Editor’s Note: Rohith Vemula, a research scholar from University of Hyderabad, committed suicide and left a soul-stirring note behind on January 17, 2016. He allegedly took this extreme step due to alleged caste-based discrimination by the authorities, including the Vice-Chancellor of the University. Students from all over the country have been protesting since then and demanding “Justice for Rohith.” To mark his first death anniversary, students of the University had conducted events for “remembering Rohith Vemula, rejecting victimhood and reclaiming resistance.” Chaos ensued on January 17, ‘Shahadath Din’, as reports of Rohith’s mother and brother, along with some protesting students being detained by the police emerged. A reporter from Frontline was also taken into custody after the authorities lodged a complaint against him for trespassing on the same day. The University released clarifications regarding what happened on January 17, 2017, on its website. As a rebut to their clarifications, SC/ST Teachers Forum and Concerned Teachers of UoH released the following statement:
Factual misrepresentation by UoH admin regarding the events of 17th January, 2017
In the following statement, we would like to rebut the misleading and distorted representation of the events of 17 January 2017 in the statement issued by the University Administration on 18 January 2017.
On the evening of 17th January, 2017, Ms Radhika Vemula repeatedly requested the security personnel deployed in large numbers at the entrance gate to allow her to visit the place where her son spent his last days out in the cold protesting the discriminatory order of the university administration. She pleaded with them, saying “you have permission to enter, so you escort me.” When they did not respond, she further asked them to take her to the VC so that she can question the VC as to why she was not being permitted into the campus. The Security just kept quoting the official prohibitory order.
The fact remains that the University displayed an extraordinarily harsh, unrelenting and insensitive attitude towards a grieving mother who just needed to see statue of her son one more time, on the day he had passed away under extremely tragic circumstances. Out of empathy and respect for her, a few faculty members offered to the security that they would escort her to the Velivada. Mr. T.V.Rao, Chief Security Officer responded, “the students will create disturbance, if allowed.” The faculty members then requested the students not to accompany Ms Radhika, promising that they themselves would escort her and the students can form a human chain on either side of the road, a sort of guard of honour.
The students clapped expressing their joy and relief at the suggestion and instantly started clearing a path. It is terribly unfortunate that this gesture was manipulated by the Security in a devious manner, when their personnel moved into this space mobbing Ms Radhika Vemula and facilitated the police to rough her up and drag her into an already parked van. We would like to bring to your attention the shocking fact that male police pushed her up into the van, without any respect for her gender, age, health or the solemnity of the occasion. These events, witnessed by a large number of students and faculty expose the glaring lies spouted by the Security and circulated by the PRO without any prior verification of the facts from the said faculty members. We take strong exception to the false claim that Radhika Vemula could not accept the offer of the Security to escort her to Rohith Stupa because of the intervention of a “set of lady faculty members”. As evident from the above facts, the faculty (irrespective of gender) and students had considered Radhika Vemula’s wish as the most important factor and negotiated to the best of their ability.
If the Administration was so compassionate that it was willing to let Ms Radhika Vemula inside, where was the ground for her to be arrested and brutally whisked away by the police when her only request was to visit her son Rohith’s bust in Velivada. In her words, “I will just hug my Rohith, kiss him and go, just permit this one request.” We ask the University Administration, if they really have a human side, let them allow Ms Vemula to visit Rohit’s bust on January 30th which is Rohith’s birthday and make its consent public in the same papers where they have made announcements about their prohibitory orders.
While the whole nation mourned Rohith, whose tragic and untimely death brought caste discrimination in the hallowed portals of prestigious institutions like the University of Hyderabad out in the open, the University has displayed a very narrow attitude by going to the Press about its several prohibitory orders, issuing threats of legal action based on a Court Order interpreted to its advantage, several mails sent to faculty members and all the notice boards displaying the same. In short, an authoritarian and arbitrary Administration that suspended five research scholars in 2015 without taking into account crucial evidence and rules and procedures; ignored a distraught and indignant letter from Rohith Vemula on 18th January 2015, continues to cite ‘rules’ and manufacture evidence. May we add that the same University has accused Mr. Kunal Shankar of Frontline of trespassing by jumping over the fence on 16.01.2017, when he had duly signed in the register at the gate and mentioned the name of the faculty member who he was visiting. This further reveals a web of lies and falsehoods.
On the night of 17th January, the students sat on a dharna demanding that till Ms Radhika Vemula, students and others, who were taken away by the police, are brought back from the police detention, they are not going to disperse. It was only under such pressure that the police released her after nearly 4 hours of detention. This is a mother who lost her son on this campus and just asked for a commemorative visit, which the university very harshly denied publicly.
SC/ST Teachers Forum and Concerned Teachers
UNIVERSITY OF HYDERABAD