University of Hyderabad students are worried that their education may be jeopardised by a swirling campaign seeking justice for Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, with protesters alleging that he was driven to suicide by the institute’s and Centre’s discriminatory policies.
While scores of students have been participating in demonstrations since Vemula was found hanging inside the campus on January 17, some of them say the uproar has battered their semester schedule.
The institute is limping back to normalcy after police arrested this week about 30 students and three professors for allegedly vandalising the vice-chancellor’s office. Dr Appa Rao Podile was on his first day at work after a two-month-long absence following the suicide for which he faced widespread criticism.
“We appreciate the demands of the protesting students and their legitimacy. At the same time, each student has problems at a personal level too,” said Joyal Thankachan, a final-year student of Integrated MA Sociology. “We hope the administration or protesters don’t mess up the future of 1,000 post-graduation students.”
The university administration has declared holidays until March 28 and the end-of-semester examinations are to be held from April 14 to 30.
“There is some degree of uncertainty about this semester and final-year students like me hope that there is clarity soon,” said another Sociology student, Sambhabana Mohanty.
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.
Limakumba Walling, an assistant professor at the school of Economics, said the V-C should have returned only after the completion of an ongoing judicial probe. “At least the semester would not have been affected that way,” he said.
Following Tuesday’s violence, the administration shut down all hostel messes, and suspended water and internet facilities on the restive campus. However, residents took over the kitchens and prepared food on Wednesday.
“The V-C has no moral right to continue in such a position of power when the probe is on. More than the semester, we are worried about our friends and faculty who were arrested,” said Samyobrata Mukherjee, a fourth-semester student of MSc Physics.
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 alleged that the cops also threatened to rape the women.