[Via Karthik Bittu Kondaiah]
Update: The suspension of Prof. K.Y.Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata has been revoked.
The teachers of the University of Hyderabad intensified their struggle on the fourth day of the hunger strike by Dr. K.Y. Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata Sengupta by conducting a dharna in front of the University administrative building until Prof. Appa Rao arrived to address the teachers. At the dharna, all the assembled teachers expressed serious concerns about an administration that suspended teachers thereby compounding the injustice of their arrest. They deplored the polarizing steps that Prof. Appa Rao Podile continued to take on campus. Dr. Durga Bhavani read out the statement of teachers. Prof. Krishna, Dr. Sheela Prasad, Dr. Purendra Prasad, Dr. Usha Raman, Dr. Ajailu, Dr. Sudhakar Rao, Dr. Manjari Katju, Dr. Abani, Dr. Tushar Jana and Dr. Satya Prakash all spoke firmly in favour of an immediate revocation of the suspension.
Mr. Sebastian from the Non-Teaching Staff spoke in support of the suspended teachers and spoke about the pervasive casteism faced by dalit non teaching staff. Zuhail K.P., President, University of Hyderabad Students Union and Arpita Jaya, member, Joint Action Committee, also spoke of a strong unity between students, non teaching staff, and teachers. After students and non-teaching staff left, the teachers stayed at the dharna site waiting until Prof. Appa Rao returned to the administration and agreed to meet them. In response to the teachers demand for immediate revocation, Prof. Appa Rao agreed that as per rules he was mandated to constitute a review committee, which would look into the revocation as soon as they were officially intimated about the arrest. At the meeting the teachers placed on record the fact that Dr. Ratnam had intimated the information about his arrest to the Head of his Department of Political Science immediately after his release, while Dr. Tathagata’s arrest had been intimated to the Dean of the School of Mathematics. Prof. K. Y. Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata Sengupta wrote letters stating this to the review committee which immediately began discussions on the revocation and promised to revert to the teachers ASAP.
At the site of the hunger fast outside the main gate, Radhika Vemula, Rohith’s mother, garlanded the hunger strikers and gave them blue shirts bearing Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s image. She then joined them on hunger strike for the day. Fortified by her presence, the hunger strike and the dharna outside the main gate continued with vigour.
Prof. G. N. Saibaba, the persecuted Delhi University teacher, spoke extensively on teacher-student solidarity and on the way in which scores of dalit, adivasi, bahujan and minority students immediately recognized the injustice faced by Rohith in the context of their own experiences inside and outside University spaces. Dr. Sudipta Muhuri, Savitribai Phule University, Pune, spoke of the struggles at his University for students to even have the right to assemble in small groups – students there have had experiences of surveillance and police repression even when conducting small programs. He stated the importance of fighting against brahminism which is steeped into our society and consciousness. Prof. Eshwaraiah (Retd.), Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad and member, Telangana Senior Citizens Association, Prof. Shridhar (Retd.), Department of English, University of Hyderabad, Prof. Srinivasulu and Prof. Channabasavaiah of Osmania University and Dr. Amit Upadhyay, Tata Institute for Social Sciences all expressed their views as senior academics with years of experience in creating democratic University spaces.
Mr. Sadanada, Samajika Udyama Vedika, Mr. U Sambasiva Rao, CBC Federation, Chandrakant Kandige, Buddhist Society for Education and Prof. Prabanjan Yadav, Samajika Telangana Mahasabha expressed their solidarity and spoke intensively with the hunger strikers.
The review committee regarding the suspension is currently meeting and is expected to come out with its decision tonight and an order is to be issued on the in
On the 3rd day of the hunger strike, the University Teachers rallied around their suspended colleagues Dr. K.Y. Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata Sengupta and held a press conference. Prof. Krishna, who had resigned from his position as Controller of Examinations in the Academic Council Meeting convened by Prof. Appa Rao after his violent and unceremonious return to the University on 22nd March 2016, in protest against his actions, inaugurated the press conference. Prof. Abani and Prof. Thirumal, the President and General Secretary of the University of Hyderabad Teachers Association, both denounced this state of undemocratic affairs in the University which was not only unable to prevent brutalities upon its teachers and students, but further penalised teachers who rushed to the protection of students.
Dr. Tathagata Sengupta spoke about how this suspension was part of the repression expected from the state in retaliation against the anti-caste struggle, but that such suppression would have no dampening effect on the movement, with independent voices rising against the system from all over the country. He referred to the spontaneous voices and black flags raised against Smriti Irani in Bihar and the prevention of Bandaru Dattatreya’s entry to an event in Maharashtra, with slogans of Justice for Rohith Vemula.
Dr. Ratnam raised the question of why the police has not acted on the SC/ST Atrocity Act case filed after Rohith’s death despite the National Commission for Scheduled Castes sending the Guntur Collector’s report confirming Rohith Vemula’s Dalit identity to the Commissioner of Police C. B. Anand. The Guntur collector’s report on Rohith Vemula has confirmed what the anti-caste struggle at the University of Hyderabad has been consistently asserting – that Rohith is Dalit identified, while[ also stressing his essential humanity which does not boil down to caste.
Dr. Ramudu, who had resigned from his position as the Head, Center for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), spoke about a recent meeting with Prof. Appa Rao where Appa Rao had excused his actions claiming that he’s only a human being; Prof. Ramudu asked why he did not extend this humanitarian outlook to Profs. Ratnam and Tathagata who were not even responsible for the death of a human being like Appa Rao, but rather responsible for preventing police from brutally beating students. Why has Appa Rao added insult to injury by suspending these professors? Dr. Purendra Prasad, Dr. Shiela Prasad, Dr. Wilson Naik, Dr. Durga Bhavani added their voices of dissent against this suspension order.
Mallepalli Laxmaiah of the Centre for Dalit Studies spoke about the immediate need for the police to take action on the Guntur Collector’s report immediately, otherwise they too are complicit in covering up caste atrocities as per the SC/ST Atrocities Act. U Sambasiva Rao, Chairman of the Comprehensive BC Federation spoke about annihilation of caste and his own and his family’s anti caste identity, in parallel with the anti caste life struggle of Rohith Vemula. Osmania University Professor and Aam Admi Party Party Activist Prof. L Vishweshwara Rao blasted the ethical standards of the University of Hyderabad, where a plagiarist was running the University as a dictatorship. Prof. Padmaja Shaw of Osmania University spoke against such draconian measures and stressed on the need for a united teachers struggle. Shankar from the SC ST Welfare Association, Bandaru Laxmaiah of the Struggle and Solidarity Committee for Justice for Rohith Vemula, Dr. G Vijay from School of Economics, Dr. Anitha from the School for Medical Sciences, Dr. P. Ramulu, from the Telugu Department and Dr. Venkatesh from Department of Political Science all expressed their solidarity with Dr. Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata. Adv. Kalpana Kannabiran, Dr. Padmini Swaminathan from TISS Hyderabad, Dr. Jayaprakash Jala from VIT University, Vellore Tamil Nadu, Aruna from Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Spence Jones from Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Rachana, Vyjayanti and Sonia Shaik from Telangana Hijra Transgender Samiti all came to visit the suspended professors and convey their solidarity.
Mahesh of Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV) spoke on behalf of a large group of TVV students against the state and institutional repression that aims to separate and target students and teachers, and shared their experiences of fighting against imperialism and fascism in the Telangana movement. They vowed to not let this strategy to sidetrack the main goal of Justice for Rohith and to fight on all fronts united. Kanagaraj, a student from EFLU, Bairi Naresh of Scientific Students Federation (SSF) and Shilpa of Chaitanya Mahila Sangam (CMS) Univ spoke of the shameful conspiracy against anti communal forces in all University spaces with tools such as jailing, rustication, suspension, and exclusion. University of Hyderabad Students Union Vice-President Venkatesh Chauhan and Students Union President Zuhail reiterated the students’ demand for immediate revocation of the suspension and deplored the situation where faculty, who have taught the students in the campus for so many years, were forced to sit outside the campus on dharna against this repressive suspension.
The University community and its supporters resolved to conduct a dharna outside the University administration at 11 a.m. on 17 June 2016.