The in-charge vice-chancellor of the University of Hyderabad ( UoH)Prof Vipin Srivastava, who was the head of a sub-committee that reviewed and upheld the suspension orders on the five research scholars, told Hindustan Times that vice-chancellor Appa Rao “never ever mentioned to them the letters from the MHRD on the issue and that the only pressure felt by his committee was that from the Hyderabad high court.”
Srivastava, the senior most professor in UoH, was made the in-charge vice-chancellor on Sunday as Rao went on leave, leaving behind the suicide row that has snowballed into a political maelstrom. But his appointment is fiercely opposed by the agitating students and the SC/ST teachers’ forum, who hold the committee’s decision responsible for driving the Dalit scholar to suicide.
Rohith Vemula hanged himself on campus on January 17 after he was suspended for an altercation with a student leader.
The forum also charged that Srivastava was involved in the 2008 suicide of another Dalit PhD scholar, Senthil Kumar of the physics department.
“I was the dean of school of physics at that time and had no interaction with Senthil. The issue was blown out of proportions after it was realized he was a Dalit. All probes ordered over the incident absolved me of all accusations. That matter ended there and then. (I) Do not know why the issue is raked up every time and is held against me,” Srivastava said.
“As far as Vemula is concerned, our sub-committee concurred with the proctorial board recommendation of suspension, after our thorough investigation convinced us of an attack on Susheel Kumar on August 3 midnight by a group of 30 people,” Srivastava, who was the chairman of the sub-committee of the executive council, said.
The physics professor says that even then the executive council, took a lenient view and reduced the punishment to only barring them from hostels and not from classes and course work.
“In my view it is not a suspension but only a sanction imposed on the students for one semester only,” Srivastava said, adding, “There is no influence whatsoever of the ministry on our work. The only pressure on us is that of the high court as the UoH (University of Hyderabad) had to submit an action taken report before it on November 25,” he said.
The high court was hearing the matter after the mother of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader Susheel Kumar approached the court seeking protection for her son who was allegedly attacked by the activists from the Ambedkar Students’ Association, led by the five suspended students.
“This appointment as in-charge VC is nothing to cheer about. If anything, wish me luck as I am trying my best to initiate a dialogue with everyone to find a resolution to the impasse on the campus,” the professor said.