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Hyderabad varsity: Tribal students protest bid to disqualify union leader, to ‘fast unto death’

Following a complaint from the ABVP that elected union vice-president Naresh lacked the mandated 75% attendance to qualify for the contest, university authorities withheld his ascension and ordered an inquiry into the matter.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2017 14:03 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Hyderabad University,Fast unto death,Adivasi
Tribal students of Hyderabad university protest at Velivada, a makeshift protest site where Rohith Vemula once raised slogans.(HT Photo)

Tribal students at the University of Hyderabad are all set to launch a fast unto death from Thursday to protest the administration’s attempt to prevent one of their candidates from taking up the post of student union vice-president on the grounds of inadequate attendance.

The students had reopened Velivada, a make-shift protest site at the university shopping complex, and launched a two-day relay hunger strike on Tuesday. “We will wait till Wednesday evening. If there is no response from university authorities till then, we will convert the relay hunger strike into a fast-unto-death agitation,” tribal student leader Venkatesh Chowhan told Hindustan Times.

It was at Velivada, which translates to ‘colony of outcasts’, that five Dalit students went on a hunger strike in January 2016 to protest a ban imposed on them in the aftermath of a clash with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) students. One of them, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide on January 18 – triggering a nationwide uproar.

According to Tribal Students’ Federation president B Sunder, Alliance for Social Justice (ASJ) candidate Naresh Lunavath had defeated Apoorva Jain of the ABVP by a margin of 250 votes to bag the student union vice-president’s position on September 21. Naresh secured 1,664 votes to Apoorva’s 1,434.

However, following a complaint from the ABVP that Naresh lacked the mandated 75% attendance to qualify for the contest, university authorities withheld his ascension and ordered an inquiry into the matter. ASJ representatives submitted evidence showing that Naresh had the required attendance, but the grievance redressal committee appointed by University vice-chancellor Podile Appa Rao reportedly rejected it.

“This is absolutely false. The dean of the School of Medical Sciences, Department of Public Health, initially submitted a report that I had 75% attendance. However, she changed her version on three occasions after that. At one stage, she said I had only 64%. She then changed it to 68% and, finally, it was shown as 71%,” said Naresh, a first-year Master of Public Health student.

The students decided to launch the fast-unto-death agitation after repeated representations to university officials went in vain.

Meanwhile, a university spokesman said the issue would be referred to a retired judge for an in-depth probe. “The retired judge will be given all records and documents pertaining to the elections. The report submitted by a committee appointed to check Naresh’s attendance at the School of Medical Sciences will also be furnished before him,” he added.

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 14:01 IST