Faculty members threaten to quit posts; students step up stir

Faculty members threaten to quit posts; students step up stir
Accusing HRD Minister Smriti Irani of misrepresenting facts in Rohith Vemula suicide case, dalit faculty members of Hyderabad University have threatened to quit their 'administrative positions' even as agitating students today said they plan to enlist support from campuses across the country to expand their stir.

The members of Dalit (SC/ST) faculty of Hyderabad University in a statement said that it is unfortunate that the Union minister "misrepresented" the facts of the case by stating that the senior most Dalit professor actually headed the executive council sub-committee which took the decision to suspend the students, while it was headed by an "upper caste" Professor Vipin Srivastava.

"Such a baseless and misleading statement coming from Honourable Minister of HRD amounts to bringing down the morale of the Dalits holding administrative positions in this university as well as other universities...In response to the Honourable Minister's fabricated statements, we the Dalit (SC/ST) faculty and officers will lay down our administrative positions," the statement said.

When contacted, a senior faculty member told PTI, "We (faculty and other officials) are going to give up our administrative posts if the minister doesn't correct her statement."

The faculty body further said that it is unfortunate that since its inception, no Dalit representation has been given in the Executive Council of University of Hyderabad.

They said it was just a coincidence that the chief warden was a Dalit and he only implemented the orders of the higher authorities that proclaimed of suspension of five students, including Rohith.

"By deflecting this issue, the Honourable HRD Minister is absolving herself and the Honourable Minister Bandaru Dattatreya from being responsible for the death of Rohith Vemula," the teachers' body alleged.

Expressing solidarity with the agitating students of the varsity, they demanded immediate revocation of suspension and withdrawal of all police cases filed against the students.

Rohith, whose body was found hanging in a hostel room on January 17, was among the five research scholars who were suspended by university in August last year and also one of the accused in the case of alleged assault on the ABVP leader.

Seeking to step up their protest over the issue, the agitating students of the university said they would organise a "Chalo-HCU" programme on January 25 and urged their colleagues from other universities across the country to join the campaign.

They have also called for burning effigies of Smriti Irani across the country. The indefinite fast started by a group of students on the HCU campus seeking "justice" for the student entered the second day today.

Meanwhile, ABVP leader Nandanam Susheel Kumar, who is named as an accused in the case of abetting suicide of Rohith, demanded a "fair" inquiry into the incident and denied that he had lied about being manhandled by Rohith and other students of Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA) on August 3 last year.

"Reasons for Rohith's suicide should be thoroughly examined. When a person like Rohith could confront so many people like us (and) also there was hearing by the High Court in two days, what made him go into depression?" Kumar told reporters here.

"Why did these people send Rohith to some other person's room without sending someone along with him? There are many issues in this. There should be a fair inquiry. And whoever is the culprit, let it be me or let it be anyone else, the culprit should be punished," he said.

Buttressing his claim that he was manhandled, the ABVP leader said he can produce records that he was admitted to hospital and underwent operation.

Vemula's alleged suicide following his suspension has snowballed into a major row with BJP's rivals wading into it and demanding the removal of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, accusing them of being responsible for the death.

The agitating students are demanding resignation of Dattatreya, removal of Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, Rs five crore compensation to Rohith's family and employment to a member of his family, besides revocation of suspension of four students.

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