Tag Archives: #StandwithHCU

The RSS war on thought and ABVP as foot soldiers

Ever since the present Modi government came to power, there appears to have been a clear set of orders issued from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters to its student organization, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), to go on the rampage in university campuses all over India. From getting specific parts of syllabuses changed under threat of violence, disrupting events by other student organizations on campuses, to forcing university administrations to intervene to curb freedom of expression, to filing police complaints against dissenters, they seem to have been acting according to a well rehearsed script, subverting democratic processes on campuses. After its recent electoral defeats in JNU and Hyderabad Central University (HCU), however, the ABVP’s role seems to have acquired an even more virulent feature. The game plan appears to be to provoke violence wherever possible so that rather than any kind of debate, however contentious, on issues such as nationalism, minority rights and caste injustice, what we are increasingly likely to see are violent standoffs between student groups, which have to be controlled by the police. These are often represented in the media as brawls between students, as if there were no ideology or political content involved, just two groups of students “clashing.” But of course, in each case ABVP is involved, and in some kinds of reporting it can even be made to appear that ABVP was somehow the victim.

This is the moment at which teachers need to finally accept that ABVP is not just another student organization. We have tended to take the position in our universities that we must not condemn or directly address ABVP, since we must not directly involve ourselves in student politics. Teachers must talk to administration, be publicly critical of its lapses, take all measures necessary to display and enact our solidarity with students under attack by this regime. While students take their own decisions on modes of struggle and so on, teachers see our role as supportive but with a critical distance.

However, now we may need to start thinking of ways in which we  recognize the organization of the ABVP as a serious threat to Indian democracy. I don’t mean individual students, who would also be in our class-rooms, and with whom it may still be possible to continue a conversation, and whose examinations we will continue to grade with utmost probity. as we have always done.

But the ABVP as an organization has a specific role to play, as storm-troopers in the project of Hindu nationalism, and we cannot afford any longer not to face up to this fact frontally.

Continue reading The RSS war on thought and ABVP as foot soldiers

Resist the Modi Regime’s Assault on Students, Reject the Subramaniam Panel Report on Student Politics: Shehla Rashid

Guest Post by Shehla Rashid

When politics decides your future, decide what your politics should be !

Shehla Rashid (AISA), Vice President JNUSU, speaks at a student protest, during the 'Occupy UGC' Movement
Shehla Rashid (AISA), Vice President JNUSU, speaks at a student protest, during the ‘Occupy UGC’ Movement

The recent government constituted panel‘s (headed by former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam) report on student politics is unconstitutional, highly regressive and politically motivated, and signals the upcoming onslaught of total commercialisation of education and imposition of Hindutva ideology in universities. The TSR Subramaniam Panel’s report is the logical follow up to the Birla Ambani report (which was submitted in 2000), following which student unions across the country were banned. The Birla Ambani report had lamented that student unions are not allowing commercialisation of education: we accept the charge and take pride in it! We believe that education should be a right of everyone, not a privilege of a handful of people.

Continue reading Resist the Modi Regime’s Assault on Students, Reject the Subramaniam Panel Report on Student Politics: Shehla Rashid

Statement by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of the University of Hyderabad on the Attack on Velivada

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. Continue reading Statement by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of the University of Hyderabad on the Attack on Velivada

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

 

 

Who will Educate the Educators? Reflections on JNU today: Janaki Nair

Guest Post by JANAKI NAIR

 In an interview to the journal Frontline on February 16, 2016, just 11 days before he took over one of India’s most prestigious universities, Prof Jagadesh Kumar had this to say:

I am a defender of free expression of thought in a democratic set-up and students are free to question me or challenge my views. I believe in constructive criticism, and as long as it is done peacefully and within the boundaries of the law, there is no problem.

Declaring his  two top priorities, of which one was the redressal of  infrastructural shortcomings, he desired

to improve the learning environment by making it more student-centric. Some of the faculty are great researchers, but they do not have much understanding of teaching. What I want to do requires cooperation from faculty members.

These words, which Prof Kumar has thus far not refuted or denied, should be recalled today, more than three months after his takeover, the  most tumultous months the University has ever known.  It is too early to judge the VC on his infrastructure  promise, as some of us continue to make  bone rattling journeys on cycles over  the most rutted roads on the campus.  Continue reading Who will Educate the Educators? Reflections on JNU today: Janaki Nair

To the Puppets and Puppeteers – We Students Will Fight Back: Anirban

Guest Post by Anirban Bhattacharya 

To the puppets and their puppeteers…

Free speech cannot come with a price tag -10,000/- or 20,000/- or even a rupee!
Dissent cannot be evicted!
Ideas cannot be made out of bounds!
Reason cannot be rusticated!

Continue reading To the Puppets and Puppeteers – We Students Will Fight Back: Anirban

Statement of solidarity for HCU from students and faculty of University of Texas at Austin