The University of Hyderabad vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao went on leave on Sunday and gave charge to senior-most professor Vipin Srivastava, who according to protesting students was also responsible for Dalit student-activist Rohith Vemula’s suicide last weekend.
The students as well as the SC, ST Teachers’ Forum opposed Srivastava’s appointment as vice-chancellor in-charge after Appa Rao left on leave with the call for his removal growing shriller.
The physics professor was the head of the sub-committee of the university’s executive council that agreed with the findings of a board that recommended suspension of five Dalit students — including PhD scholar Rohith Vemula — for their alleged attack on ABVP leader Susheel Kumar in August 2015.
The SC ST Teacher’s Forum said Srivastava was also accused in the suicide of another Dalit student named Senthil, in 2008.
“We are shocked and dismayed at Srivastava assuming office. In the light of his involvement in both suicide cases, he should be asked to step down immediately,” the forum said in a statement.
The forum’s convener, Sudhakar Babu, said Srivastava could influence the judicial commission announced by the Union human resource development ministry to probe the circumstances leading to Vemula’s suicide.
“For the probe to be fair we want Srivastava removed and another professor, who is acceptable to all on the campus, appointed vice-chancellor,” Babu said.
The forum was also disappointed with the authorities’ decision to not remove Appa Rao from the vice-chancellor’s post.
Babu said a Dalit teacher and the dean of student welfare, Prakash Babu, resigned in protest on Sunday.
On Sunday, seven new students, including two girls, took the place of those who were admitted to hospital the previous day after their condition weakened following a four-day hungerstrike seeking justice for Vemula.
To placate the protesters and ease the campus tension, the university issued an order on withdrawal of punishment on the four suspended students “subject to the verdict of the Hyderabad high court and FIR registered in Gachibowli police station”.
But a belligerent joint action committee of the protesting students called a march to the university on Monday.