We, the alumni of English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, condemn in the strongest possible words the brutality unleashed by the police with the cooperation of the university administration on 22 March 2016, after the Vice Chancellor, Prof Appa Rao Podile, ‘took charge’. We are disturbed seeing the chain of events that the VC triggered to ensure ‘his smooth return’, in spite of being accused of abetting the suicide of research scholar, Rohith Vemula. In the wake of an ongoing case, the VC chose to orchestrate his return with the aid of the police so that any voice of dissent opposing his return is crushed mercilessly. As former students of this university, we are extremely angry seeing this State sponsored violence inside a university and disturbed seeing students become victims to it. An ideal university must exist as a space for dialogue, dissent and strive to be devoid of power structures inherent in relationships that students have amongst themselves, with the university workers and the teachers. However, like the world outside of the university space, all of our classrooms have not in effect been a ‘clean space’. Rather, it has been a microcosm of the realities that exist outside of our pristine gates. Thus, when ASA activist and research scholar, Rohith Vemula took his life, what was thrown open to this nation was the bare truth of caste that the intellectual and political class has been avoiding for long. Instead of interrogating this systemic problem that has been a part and parcel of this nation since its formation, the UoH administration under VC Prof Appa Rao sought to suppress a student movement, unleasing a first of its kind seeking justice for Vemula and all other Dalit, Adivasi and Bahujan students that were ruthlessly harassed and humiliated by universities. Triggering nation-wide protests, the movement had also become a topic of discussion in the center where news such as the death of a Dalit student had often been blacked out.
It is in the wake of this two months long peaceful student protest that the VC used the might of the police and the RAF to ‘protect himself’ from the democratically protesting students. Alleging that the protesters vandalised the VC’s residence (with zero evidence), the police came down heavily on the student protesters and went onto assault faculty members who were trying to protect these students. Arresting 30 students and 2 faculty members and taking them to ‘unknown’ locations, the police managed to create an atmosphere of terror for the students of UoH, wherein possibilities of fake encounters creeped on everyone’s mind. If this wasn’t enough, the VC also managed to convince workers to go on strike and leave the student community without food for 48 hours. Power and internet were subsequently cut off and women students who tried to hold their ground were threatened with rape by the RAF. When there was no food, a few students who took the initiative of cooking food at the university premises were beaten and detained, all the while when the UoH VC had taken ‘steps’ to store milk and water at his residence. Now, with reports of the police particularly picking and beating up the Muslim students badly, among those who were arrested, we are forced to believe that what happened at UoH is the ugliest face of this regime with respect to student community in India. Even more so with the Telengana government standing as mute spectator to the protest, fully knowing how students across universities in Hyderabad had supported the Telengana movement. The police has also released a fresh list of students to be arrested.
This is a planned and systematic attempt to break down the students movement demanding action against the VC and the implementation of Rohith Act. In the wake of such brutalities, we are amazed seeing the spirit of the students of UoH in standing up to the bullies and goons who have taken law into their hands. We stand in solidarity with them, their struggle and condemn the violation of their rights and dignity by the VC and the state government. We condemn the branding of students as ‘antinationals’ and vandalisers, the physical and emotional abuse of the arrested students and faculty, the assault on women students, faculty and media persons and the ruthless targeting of Muslim students by the police and the RAF. We condemn in strong words the rape threats and the police rule that was implemented on campus violating basic human rights. We demand the immediate withdrawal of cases against the students and faculty and the withdrawal of the police from the campus. We demand that the VC be removed from inflicting further harm to the students and that Rohith Act be implemented with immediate effect.
We have also seen photos and videos of the police brutally attacking student protesters in Chennai, Calicut and Mumbai who raised their voices against the atrocity meted by the UoH students. We condemn the act of the state government in the respective places and their draconian attempts of charging the protesters with IPC 153 etc to silence any voice of dissent.