[Note: The petition was sent to us late last night. Since then in a tragic twist to the whole affair, one of the expelled research scholars, Rohith Vemula, has committed suicide. Do sign the petition. Link to the petition: https://www.change.org/p/the-president-of-india-revoke-suspension-social-boycott-of-5-research-scholars-university-of-hyderabad. Or Here]
By Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad
Five Dalit research scholars at the University of Hyderabad have been subjected to suspension from hostels and social boycott barring them from accessing the hostels, administration building, public places and participating in Students’ Union elections. An absolute injustice starts simply, when the executive council accuses that 30 students attacked an “unarmed” student, while only 5 students were particularly targeted and punished. These student leaders of an Ambedkarite organization were viciously campaigned against and taken revenge.This is in the context of the incidents that unfolded on 03/08/2015 and 04/08/2015. Following the vandalism by ABVP in the screening of ‘Muzzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ in Delhi University, Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), University of Hyderabad organized a protest movie screening of the documentary. After the screening, the ABVP President Susheel Kumar posted abusive statement on Facebook calling ASA cadre “goons”. ASA demanded an apology from the President of ABVP in the presence of security following which Susheel Kumar apologized to the ASA cadre and left the campus the same night. He got himself admitted in Archana hospital, Hyderabad accusing cadre of ASA of physically assaulting him and filed a false police complaint by targeting five members of ASA one of whom was not even present on the day of the incident.
The proctorial board that was chaired by the Chief Proctor Prof. Alok Pandey enquired on the incident and released a report clearly stating that there was no instance of physical assault on the ABVP president. However, Prof. Alok Pandey ordered for suspension. All the progressive and democratic student organizations protested against this atrocious decision taken by the University administration. The former Vice Chancellor Prof. R. P. Sharma revoked the suspension and constituted a new committee to conduct a fresh enquiry. However, the new committee was scrapped arbitrarily and the Executive Council, the highest apex body of the University took a decision of suspension from hostels and social boycott without any investigation. The socially boycotted Dalit research scholars approached the high court for seeking justice.
Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (UoH) wants to bring to your notice the appalling conditions in which a report and a decision were fabricated by the powerful administrators of the University against the interests and welfare of the students in particular. These authorities have lied and fabricated untruths against the research scholars so that they are boycotted socially and ostracized academically from the campus. This signifies malicious tinkering of facts and malicious engineering of the case at hand; which has dangerously turned against the students.
On 17/08/2015, Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Cabinet Minister of State for Labour and Employment, a BJP appointed Minister sent a letter to Ministry of HRD branding University of Hyderabad as “a den of casteists, anti-nationals and extremists” and demanded for necessary action thereby implying that the University should take action on the research scholars, following which Smriti Irani, MHRD Minister wrote a letter to the Vice Chancellor asking for an explanation. There are many flaws that emerge out of the entire process of enquiry.
Firstly, Prof. Y.A. Sudhakar Reddy submitted fictitious statements to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Podile Appa Rao. He followed the statements of Prof. Y.A. Sudhakar Reddy, which inevitably led to the illegal constitution of a sub-committee under the Executive Council to review the decision of proctorial board, apparently that led to the social boycott of Five Research Scholars. On 15/09/2015, when the former Vice-Chancellor Prof. R.P.Sharma was in office, he issued orders to constitute a committee to enquire into the incidents of 03/08/2015 and 04/08/15, with the powers vested in him under article 35 of University of Hyderabad Constitution.
To quote: “Where any authority of the University is given power by this Act or the Statutes to appoint Committees, such Committees shall, save as otherwise provided, consist of the members of the authority concerned and of such other persons (if any) as the authority in each case may think fit.”
The members appointed thereby should perform the task assigned to them. In this case, the members have crossed their jurisdiction by suggesting the vice-chancellor to dissolve the committee, terming it as non-statutory committee, which violates article 35 of University of Hyderabad Constitution. Moreover, the chairman of the committee, Prof. Y.A. Sudhakar Reddy has misinformed the Vice Chancellor, for the reasons best known to him that the students have appealed to the Vice Chancellor for a review, which was not the case. There were representations demanding revocation of suspension from student organizations and faculty, which were considered, and a decision to that effect was taken by the Vice-Chancellor. Further, Prof. Y.A. Sudhakar Reddy quoted 12(3) of University of Hyderabad Act, which is only applicable for making appeals to the Executive Council by students/employees aggrieved, which is not applicable in the present case, as a decision of revocation was already taken by the Vice-Chancellor. On the contrary, Professor Y.A. Sudhakar Reddy has wilfully neglected first two paragraphs of 12(3) of the Act,
To Quote: Para 1 : “The Vice-Chancellor may, if he is of opinion that immediate action is necessary on any matter, exercise any power conferred on any authority of the University by or under this Act and shall report to such authority the action taken by him on such matter.”
With this power vested under Vice-chancellor, Prof. R.P.Sharma has revoked the decision of Suspension against five research scholars.
Para 2: “Provided that if the authority concerned is of opinion that such action ought not to have been taken, it may refer the matter to the Visitor whose decision thereon shall be final.”
If Professor Y.A. Sudhakar Reddy feels that the committee formed was unconstitutional, he should have appealed it to the Visitor; instead he misled the Vice Chancellor, for the reasons best known to him. Secondly, Pandu Reddy, the Finance Officer has filed a counter affidavit on behalf of respondents 2 &3 (Writ Petition no. 28073/2015), in the month of November, without a date, mentioned. There are a few instances, where the submission of facts according to him, which are false and baseless. In the counter affidavit to Hon’ble High Court, it was stated that
“the petitioner’s ward Mr. N. Susheel Kumar, PhD student in the Centre for ALTS posted certain objectionable message on his Facebook page commenting on the protest undertaken by students belonging to ASA pursuant to hanging of Yakub Memon”.
Pandu Reddy who filed the affidavit in the court concluded that the scuffle between both students was a consequence of Protest against capital punishment whereas the matter of fact is, it was related to the protest movie screening of ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’. The proctorial board did not state Yakub Memon anywhere in the report. However, for the reasons best known to him, he has sensationalized and manipulated the case by linking the issue with the hanging of Yakub Memon. This political communalization of the case by Pandu Reddy, produced in the counter-affidavit, which uses the phrases of the BJP MP’s, gets reported in the sub-committee of executive council’s investigative report too. Most importantly, the Dean Students’ Welfare (DSW), who is a co-accused in the case that had been filed by BJP members in the court, was co-opted in the EC sub-committee constituted to take the decision of suspension from hostels and social boycott.
The sub-committee of the executive council which did not look into the case anew and conduct fresh investigations, largely used the findings and recommendations of the proctorial board, so as to construct the case and give punishment. It partially enquired “neutral” witnesses: 2 security men and 2 police men; and did not enquire the opponents and give an opportunity to the aggrieved students to present their case. This is utter misconduct and unjust enquiry. From the formation of the sub-committee of the executive council; co-opting the DSW (who is also co-alleged in a case along with other 7 students, by Susheel Kumar) into the subcommittee; doing a partial, unjust enquiry, while using the proctorial board’s discrepant and inconsistent findings and recommendation; this case has been politically motivated and prejudiced.
We have raised the following questions to the Vice Chancellor and the MHRD:
- Why did the EC sub-committee need to mention Yakub Memon in its report, given that no other report on the matter ever drew any connection between the protests against capital punishment and the alleged “incident” that happened on the night of 4th August?
- How can the DSW, who is a co-accused in the case that had been filed by BJP members in the court, be part of the EC sub-committee constituted to inquire into the same issue?
- Why were UHTA representatives who had been asked to be part of the Proctorial Board hearings, not allowed to officially record their opinions in the matter, as part of the Proctorial Board investigations and proceedings?
- While the Proctorial Board report on the one hand mentions “no hard (?) evidence” is there to conclusively prove that there has been an act of physical violence, what warrants the order of suspension of the students in question?
- Why is one part of the PB report signed by the whole committee, whereas the order sheet is only signed by the Chief Proctor?
- Why were none of the students asked to depose before the EC sub-committee as part of its “inquiry”?
- Why only certain parts of the Security Guards’ statements selectively used by the EC sub-committee to validate its diktat of social boycott?
- Why did the Proctorial Board, in its recommendations, go on to suggest bans on all political activities and political organizations on campus? Was this part of its mandate?
- Why did the EC sub-committee go on to officially repeat the threats issued by the Gachibowli police, asking the University administration to exercise control over freedom of expression by the campus community?
- What is the intention of the Vice Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao, the Chief Proctor Prof. Alok Pandey, the Chairperson appointed for the new committee (as per the order issued by the former Vice Chancellor Prof. R.P Sharma) Prof. Sudhakar Reddy and the Finance Officer Pandu Reddy behind the implementation of suspension?
- Why is BJP and the MHRD taking special interest in this case and interfering in University matters?
We appeal to you that this whole case has been fabricated through a vicious campaign intended to malign the rights and self-respect of these students. From the beginning of the case, there has been a conspiracy to communalize and discriminate the students, so that, their life in the campus now is socially boycotted and academically ostracized by order. This is a clear assault on their democratic right to expression of thought, freedom to move and access any public space. University of Hyderabad had rusticated 10 dalit students in 2002 without an enquiry. Students from the marginalized sections have committed suicide due to caste discrimination and institutional apathy in the past. Faculty and students have been profiled, policed, and searched without warrant recently. With such institutionalized procedural lapses, unjust discrimination, and politicized humiliation that inflicts nothing but fear; how can an academic space be democratic where critical thinking and dialogue take place?
We, the students of University of Hyderabad and the undersigned, are enraged by this atrocious decision and appeal to you to intervene in this matter and take action on all the University of Hyderabad officials for succumbing to the pressures from BJP and the BJP ministers whoforced the University of Hyderabad administration to implement the suspension and social boycott of the five Dalit research scholars without any enquiry and helped the ABVP President file the false case. Our demands are the following:
- Revoke Suspension of five Dalit research scholars.
- University must send a letter to court stating that their enquiry was not done properly.
- University must issue a circular stating the Proctorial Board recommendations(which suggest that there should be no political formation in University of Hyderabad) null and void.
- Remove Prof. Alok Pandey from the post of Chief Proctor.
- Proctorial Board must have student representatives and SC/ST faculty representatives with voting rights.
- Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Cabinet Minister of State for Labour and Employment must give a public apology for interfering in University matters and branding students of University of Hyderabad as casteists, anti-nationals and extremists.
- Take stringent action on Susheel Kumar for filing false case and disrespecting the System.
Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad
Link to the petition: https://www.change.org/p/the-president-of-india-revoke-suspension-social-boycott-of-5-research-scholars-university-of-hyderabad or Here.