JAC demands Justice4Rohith, drop charges against students, faculty at HCU
The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice – Delhi held a press conference on the 28th of March 2016 to address the ongoing situation in Hyderabad in the wake of the suicide by the Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula on 17th January 2016. There was a brutal lathi-charge on the students, faculty and media persons on the 22nd March, who were protesting the return of Vice Chancellor Podile Apparao. Apparao is a prime accused in the abetment to sucide of Rohith Vemula and accused under Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) act, 1989.
The press conference was addressed by eminent professors and representatives of various teachers’ unions.
Nandita Narain, President, Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) opened the session said that the return of Apparao indicated an attempt to close down public funded education and demanded the immediate removal of the VC.
“We demand that Prof Appa Rao be immediately removed from the post and a judicial inquiry be instituted into the barbaric crackdown on students and teachers of the HCU.
“There should be strict action against those accused of abetting the suicide of Rohith Vemula. Also, a Rohith Act should be legislated to prevent caste discrimination in educational institutions,” Narain added.
Narain also stressed on the need to initiate a dialogue between the students and the administration of University of Hyderabad.
Ajay Patnaik, Secretary, The Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA), said that the attack on teachers and students was premeditated with an intention to crush dissenting voices.
“The Vice Chancellors are supposed to protect the autonomy, strengthen the institution and not succumb to political pressure. He has failed in doing so and has no right to be in the post,” Patnaik said.
Manisha Sethi from Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) termed the students struggle in UoH as “courageous” and expressed solidarity for the brutality unleashed on them. Sethi joined the FEDCUTA in their demand for the immediate removal of Apparao. She also called for the restoration of the dignity of teachers. She condemned the heavy presence of police and paramilitary in the University and said that it has been turned into a “war zone”.
“The way that the teachers have been attacked and manhandled is an affront to all teachers everywhere. We condemn it in no uncertain terms,” she added.
“Vice Chancellors cannot act as governors or heads of Police. They are the head of institutes of learning. We condemn the vindictiveness of both the administration of the Hyderabad Central University as well as the powers that be,” she further stated.
Srinivas Burra, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Legal Studies (FLS), South Asian University, said that Apparao has returned despite there being no change in the circumstances that forced him to go on leave. He said that it is a legal issue and Apparao’s return may influence the ongoing inquiry against him.
N Sukumar, professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, said that the UoH has become important to Telangana and central government because it is the best example of student resistance in the country done in the peaceful manner. He said that the government is targeting Dalit teachers while it tries very hard to appropriate Ambedkar. He also said that the charge of vandalism against the students was just a pretext to unleash brutal violence on them.
“As an alumni of UoH, I have the right to question the casteist and communal nature of Apparao,” he stated.
Quoting from a study conducted by him in many central universities on Dalit students, he pointed out that 75 per cent of students from poor backgrounds are dependent on fellowships for their studies. 35 percent of fellowships are delayed and 50 out of 84 students feel stigmatised.
Partho Sarathy Ray (Asst. Professor IISER – Kolkata and Convenor of JAC, West Bengal), could not be present at the conference because of the bail hearing of the 27 arrested students, faculty and media person in Hyderabad. In a statement sent from Hyderabad he said that, “Over the last few days, since 22nd March, the University resembles more a war zone and a prison, than a place of higher learning.”
“The incidents at the University of Hyderabad belong to a pattern being replicated by the RSS-ABVP in institutions of higher education throughout the country in order to take over these institutions with the full backing of the government. This is part of the broader aim of the Sangh Parivar to completely subvert the free generation of ideas and exchange which is the aim of higher education and research, in educational campuses throughout the country and instead impose their exclusivist, feudal and hyper-national worldview on these institutions. As the students across the nation are standing up against it, they, and the educational institutions they are trying to protect, are becoming the victims of the Sangh Parivar’s, and the state’s, attacks, giving rise to the war-like situation that we are seeing in the University of Hyderabad,” he said in the statement.
Rukmini Sen, President, Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association (AUDFA), read out the AUDFA statement stating that, “The University of Hyderabad in recent times has witnessed the authority-led ostracizing of dalit students, at the behest of some Central Ministers, leading to the unpardonable ‘institutional murder’ of dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.”
The statement also read that, “The surreptitious return of the VC to the University in this situation, with the backing of the Central and State Governments, and their police and military forces, is a pre-planned attempt to disturb the peaceful ethos of the anti-caste struggles ongoing in the University. This also smacks of a plan to deny any justice to the deceased Rohith Vemula.”
Hany Babu, Associate Professor, Department of English, summed up the press conference on behalf of JAC-Delhi. He announced that the 27 arrested persons were granted bail in Hyderabad. He said that the programmes protesting the happenings in UoH will continue as despite the bail, the charges against the students, faculty and media person have not been dropped. He read out the demands which include the immediate removal of the VC and inquiry into abetment of suicide of Rohith Vemula. He also announced the JAC-Delhi march from Central Secretariat to Rashtrapati Bhawan on 30th March at 1.00 pm.