Title of the Case: Interim Report of the Independent National Fact Finding (FF) team into the Campus Violence on 22nd March, 2016 at the Hyderabad Central University
Date of the Fact Finding: March 24th – 25th 2016
Members of the Fact Finding Team:
Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Alert, India, Tara Rao, Amnesty Intl, Burnard Fatima, International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, Kuffir Nalgundwar, Round Table India, Kiruba Munusamy, Supreme Court Lawyer, Beena Pallical, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Ramesh Nathan, National Dalit Movement for Justice, Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Paul Divakar, Asia Dalit Rights Forum
Mandate of the Fact Finding Team:
1. To ascertain and understand the sequence of events that led to the escalation of violence on the 22nd of March at Hyderabad Central University (HCU).
2. To identify the human rights violations that transpired as a result of the events.
3. To contribute towards a restoration of normalcy, peace and an environment of non-discrimination in the University Campus by making key recommendations to the concerned parties – the University Administration, the Central Government, the State Government and University Students and Faculty.
The team comprising of senior activists, academicians and lawyers have met with the students, faculty members, the police, the Home Minister and local civil society organisations. The team will be presenting a more detailed report at a later date based on the compiled narratives and testimonies. This team was constituted as a response to the terrifying news of the escalation of violence at HCU on March 22, 2016.
The FF team had taken several efforts to fix appointments with the HCU officials and in particular with the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Appa Rao, the Registrar and the Chief Security Officer.
- In spite of formal letters being handed over, the VC had after taking a lot of time and communicating with the FF team [made to sit outside the HCU campus] finally refused to meet the FF team and directed the FF team to communicate with the Professor-in-charge, Public Relations and Official Spokesperson of the HCU that he had appointed the day before.
- When this Professor –in-charge, Mr. Vipin Srivastava [ the previously appointed VC in charge when Dr. Appa Rao was to proceed on long leave but who could not take charge since he did not enjoy the trust of the faculty and students and hence Prof. Periasamy had to take charge] was contacted he responded stating that he could not meet the FF team but only speak to them on the phone!
- The same was the result of the FF team’s effort to meet the Registrar and the Chief Security Officer, conveying clearly that all the senior functionaries of the HCU were in no mood to discuss the happenings in the HCU under any circumstances.
- This also explains why the FF team was not allowed by the HCU security officers who were manning the main gate of the university, to even enter the university campus.
- A sense of fear was amplified with the order passed by the office of the Registrar dated 23rd March preventing the entry of outside persons viz. print and electronic media and political, social and student groups/individuals into the campus – due to the prevailing extraordinary situation on the campus of the university.
- We are of the strong opinion that this was only an effort to try to keep the university as a closed ‘fortress’ with no external visitor allowed to meet the faculty or students on campus and see for themselves the place of occurrence of the campus violence let loose on the 22nd March, 2016.
- This further reveals that the officials of the University of Hyderabad had more to hide than reveal in the violence on its campus on 22nd March 2016.
The team was able to meet with representatives from the student community, faculty, the Police (the DCP K Kartikeyan, ACP and Inspector), the State Home Minister)
Key interim findings:
1. The Vice Chancellor Mr Appa Rao has a registered case pending against him under SC ST PoA Act 1989 in connection with the Rohith Vemula suicide. No action has been taken in this regard.
2. His unexpected re-entry into the campus was pre-planned with details chalked out with his supporter students and faculty, which triggered the escalation of violence.
3. What has been the role of the MHRD in his reinstatement and this process was not transparent
4. Interim situation: It was established that the University was working smoothly and with regularity in the interim phase, while Professor Periasamy was the Vice Chancellor. The routine at the University was maintained, including the proceedings within the University’s Academic Council. Students and Faculty have confirmed their satisfaction. Even during the indefinite leave of Mr Appa Rao, the students association, faculties and various political parties continue their struggle within the campus with various demands
5. It has also been observed that the Union Minister Shri Dattatrey and Shushil Kumar also have not been arrested after being booked for non-bailable offences. This inaction of the state, central government has contributed to this situation
6. Disruption of the Campus: The return of the Vice Chancellor, Appa Rao, who had proceeded on indefinite leave triggered the disruption of peace on campus. According to the Home Minister, VC Appa Rao expressed a desire to the Minister to return to the campus and was strongly advised against it by the Police Commissioner and the Home Minister, saying that it would cause disruption of University. In spite of the Home Ministry’s advice he chose to return to the university.
7. Police’s role: People arrested were not presented before a magistrate within 24 hours as required by law.
8. Women students: Widespread assault of women students and abusive language and threats to rape the women students were heard from the police. Also targeted statements towards minority students and describing them as “terrorists” was also heard
9. The police could have given bail but the students and faculty were remanded in judicial custody
The Fact Finding Team gives the following recommendations in restoring the normalcy and peace in the University:
1. In the best academic interest and in restoring a peaceful environment in University and in order to ensure a fair investigation is done, the FF Team recommends that the Vice Chancellor Mr Appa Rao must be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
2. Police need to step up their response in dealing with the cases filed (VC, and student arrests) with efficiency and due legal process both in the case of the VC and the arrested students.
3. Normalcy of the University must be restored immediately. Free mobility in and out of the University and this must be brought back to regular functioning. This is essential for the academic health of the University, which has suffered significantly.
4. Criminal investigation should be immediately conducted and action should be taken against the police who have wilfully neglected their duty under Section 4 of the SC ST PoA Amendment Act 2016.
5. Recommendation to the State Government should play a facilitating role in bringing back normalcy to the campus.
6. The Central Government must swiftly and efficiently ensure a smooth transition of the leadership of the University in the best interest of the primary objective of the University of Academic Excellence by replacing the Vice Chancellor in close consultation with the University students and Faculty.