PUDR strongly condemns the brutal police action unleashed on students and teachers at the University of Hyderabad campus on 22nd March 2016. This took place when students were protesting against the return of the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Poddile to the campus after he had gone on leave following the suicide of Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula in January. Prof. Appa Rao, alongwith Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and others, is one of the main accused in the case for abetment of Rohith’s suicide and has also been criticised in the past for his anti-Dalit attitudes. His return to official duties at a time when no action has yet been taken against anyone for this crime angered the student community and they began a peaceful protest outside the Vice Chancellor’s Lodge where an Executive Committee meeting was in progress.
There was massive deployment of CRPF and RAF personnel who lathi charged and beat up students. Female protestors were also brutally beaten, grabbed and molested by the police forces. Protesting students were rounded up, chased and dragged into police vans. It is estimated that around 36 students and at least three faculty members were also arrested and taken to undisclosed locations. There was no information of their whereabouts overnight though it is now being suggested that they have been taken to Miyapur and Chandanagar police stations. Apart from this, over fifty students have been injured in the attacks.
The police also raided hostels in what seemed like a search for a predetermined list of students and teachers. It is suggested that the VC and other complicit elements in the faculty have chosen to crack down upon those students who have been vocal and active in the resistance following the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula. Dontha Prashanth, one of the students who was suspended along with Rohith and has been a frontrunner in the students movement for justice, was also brutally thrashed and dragged in to the police van yesterday. Some of the teachers who were arrested, like K Y Ratnam and Tathagat Sengupta were also quite prominent in siding with the students on this issue.
Following the violent crackdown on students, a strike has been called by the non-teaching staff, apparently on instructions from the VC, resulting in the shutting down of hostel messes. Students have also reported lack of water for drinking and other purposes and cutting off of internet facilities in the campus. The media has also been prevented entry in the campus as the administration seems to be on an all out offensive to prevent any information from the campus getting wider coverage.
Notably, activists belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had barricaded the VC’s Lodge in a move to prevent the protestors from reaching the VC. They also locked the gate from inside and were in fact responsible for much of the vandalism and property damage which the media and authorities have blamed on the protesting students. It is shameful that media reports till now have focused only on the ‘vandalism and hooliganism’ of students and completely ignored the violent police action on students in the University Campus.
PUDR reiterates that using violent force on students and deploying armed personnel on university campuses is an unacceptable use of state power. The nexus between university authorities, Ministry of Human Resource Development and student’s wing of BJP is especially significant in the increasingly fascist nature of our universities. It is also condemnable that basic necessities of food and water have been denied to the students in an effort to weaken their resistance.
PUDR demands that:
1. All students and faculty be released from police custody and charges against them removed
2. Restore normalcy in the campus and ensure dialogue with the students on their demands
3. Remove Appa Rao from the position of Vice Chancellor to ensure justice for the death of Rohith Vemula.
Moushumi Basu, Deepika Tandon
Secretaries, PUDR ([email protected])