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.
Excerpts from the Interim Report published in Round Table India
Members of the Fact Finding Team:
Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Alert, India, Tara Rao, Amnesty Intl, Burnard Fatima, International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, Kuffir Nalgundwar, Round Table India, Kiruba Munusamy, Supreme Court Lawyer, Beena Pallical, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Ramesh Nathan, National Dalit Movement for Justice, Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Paul Divakar, Asia Dalit Rights Forum.
The team comprising of senior activists, academicians and lawyers have met with the students, faculty members, the police, the Home Minister and local civil society organisations. The team will be presenting a more detailed report at a later date based on the compiled narratives and testimonies. This team was constituted as a response to the terrifying news of the escalation of violence at HCU on March 22, 2016.
The Fact Finding Team gives the following recommendations in restoring the normalcy and peace in the University:
1. In the best academic interest and in restoring a peaceful environment in University and in order to ensure a fair investigation is done, the FF Team recommends that the Vice Chancellor Mr Appa Rao must be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
2. Police need to step up their response in dealing with the cases filed (VC, and student arrests) with efficiency and due legal process both in the case of the VC and the arrested students.
3. Normalcy of the University must be restored immediately. Free mobility in and out of the University and this must be brought back to regular functioning. This is essential for the academic health of the University, which has suffered significantly.
4. Criminal investigation should be immediately conducted and action should be taken against the police who have wilfully neglected their duty under Section 4 of the SC ST PoA Amendment Act 2016.
5. Recommendation to the State Government should play a facilitating role in bringing back normalcy to the campus.
6. The Central Government must swiftly and efficiently ensure a smooth transition of the leadership of the University in the best interest of the primary objective of the University of Academic Excellence by replacing the Vice Chancellor in close consultation with the University students and Faculty.
A Suneetha, The Citizen Bureau, Kalpana Kannabiran, Preethi Raghunath.
A. SUNEETHA, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad:
This is to inform you all that strong local support is building up in Hyderabad for the students and faculty of University of Hyderabad. Here are some of the details.
a) During the two day shut down of UOH by the administration, students and faculty of EFLU and others sent food to UOH. Lamakaan opened their canteen to the students. A few offered their homes to the students who may have wanted to leave the campus.
b) On the legal front, support has poured in from the faculty and students. The faculty have offered generous support to stand surety for their students. Also crowds of students and faculty are in the court to express solidarity.
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.
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.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association, which currently holds Secretary’s position in the Federation of Central University Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA), is disturbed by the repots of attacks on the autonomy and democratic life of Hyderabad Central University (HCU). JNUTA condemns in unequivocal terms the brutality unleashed by the Police on unarmed students and teachers in Central University of Hyderabad. JNUTA denounces the resuming of office by the Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad Central University when a Judicial Enquiry is pending against him for his alleged role in the tragic death of Rohit Vemula. It is a matter of concern that basic services including water supply and Internet connections are disrupted in HCU.
JNUTA expresses its concern over the arrest of faculty members and students in HCU and demands their immediate release. It urges upon all to maintain restrain and not to resort to violence of any kind. It appeals to the Administration of Hyderabad Central University to immediately restore the basic services in the residential units of students to ensure that their academic activities do not suffer.
Use of police and coercion is not going to help in the smooth functioning of a University, which is meant to protect justice and democracy and uphold the Constitution of India in letter and spirit. The Hyderabad Central University VC and administration should bear this in mind before using mindless force against teachers and students.
Prof. Ajay Patnaik Dr. Bikramaditya Choudhary
President, JNUTA Secretary, JNUTA
Full text of the appeal sent to the President of India and the PMO, issued by 17 retired civil servants belonging to different All India and Central Services.
We, the persons listed below, a group of retired civil servants belonging to different All India and Central Services who have worked in the Government of India (GoI), State Governments and a wide range of governmental and other institutions would urge all Constitutional institutions in India, the media and the general public to reflect upon the deeply disquieting trends visible in the public sphere and in our polity today. These developments are causing deep anguish to us as they question some of the fundamental Constitutional principles and legal safeguards we have long taken for granted. Some of these are mentioned below:
1) The discrimination against Scheduled Caste students and an attempt to clamp down upon Ambedkar study groups as found in IIT, Chennai, and in the University of Hyderabad. The tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula has highlighted the unwarranted interference of the GoI in the University of Hyderabad and its targeting a group of students, who did not subscribe to a narrow concept of nationalism.