A series of events that started with protest against Yakub Memon’s hanging, fight among student groups, enquiries, suspension and a suicide of Research Scholar turned a university into a political battleground
Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar was found hanging in a central university’s hostel room located on the varsity campus. He was one of the five boys who were asked to vacate the hostel on account of incident that occurred during intervening night of 3rd and 4th August. Nandanan Susheel Kumar, the then President of ABVP Unit in the campus was allegedly attacked by a group of Students belonging to Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) during that intervening night led by Rohit. ABVP was protesting against performing Namaz-E-Janaza soon after hanging of Yakub Memon and posted the pics on the Facebook. The Proctorial Board of the University has enquired into the matter and submitted a final report after talking to the victim. After that the Executive Council (EC) approved the punishment to expel five students (including Rohith Vemula who now has committed suicide).
Sequence of Events
Meanwhile Susheel’s (victim)’s mother filed a case in the High Court and the court was repeatedly asking the University legal counsel to inform about the action taken on recommendations of the proctorial board. The Executive council’s sub-committee, after long deliberations and after consulting the University security and local police officers, upheld the recommendations of the proctorial board and recommended to the EC that the said five students be awarded punishment as recommended earlier. But again it proposed to the EC to be a bit lenient because the recommended punishment will deprive the students of the scholarships to continue PhD after the one semester expulsion recommended by the proctorial board. The full EC agreed to VC’s proposal to be lenient but as a regular practice followed in the University for several years, it was indicated that these students will be permitted in the respective Department, Library and Academic meetings and not in the hostel, administration and other public places in the campus. The decision of the EC was submitted in writing to the high court by the University legal counsel. It was communicated to the students after the said EC minutes were approved by the members. First the minutes were posted on the University website and later formal orders were issued to
On behalf of ASA, there was a group of students who met VC and demanded revocation of hostel suspension and started branding as “social boycott” order. They were linking this punishment to the letter from Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Bandaru Dattatreya (enquiring about the August 3/4 night incident) forwarded by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). It was adequately explained to them that the letter received from MHRD or minister’s letter have no influence whatsoever in the EC decision. But, the students’ groups mostly belonging to dalit groups and SFI were bent upon branding it as involvement of BJP Government, and ABVP role in this matter.
“…And I have become a Monster”
Meanwhile, a Student Joint Action Committee (JAC) including students union represented by SFI, with support of some faculty started mounting pressure on the University. On January 13, when the regular VC was away, they closed down the administration building and did not allow the employees to enter. They demanded that the regular VC should come, revoke suspension and then only they would agree. Police was called in and subsequently news came that a Research Scholar had committed suicide in the hostel room. Students went on rampage and attacked whoever came on the way while the body was being retrieved from
The fact is, “Rohith’s suicide has nothing to do with Dalit issues or rights just because he was a dalit. It is mere politicising of the issue. Disciplinary action was taken against Rohith on court's advice and a lenient stand was taken by the university authorities by permitting him to enter the campus except the hostel”, said a BJP National General Secretary Murlidhar Rao.
When this correspondent visited the campus, it appeared as if everybody was trying to gain political mileage out of apparently unrelated incident. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi attacked the BJP on a day of high political drama. Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) national spokesperson Derek O'Brien, who arrived at the scene late in the night, too was in to fish in the troubled waters. Facebook was agog with many questioning Rahul’s love for Dalit. Their contention was former Congress MP from Warangal Mr Sircilla Rajaih, a Dalit, who had lost his daughter-in law and grand sons in an alleged suicide few months ago, why was they silent then. Netas who did not find time to pay tributes to Pathankot bravehearts made a beeline to Hyderabad forgetting Malda too that was in flames where a large 1.5 lakh Muslim mob went on rampage.
The HRD ministry found itself at the centre of the row over the suicide of Rohith as it emerged that it had sent four letters to the University of Hyderabad seeking updates on action taken on the communications from Bandaru Dattatreya, who demanded action against those accused of assaulting an ABVP activist.
They however, denied the charge and said the rules require the government to seek updates on representations from MPs and Union ministers. “We began writing in September, but reply came only in January”, said a team member deputed by MHRD as a fact finding mission. How can a Union Minister be held responsible as he merely forwarded a representation received from the Victim’s mother seeking intervention and safety of her son (Susheel).
When the reports last came in, the Andhra Pradesh High Court clubbed two rival petitions pertaining to the ongoing conflict in the University of Hyderabad and posted them to January 25 for hearing. Justice Sanjay Kumar will hear these two petitions, one filed by N Vinaya, mother of Susheel Kumar in August 2015 seeking protection for her son on the campus and the other filed by D Prashant and four other research scholars, who challenged their expulsion in December 2015. Based on the complaint lodged by one of the expelled research scholars of University of Hyderabad (UoH), Dontha Prashanth, Gachibowli police had registered a case against Bandaru Dattatreya, UoH VC P Appa Rao, BJP MLC Ramchander Rao and ABVP activists Susheel Kumar and Krishna Chaitanya under section 306 (Abetment to commit suicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 3 (1-IX and X and 2-VII) of the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
A video that went viral on social media was being played in local channels. It showed the now deceased Research Scholar was caught red handed while tearing up the banners put up by the ABVP. It claimed that as they are in saffron, he destroyed them in a rare display of arrogance and his rabid anti-Hindu stance is in full display, so much so for their tolerance to other ideologies. What mainstream media does not say is that this ASA was involved in Pro-Yakub Memon protests at college campus and had attacked ABVP students for opposing them. A disciplinary action suspending them is interpreted as victim of upper caste domination and his death as alleged victim of anti-Dalit and thereby policies of intolerant BJP. Meanwhile Ashok Vajpayee a former Sahitya Akademi chairman has returned a Dalit award given to him by Hyderabad University in protest against the ‘anti-dalit’ attitude of authorities which has allegedly driven a dalit student to commit suicide.
Leading Columnist R Jagannathan of Swarajya said in his column, that the biggest indictments must be reserved for two phenomena: the politics of Dalitism that actually is little more than rabid casteism clothed in the garb of radical activism, and the political voyeurism. This is evident from the empty posturing by everyone from Rahul Gandhi to Arvind Kejriwal to Mamata Banerjee, who now think Rohith is a good stick to beat the BJP with. The hypocrisy of it all is evident from the fact that it is Rohith Dalit identity that brought them or their representatives to Hyderabad!
Ambedkar, despite his own bitter experiences with upper caste oppression, was for the “annihilation of caste” and not the annihilation of Hinduism. But modern-day hate-mongers like Kancha Ilaiah think the two are one and the same thing. This is like saying that since virulent jihadism is a major offshoot of radical Islam, Islam itself must be shut down. Ambedkar, one of the Bharat’s greatest public intellectuals, humanists and social emancipators, would not have approved devisive and exclusionist politics in the name of Dalitism.
N Nagaraja Rao