A group of students vandalised University of Hyderabad vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile’s lodge on Tuesday morning to protest against his resuming charge after having gone on leave in the aftermath of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide on January 17.
Rao was acccused of abetting the suicide and the university became a subject of a nationwide political debate over caste discrimination in education. Tuesday’s violence came a day ahead of a planned meeting on the campus to be addressed by JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar.
“They ransacked the office, resorted to violence of a magnitude never seen before. This is a black day in the history of the university,” Rao told reporters, adding that he would continue on the post. “Can a handful of students dictate who should be the VC?”
“Let the courts decide on the (suicide) matter. Let the judicial commission report come out. But they have shown no patience. They made no representation for a dialogue to resolve the issue. What they are indulging in is violence, not protest,” Rao said. He said university authorities would seek help from Telangana police to restore normalcy on the campus.
Police were deployed in large numbers after Tuesday’s violence. Students who continued their protest at the VC’s lodge in the evening allegedly pelted stones at police personnel who charged at them. A few policemen were injured.
As word spread in the morning that Rao had returned from leave and taken charge of his post, several students marched to the VC’s lodge on the campus and shattered glass doors, uprooted plants, vandalised the interiors and broke office equipment, photo frames, etc.
“Appa Rao, who is the main accused in Rohith’s death, has no right to be the VC any more and we will not allow him in that seat at any cost,” a protesting student said.
Students running a campaign under the banner “joint action committee for social justice” to demand justice for Vemula said Rao’s return was a provocation and threatened to shut the university again.
Classes and other academic plus research activities at the central university were suspended for two weeks in January amid protests over Vemula’s suicide.