The crisis at the University of Hyderabad intensified on Friday after protesters rejected the lifting of suspension on four students and refused to end their strike until the vice-chancellor quits over the suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.
The SC/ST staff of the university too mounted pressure on vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao with more members giving up their administrative posts to protest the alleged bias against Dalits.
The decision by students to continue their strike came barely a few hours after the university decided to “terminate” the suspension of four fellow students of Rohith who were punished along with him for clashing with members of the AVBP.
“We outrightly reject this illegitimate circular (to revoke suspension of four students) since it came through a committee headed by the VC, who in our opinion is not the legitimate VC anymore, but in fact a criminal on the run,” the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice said in a statement. The committee is spearheading the agitation seeking justice for Rohith, who hanged himself on Sunday.
Rao should immediately surrender to police, it added.
Seven members of the the JAC are on an indefinite hunger strike for fulfilment of its demands following Rohith’s suicide.
Vijaya Kumar, one of the students whose suspension was revoked, said this was not enough.
‘“The VC must go. This (revocation) is a welcome decision. But we can’t celebrate it because Rohith is not there. We are not able to accept your decision. We have other demands like appropriate compensation and a job for one of the members of Rohith’s family,” he added.
After 10 professors of SC/ST communities quit their administrative posts, the controller of examinations, chief medical officer and chief warden also followed suit on Thursday in protest.
Opposition parties and activists have also hit out at Union minister Smriti Irani for allegedly distorting facts in the case.
The issue has snowballed into a massive political controversy with critics alleging that the HRD ministry pushed for the Dalit students to be punished by sending five reminders to the university’s vice-chancellor after labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya complained to Irani’s department.
The BJP, which has been hit by a rash of controversies since taking power at the Centre with several of its leaders being accused of stoking communal tensions, is trying to play down the issue which could hurt its chances in this year’s state polls and may dominate the Parliament’s budget session.
The SC/ST professors who quit said in a statement that they decided to step down following Irani’s “fabricated statements” and also rubbished her claim that a Dalit professor was among the members of the university’s body that suspended the students including Vemula.
Administrative posts are non-teaching jobs assigned to professors like the recruitment committee of student admission panel.
The revocation gave a fresh handle to the Congress to attack Irani and Dattatreya with the party demanding a probe by a sitting high court judge and an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the HRD minister’s “misconduct”.
The Congress has demanded the sacking of both Irani as well as Dattatreya who wrote to the HRD ministry last year alleging that the campus had turned into a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”.