Mr. Pranab Mukherjee
The President of India
Sub: JUSTICE FOR ROHITH VEMULA and seeking immediate action against the brutal state repression in Hyderabad Central University
On the 17th of January, Rohith Vemula, a student of Hyderabad Central University (HCU), chose death over repeated humiliation at the hands of the administration. This institutional murder shook the entire university community. The branding of 5 Dalit students and activists of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) including Rohith as ‘anti-national’ by BJP MP Bandaru Dattatreya, its vehement support demanding action against these students by HRD Minister Smriti Irani, and finally its crucial execution by Vice Chancellor P. Appa Rao by suspending and socially ostracizing all 5 students, led to the death of Rohith. Today, instead of addressing these concerns, P. Appa Rao, the man held directly responsible for the death of Rohith has returned to his seat of power as the VC of HCU and turned the campus into a war-zone. When the students of HCU gathered to protest the return of the VC, on 22nd of March 2015, they were brutally attacked by the Telangana police, the CRPF and RAF personnel. This attack on the students and teachers was brutal, unconstitutional and created an Emergency like situation in the University. The students were dragged and chased by the armed personnel outside the University while repeatedly being physically and verbally assaulted; many of the female students were threatened with rape and touched inappropriately. They were brutally beaten in the van after being detained, and again in illegal custody. Meanwhile, in the university, the mess was shut down, water supply and internet services were cut off and movement was curtailed by the HCU administration.
Today, it is clear that those in positions of power have the authority to end a student’s life with a few strokes of the pen. The VC P. Appa Rao, charged with abetting the suicide of a student, has free rein over the campus, uses the police force against the students and denies food, water, electricity and Internet access to the entire university. The collusion of the HCU administration with the Telangana police backed by BJP ministers at every level is a clear indicator of the extent to which Brahmanical Hindutva fascism has taken root in society. This assault on the rights of students to protest against an unjust system is indicative of the shrinking spaces for registering dissent in a country that calls itself a democracy.
This incident in HCU is not an isolated one. The assault on institutions of higher education all over the country from FTII to JNU reflects the ruling government’s systematic approach of targeting students and stifling dissent within university spaces. But with HCU, it is clear that repression only intensifies when the students at the receiving end come from Dalit, Bahujan and minority communities.We the students, teachers, workers, activists, intellectuals and people from all walks of life have come together to stand united with Rohith, with HCU, and with every student and teacher facing the batons of injustice disguised as the law.
The structural injustice exposed by the death of Rohith Vemula led to the formation of Joint Action Committee for Social Justice all over the country. Since his death, the response from the MHRD, the reporting from the media as well as the emerging debates shrewdly tried to divert the discussion away from the issues of caste oppression and students’ rights within education institutions. We demand that Rohith’s voice be heard and we refuse it to become a vote, a number or a thing, be silenced.
Today, we marched in protest to the state and police repression at HCU from Mandi House, but we were stopped on the way to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Hence, we are submitting this letter of demands to you hoping you would take immediate action in this regard:
· Removal of the Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad Central University, P. Appa Rao.
· Enactment of ‘Rohith Act’.
· Removal of HRD Minister Smriti Irani and BJP MP Bandaru Dattatreya.
· Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all the charges on students and faculty.
· Arrest of all the culprits booked under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, as per the complaint registered at Gachibowli police station.
· Legal action against the police officers and other personnel who abused, manhandled and tortured the students and faculty.
· De-militarisation of the HCU Campus with immediate effect!
· Autonomy of Universities.
· Payment of minimum compensation of Rs.50 lakhs to Rohith’s family and employment of a family member at HCU.
· Appointment of a special public prosecutor in the concerned case of Rohith.
· Constitute a judicial inquiry (non-MHRD members) into all cases of discrimination and harassment of Dalit, Adivasi, OBC, Religious Minority students in all higher educational institutions.
· Implement Affirmative Action policies in all higher education institutions, irrespective of the management of the colleges.
Joint Action Committee for Social Justice – Delhi
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