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.
This is a guest post by SUDHA K F
“His right to march where he likes, meet where he likes, enter where he likes, hoot where he likes, threaten who he likes, smash as he likes. All this I think tends to anarchy. (Mathew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, 1866)
….It certainly does. Nothing is stranger, in Arnold’s often scrupulous, often self-consciously charming and delicate prose, than the escalation, the coarseness of these Hyde Park verbs…It is a point of view. Certainly it contrives to forget the start of the disorder: the defeat of the reform legislation, the locking of the gates against the reform meeting (for which, as it happens, there were no legal grounds). As so often, it picks up the story at a convenient point: at the point of response, sometimes violent, to repression; not at the repression itself. Even so, it is a point of view and a familiar one.”
The above excerpt is from an essay by the British Marxist thinker Raymond Williams “One Hundred Years of Culture and Anarchy”, which is part of his path-breaking collection of essays Culture and Materialism. The first paragraph is a quotation that Williams makes from Mathew Arnold’s essay Culture and Anarchy written in the 1860s in response to the workers’ demonstration at Hyde Park asking for voting rights for workers. Arnold’s argument and language is all too familiar to us now, as that is the language available to us through mainstream media and in general the middle class public sphere, while talking about the brutal deployment of force and violence on the students at the University of Hyderabad. Many seem to be in the business of picking up stories at convenient points. Continue reading Let us not be little Arnolds in these times : Sudha K F
[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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
Immediate withdrawal of police from the campus.
Immediate release of, and withdrawal of all cases against, all arrested students and faculty.
Suspension of the Vice-Chancellor P. Appa Rao.
Judicial enquiry into the role of the HRD Ministry, the HRD Minister and Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya in inciting violence against Dalits on campus.
Independent enquiry into the incidents of violence on the campus including the role of the ABVP in vandalising the Vice-Chancellor’s office.
Action against police personnel named by students in their complaints.
Passage of the “Rohith Act” against caste discrimination in education.
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