wall that that the administration cannot whitewash! The Velivada can no longer be cast out into the margins; it is here to stay. The University must take note and be attentive to this momentous turn of history.

SC/ST Teachers’ Forum and Concerned Teachers, University of Hyderabad

 

 

University of Hyderabad Alumni Teachers Protest the Brutal Police Acts on Campus

 

We are deeply pained to see the heinous attack by the state police and paramilitary force on students who are protesting the activities of Appa Rao Podile, the controversial Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad University. As the alumni of one of India’s premier educational institutions, presently teaching in various universities in India, and abroad, we strongly feel that such high handed actions and state sponsored police violence on students – both young men and women – must be condemned. This is crucial in an age of extensive authoritarian silencing. In this open communication with the higher ups in UoH, we would like to reiterate the fact that your dealing with the students has been miscalculated and has provided no reassurance at all. Blinded by a casteist mindset and a resurgent confidence in the wake of a political regime change, the university has failed miserably to instill much needed assurance in the students whose protests have been intensified since the forced suicide of Rohith Vemula.  To our utter dismay, we realise that the failed university administration has begun to work hand in glove with the police in order to silence students’ demands, which should have merited a careful hearing and meaningful resolution. However, the VC and his entourage in the university feel that such sustained efforts have no value in a democracy. The shameful activities of the Police-raj, and the subsequent choreographies of complacency at the university clearly display an abysmal misreading of subaltern issues and concerns about the every day survival of students from marginalised backgrounds. Continue reading University of Hyderabad Alumni Teachers Protest the Brutal Police Acts on Campus

Break the Blockade: A Message from a Faculty Member at UoH

[I just got this message from a friend who teaches at UoH and has been trying to support students there. The situation sounds so serious, I asked her permission to post part of the email on Kafila]

 … It has been a very crazy time for us here. However, at this point, in my personal opinion the highest priority is to remove the blockade of entry into the campus. Let me document for you what is still happening in the campus.

 

1. Parents of students arrested and sister of Thathagata, the arrested faculty member are also not being allowed into campus.

2. Bhim Rao who is the currently acting lawyer of the Velivada students was also not allowed into the campus yesterday. Two of us faculty went and fought with the security officer and told him to give in writing that following the orders of the registrar, he is refusing entry of the lawyer into the campus. Then, he talked to the Registrar, went and got approval and allowed the lawyer in.

3. Rohith’s mother has attempted entry into the campus alone and with the help of civil society multiple times and has been refused entry always. On March 26th morning she was coming to the univ. and fell ill due to her high BP and her right hand going numb. She needed immediate medical attention. When a faculty member attempted to bring her into the campus so she can be looked at by the doctors in the health centre, she was not allowed. Then, doctors went out of the main gate and measured her vital parameters and got her shifted to a hospital. She was under observation for 24hrs.

4. There is still police patrolling on campus.

5. We hear now that new names have been added to an existing FIR in which students are named but not yet arrested.

So, the harassment continues. Students are standing strong despite the extreme intimidation by the administration.

I am sorry to say this and I may be accused of overstating it. However, I feel we are in Chattisgarh when I see the mainstream newspapers. We are in a war without witnesses too, it seems. No reporter is even attempting entry into the campus. There is no media outrage at what is happening on campus. There are no opinion pieces on what is happening on campus from any of the intelligentia of this country in the newspapers. I remember seeing a piece every day about JNU and we were with them. But, we now feel utterly abandoned by all. Is there no way to pressure at least the print media to cover what is happening? Maybe we do not know how to be publicity savvy?! We are stretched so thin trying to protect students – whenever there is any demo by students and so on, at least two of us faculty are around to be at least a witness if not to stop any attacks.

Appreciate any help/advice from you people on this. But, our appeal is that civil society with political parties HAS TO BREAK THE BLOCKADE OF ENTRY. The Registrar’s order states: political parties, politicians, external student organisations and media ONLY. How come lawyers are not being allowed inside? How come parents and families of affected students and faculty are not being allowed inside? What is happening in this country?

Continue reading Break the Blockade: A Message from a Faculty Member at UoH

International Statement of Solidarity by Academics, Activists, Artists and Writers with University of Hyderabad

Over 300 academicians, activists, artists and writers condemn the state violence and unlawful detention of faculty and student protesters of the University of Hyderabad.

If you would like to endorse this statement please send your name and institutional affiliation (if any) to justiceforhcu@gmail.com 

We, academicians, activists,  artists and writers, condemn the ongoing brutal attacks on and unlawful detention of peacefully protesting faculty and students at the University of Hyderabad by the University administration and the police. We also condemn the restriction of access to basic necessities such as water and food on campus.

The students and faculty members of the University of Hyderabad were protesting the reinstatement of Dr. Appa Rao Podile as the Vice-Chancellor despite the ongoing judicial enquiry against him related to  the circumstances leading to the death of the dalit student Rohith Vemula on January 17th, 2016. Students and faculty members of the university community are concerned that this may provide him the opportunity to tamper with evidence and to influence witnesses. Suicides by dalit students have been recurring in the University of Hyderabad and other campuses across the country.  The issue spiraled into a nationwide students’ protest with the death of the dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. The protests have pushed into the foreground public discussion and debate on the persistence of caste-based discrimination in  educational institutions, and surveillance and suppression of dissent and intellectual debate in university spaces.

Since the morning of March 22 when Dr. Appa Rao returned to campus, the students and staff have been in a siege-like situation.  The peacefully protesting staff and students were brutally lathi-charged by the police, and 27 people were taken into custody. The 27 detainees were untraceable for 48 hours, brutally tortured, and denied legal access. In short, all legal procedures of detention have been suspended. After the incident, the university has been locked down with no access to food, water, electricity, and Internet connectivity.   Students were brutally assaulted when they opened community kitchens.  Lawyers and members of human rights organization as well the ordinary citizens of the city were denied access to students. University of Hyderabad is one of India’s biggest public universities.

We have followed, with deep concern, similar violent attacks and undemocratic crackdown on students on the campuses of Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Film and Television Institute of India, the University of Allahabad, Jadavpur University, Burdwan University, and others across the country. That the highest administrative authorities in the university have allowed the silencing of debate and dissent is unfortunate. We are disturbed by the pattern of growing nexus between student vigilante groups, youth wing of the ruling party, state and university authorities in colleges and university campuses across the country in order to mobilize the state machinery against vulnerable students. This has created a climate of fear and oppression in the country, and continually violates fundamental human and Constitutional rights of students.

We stand in support of the protesting students, staff and faculty of the University of Hyderabad and demand the following:

  1. Immediate withdrawal of police from the campus.

  2. Immediate release of, and withdrawal of all cases against, all arrested students and faculty.

  3. Suspension of the Vice-Chancellor P. Appa Rao.

  4. Judicial enquiry into the role of the HRD Ministry, the HRD Minister and Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya in inciting violence against Dalits on campus.

  5. Independent enquiry into the incidents of violence on the campus including the role of the ABVP in vandalising the Vice-Chancellor’s office.

  6. Action against police personnel named by students in their complaints.

  7. Passage of the “Rohith Act” against caste discrimination in education.

Signatories

  1. Lawrence Cohen, Director, Institute for South Asia Studies, University of California, Berkeley Continue reading International Statement of Solidarity by Academics, Activists, Artists and Writers with University of Hyderabad

JNU Students in Solidarity with Students in Hyderabad

Students across universities in India are standing together against the extraordinary assaults unleashed on them by the Modi regime. Students in Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi have been having regular meetings, ever since 22nd March on the situation in Hyderabad. There have also been marches in Kolkata and meetings in TISS, Mumbai. Reports are just coming in of a police lathi (cane) charge on left youth and student activists in Mumbai. Again, the mainstream media is NOT reporting the fact that young people are being attacked and that seventeen of them have detained by the police in Mumbai for coming out in support of the students in Hyderabad. Kafila welcomes accounts from the participants of these gatherings, so that the students in Hyderabad get to know that they are not alone.

Profile Picture graphic of the 'Stand With JNU' Facebook Page that inserts the JNU Logo on to the UoH (University of Hyderabad) Acronym.
Profile Picture graphic of the ‘Stand With JNU’ Facebook Page that inserts the JNU Logo on to the UoH (University of Hyderabad) Acronym.

Some JNU students also took out a  protest march to the Ministry of Human Resources Development to register their strong protest against the police action in Hyderabad University on the 23rd of March. A big march is being planned in Delhi soon, which will have participation of many student organizations cutting across different universities in Delhi.

Call from BAPSA-JNU for solidarity march with Hyderabad Students on the 'Stand with JNU' Facebook Page
Call from BAPSA and JNUSU for solidarity march with Hyderabad Students on the ‘Stand with JNU’ Facebook Page

One effect of the media blackout on the Hyderabad situation is a silencing of the different voices of support and solidarity for the Hyderabad students from their comrades in Delhi, especially from JNU and other places. This is a tactic of the regime to make students in Hyderabad think that their struggle is not being supported and echoed in other places, such as in JNU, and in Delhi generally.

This is totally untrue. This is moment for even greater co-ordination and solidarity. Do not let yourself be distracted by those who want to divide the student movement at this critical juncture.

Watch the videos below, they have statements by Rama Naga, General Secretary of JNUSU, Anirban Bhattacharya (who was recently released from police custody together with Umar Khalid) and Shehla Rashid, vice president of JNUSU.

Thanks to the ‘We are JNU’ youtube channel and the ‘Stand with JNU’ Facebook page for the videos.

Open Letter from Hyderabad University Alumni against Repression on HCU Campus and the Return of Appa Rao as VC

Guest Post by UoH/HCU Alumni

UoH Alumni Open Letter against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, the return of Dr. Appa Rao as UoH’s VC, and the brutal display of state violence in campus.

As alumni of the University of Hyderabad, we observed with dismay the return of Dr. Appa Rao Podile as the Vice-Chancellor of University of Hyderabad (UoH) on March 22. We strongly condemn this provocation that led to the police brutality on campus. The shutdown of the university which has followed is unacceptable and unlawful.

A couple of days ago, a report ranked three departments of the University of Hyderabad among the top 500 university facilities in the world. The education we received at UoH helped us to not only shape our careers, but also to question, critique and analyse concepts such as equality, fraternity and social justice.  Upon entering a central university of this size, we were exposed to the sheer diversity of this country. UoH, like other central universities in India, is an amalgam of many languages, cultures, religions and regions.

However, much like the rest of the country, the university campus is a space where systematically oppressive caste structures operate and are institutionally legitimised. Recent events at UoH have left us dismayed and angered at the treatment meted out to peacefully protesting students at the hands of the administration and the police.

Continue reading Open Letter from Hyderabad University Alumni against Repression on HCU Campus and the Return of Appa Rao as VC

Students Testify to Police Brutality on the HCU Campus in Hyderabad : Guest Post from HCU Students

Guest Post by HCU students (Taken from Youtube Uploads and Facebook Status Updates)

[Since there is a virtual media blackout of the situation in Hyderabad Central University we have decided to share video testimonies by students of the violence unleashed by CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and the RAF (Rapid Action Force) which were called in at the behest of the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao – who is already under a cloud for having created the circumstances that led to Rohith Vemula’s suicide, which many students consider to be an ‘institutional murder’. When Appa Rao returned to the University, students were enraged, and they started a ‘sit-in’ outside the Vice Chancellor’s lodge. It was then that the central forces were called in. Later, electricity, water and internet facilities were cut off. The debit card used by the students, linked to the State Bank of India branch on the campus, were blocked. The non teaching staff was persuaded not to give food in university hostel canteens to students. Some students who started a community kitchen were taken away by the police. One of them, a research scholar called Uday Bhanu was so badly beaten up that he has been admitted to intensive care at a local hospital. His condition remains critical.

Courtest, 'University Community' & '#DalitLivesMatter'
Courtest, ‘University Community’ & ‘#DalitLivesMatter’

Hyderabad Central University, is now a virtual prison camp.

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According to reports, 36 students are still missing. Several are hospitalized and are being treated for injuries. At least one of the students is in a critical condition.12671963_1656941941246803_5210071450630800436_o Continue reading Students Testify to Police Brutality on the HCU Campus in Hyderabad : Guest Post from HCU Students