A group of protesting students and a granite plaque at the shopping complex on the campus kept Dalit student-activist Rohith Vemula alive, a week after his suicide in his hostel room.
The campus, usually abuzz with activity even on Sundays, wore a deserted look except at the protest site — a popular hangout known as “shop-comm” in student parlance. But the crowd is thinning with each passing day.
The PhD student in social sciences and his friends had sat and slept at this shopping complex in protest for a few days after he was expelled from NRS hostel, which is just a shout away. Vemula was an active member of the university’s Ambedkar Students Association and his death, according to many students, has become a symbol of resistance by the oppressed class.
Many students, especially those from nearby towns and cities, have left for home after the administrative and academic blocks were closed in the wake of the protesters’ pledge to stop all activities “till justice is done”.
What’s baffling people is that the joint action committee of protesting students has decided to continue its stir even after the Union human resource development ministry declared that a judicial commission would probe the circumstances leading to Vemula’s suicide.
“Our business has become nil. The university has just opened after the semester break and now the suicide row has hit us hard,” the owner of a canteen near the academic buildings said.
The only place witnessing some business is the shopping complex — currently the hub of all activities at the sprawling university spread over 2,000 acres with 5,200 students and 400 teachers.
University authorities feared that the entire semester could be disrupted if the deadlock is not broken at the earliest. But the protesters countered that the culprits should be caught first.
Vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao, Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, ABVP leader Susheel Kumar are among those named in a police report for Vemula’s suicide.
“Our effort was to engage them in a dialogue since we cannot let all students miss out on their studies and research. But we could not succeed because the protesters refused to talk and, instead, requested us to support their demand,” a senior professor said.