More than 200 Indian academicians, including internationally-known figures and graduate students, have written to the chancellor of University of Hyderabad condemning the police action on students on March 22 and demanding that the vice-chancellor steps down from his post.
They also demanded the immediate release of the arrested students and faculty members and that students who were injured in the police action are helped in all possible way.
A group of students vandalised the vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile’s office last Tuesday to protest his resuming charge after a two-month-long absence following the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide on January 17. Rao was accused of abetting the suicide and the university became a subject of a nationwide political debate over caste discrimination in education.
Video clips showed police dragging students demonstrating peacefully outside the vice-chancellor’s residence. Some protesters were injured in police lathi-charge and several of them were hospitalised. Students had also alleged that the cops threatened to rape the women.
“We understand that there may have been acts of destruction by some of the students, and we strongly condemn such acts. It is arguable whether it was necessary to call the police to deal with the students. However, having called the police, the administration of the University should have ensured that the police force did not make a brutal assault on the students,” they said in their letter to C Rangarajan.
They also asked the chancellor to assuage the fears of the students, who have been seeking justice for Vemula, about their future in the university and “that students are not penalised for legitimately voicing their political opinions, or for challenging the University establishment.”
The scholars said there are several cases against the V-C and “it is utterly inappropriate for him to occupy the o?ce of the Vice Chancellor of the University” and demanded that Rao relinquish his o?ce.
“There has been almost no progress in the police cases against Prof Appa Rao, whereas the police have been quick to act on the protesting students. We demand that this imbalance be redressed, and that the cases against Prof. Appa Rao be speedily brought to their logical conclusion,” they wrote.
They pointed out that there have been issues of systematic injustice against Dalits and attempts by some students’ group to disrupt the activities of students whose opinions they oppose and asked the administration “to seriously address these issues”.
They lashed out at the university’s administration for calling the police inside the campus on several occasions and demanded the withdrawal of police force from the campus.
“A troubling feature of the events at the University is the frequent reliance of the administration of the University on the police apparatus. We feel that the police have no place in an academic campus, and should be called upon only in rare circumstances. We, therefore, request you to have the police removed from the campus of the University.”
Vemula was among five students suspended by the institute following allegations of assault on a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an RSS-affiliated students’ body.
His death sparked a nationwide outcry with critics alleging that the HRD ministry pushed for the Dalit students to be punished by sending five reminders to the vice-chancellor after labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya complained to Smriti Irani’s department.