Two months after the death of Hyderabad Central University’s research scholar Rohith Vemula, student and social activists gathered at Dadar’s Ambedkar Bhavan on Saturday to discuss the incident and ask the government some tough questions.
The meeting was organised by members of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JACSJ). “The birth of Telangana state depended hugely on university students, fighting for a free state. Today, the same government is against its own students and this is a huge question about the people running the state,” said civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad. Calling the existing government “proto-fascist” for using state resources to further its anti-constitutional ideology, Setalvad said the government is targeting research scholars. “What we see is a chain of command response system, where the HCU vice-chancellor is just one part of the chain, while the perpetrators are in the central government. While we demand HCU V-C’s suspension, we also need to question the government on its intent,” she said.
Other speakers present at the convention included Arundhati Roy, Prakash Ambedkar, who heads JACSJ and SQR Ilyas, father of Jawaharlal Nehru University PhD student Umar Khalid, who called the on-going student protest a “new fight for independence”. “There’s an undeclared emergency in our country at present and if we don’t stand for our rights now, we will lose our freedom of speech forever,” said Ilyas.
Roy said, “We are witnessing a war between those who know how to hate and those who know how to think. Here’s a government that can mass produce trolls on social networks, but can’t produce one thinker.” She highlighted how while much protests from different groups have gone unheard till date, a combined voice of groups has shaken the government. “Just like Vemula, various famer suicides are also institutional murders and we need to fight for them as well.” Prashant Dontha, secretary of the Ambedkar Students’ Association at HCU was also present at the event and demanded for the suspension of HCU V-C.