A students’ body for social rights formed by agitators at the University of Hyderabad has reiterated its call for a strike at universities across the country on Wednesday.
A statement from the All-India Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, which was formed on Tuesday, voiced its demand for “a systemic change that provides legislative protection to students from marginalised communities in higher education” – something that it wants titled the Rohith Act.
The university has been witnessing protests ever since a Dalit student, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide on January 17 after being suspended by the authorities along with four others. They were accused of assaulting an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad union leader.
University sources said that two of the suspended students – Sunkanna and Vijay – were expected to sit on hunger strike from Wednesday.
Earlier, in a controversial move, the committee screened a documentary called ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ at the university’s protest venue around 10.30 pm on Tuesday. “The entire episode of events that unfolded at the university started in the context of the protest (over) the movie screening of ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ by the Ambedkar Student Association,” the committee stated in a press release, adding that students had decided to go ahead with the event to register their protest against the injustice meted out to Dalit research scholars.
Meanwhile, interim vice-chancellor Vipin Srivastava requested agitating students in his Republic Day address to “help the administration restore normalcy”. He said the university had revoked the suspension of the four Dalit scholars and announced an ex-gratia of `8 lakh to Vemula’s family in keeping with their demands.
“It may also be noted that no court case has been filed by the university, and no complaint has been filed against any student in any agency,” Srivastava said, adding that the current crisis would delay completion of the course – thereby affecting the students’ career prospects.
“Everything from the disbursement of fellowships, scholarships and salaries (especially that of Class IV and contract employees) is getting delayed inordinately,” he said.
Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy reportedly handed over a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to Radhika, the mother of Vemula.
Even as activities on the university campus remained in limbo for the ninth consecutive day on Tuesday, rising discontent over the situation could be seen among other students at the institution. Many of them took to social networking platforms such as Facebook to decry instances of shutting varsity facilities to bolster the agitation.