By Abhishek Jha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Protests by students erupted in the University of Hyderabad on March 22 after V-C Prof. Appa Rao Podile resumed charge. Podile had gone on leave after a massive agitation broke out in the University following the suicide of research scholar Rohith Vemula. Based on a complaint by a section of students, Cyberabad police had registered a case against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Podile and three others in connection with the suicide. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Social Justice (UoH), a group of student organisations across the spectrum except the RSS- affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, had also demanded the resignation of Podile from the post of V-C.
Raising slogans against the Vice-Chancellor, agitating students barged into his residence (V-C’s Lodge), broke window panes, smashed doors and television among other items, protesting against his resumption of duty, PTI reported. However, a student present at the protests told YKA over phone that the ABVP students and some faculty members supporting Podile were already present at the V-C’s residence before the protesting students arrived and “they provoked the violence”. Podile was scheduled to hold a press conference in the forenoon of March 23 but it was cancelled following the violence.
Students have also produced a document, found by them at the residence of the V-C, allegedly sent by Podile to faculty members to ensure a smooth entry for himself. Titled “Tasks for Faculty Colleagues”, the document lists tasks allotted to specific faculty members and the time at which the tasks – like co-ordinating safe passage and dealing with law and order problems – were to be performed. Calls made by YKA to the office of the V-C to confirm the same remained unanswered. However, when YKA made calls to the offices of the Registrar on March 23, we were told that the entire administration was busy in a meeting.
A large number of police personnel were deployed near the Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge as tension prevailed on the campus on March 22 after the protesters gathered. Another protesting student, requesting anonymity, told YKA on the phone that the police lathi-charged the students for about two hours and a lot of students were injured and had to be hospitalised. Although it was hard to ascertain the exact numbers, due to the chaos created in the campus by the lathi-charge and internet being shut down, the student alleged that around 15 students including Dontha Prashanth, one of the students earlier suspended along with Rohith Vemula, and around three faculty members (KY Ratnam, Subhojeet Kumar, and Tathagata Sengupta) had been detained by the police and their location was not known to the students.
Calls and texts sent by YKA to Prashanth in the afternoon of March 23 remained unanswered. Some non-teaching staff supporting Podile have also shut down the mess facilities on campus. The students are mulling running a community kitchen if the current situation prevails. There is a water shortage on campus too, the student alleged. Facebook posts shared by the JAC, however, peg the number of students detained at 21-34 and the number of professors detained at two.
D. Prashanth earlier said the VC had no moral right to resume duties and conduct an Executive Committee meeting, as a case with regard to Vemula’s suicide was still pending against him. “At the behest of (Union Minister) Venkaiah Naidu, he (V-C) came to UoH (University of Hyderabad, also called Hyderabad Central University). At the behest of the central government, he occupied the V-C’s seat despite the fact that the whole University resisted it,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, who is out on bail after a sedition charge was slapped against him following an event commemorating the hanging of Afzal Guru held in the JNU campus in February, is scheduled to visit the University of Hyderabad on March 23 to express solidarity with the students.
With inputs from PTI. Photos by Vishal Kumar
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