Hyderabad University revokes suspension of 4 dalit research scholars

Hyderabad University revokes suspension of 4 dalit research scholars
Yielding to intense pressure, the Hyderabad Central University(HCU) today revoked the suspension of four dalit students against whom action was taken along with another research scholar Rohith Vemula Chakravarthi, who allegedly committed suicide in his hostel room on January 17.

On a day of dramatic developments, 13 SC/ST faculty members of the unversity, who backed the protesting students and had threatened to resign, announced that they were giving up their administrative posts.

The revocation decision was taken at a meeting of the Executive Council of the HCU, on a day the stir gained further political heat and the protesting students resolved to step up their campaign for justice by enlisting support from campuses across the country.

"The Council, after taking into account the extraordinary situation prevailing in the university and after discussing the issue in detail, resolved to terminate the punishment imposed on the students concerned with immediate effect," HCU said in a statement here.

The HCU had in September last year suspended the five students, including Rohith, for six months (entire semester) for allegedly assaulting ABVP leader Susheel Kumar in August.

But, the suspension was later revoked. However, in December, while allowing them to attend classes, the HCU had denied them access to the hostel.

The five research scholars, under the umbrella of a Joint Action Committee, had termed their "expulsion" (except classrooms and workshops related to subject of their study) from hostel as "undemocratic" and a "social boycott" and were forced to sleep in a make-shift tent on the campus.

After the alleged suicide of Rohith, the issue sparked strong reactions on the campus.
In the statment, HCU Vice-Chancellor Prof Appa Rao Podile, who is under attack over the issue, appealed to the university community to maintain calm and harmony under the extraordinary circumstances prevailing on the campus and repose faith in the internal mechanisms to resolve the issue.

He urged all in the university to contribute to resuming regular class work, research activities and administrative work without further delay.

Adding further political thrust to the agitation, which saw non-BJP party leaders making a beeline to the campus in the last few days, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reached the campus today and called for removal of Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya.

The research scholar's alleged suicide following his suspension snowballed into a major row with BJP's rivals wading into it and demanding the removal of Irani and and Labour Minister Dattatreya, accusing them of being responsible for the death.

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

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.

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.

P Vijay Kumar, one of the suspended students, said revocation was not enough. "It is a good thing but Rohith is not here to celeberate. It should have been done when he was alive. The Vice Chancellor must go. The demand of Rhith's family like compensation and job for a family member must be accepted forthwithy," he said.

The University Dean said the students should now call off their agitation as the suspension orders of the four students have been revoked and other demands were being looked into.

Mounting a blistering attack on the the Centre on the issue, Kejriwal demanded an apology from Irani and wanted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drop her as well as Dattatreya from the ministry.

The AAP leader, who met the group of students sitting on an indefinite fast, charged Irani with playing "dirty politics" on the issue of the student's suicide which was a "national shame".

"Smriti Irani lied yesterday and tried to play dirty caste politics and tried to play with the emotions of the students. We demand she seek an apology from the entire country for that. We appeal to the Prime Minister to remove Smriti Irani and Dattatreya from his Cabinet," he said.

Seeking to gear up their protest, the 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.

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.

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.

The suspension orders against D Prasanth, Vijay Kumar, Sheshaiah Chemuudugunta and Velpula Sunkanna have been revoked.
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