Representation of Human Rights Organizations on rustication of Mr Kotesh from English & Foreign Languages University to Chairperson, Fact Finding & Inquiry Committee
Professor Amitha Dhanda
Fact finding and Inquiry committee
Subject- Fact finding Representation of Human Rights Organizations on rustication of Mr Kotesh in EFL- University
We came to know that you are appointed as a chairperson of a committee to inquire in to a dispute between Asst Professor Ravindra Kumar Vemula and a Student Mr Kotesh. And your committee visited EFL-University and conducted an inquiry on 17th December 2011.
We, five Human Rights and Peoples Organisation also conducted a fact finding on the same issue on 2nd December 2011, and we would like to submit our fact finding representation to your committee on Behalf of Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana Praja Front, and Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi and Lambadi Hakkula Porata Samithi
During the recent past, EFLU is appearing in the press regularly for all the wrong reasons including the latest molestation of a research student by a faculty member. We, of several civil society organizations, were concerned about such deterioration in academic values. On learning about rustication of a research scholar and the agitation of students opposing the rustication, a team of representatives belonging to Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Telangana Praja Front and Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi visited EFL University on 2nd December 2011, to know the facts and take up the issue with relevant authorities with a view to set an end to ugly episodes recurring at the university. We interacted with the in-charge Vice Chancellor, in-charge Registrar, and other administration officials. They obliged our request to meet and discuss the issue and presented their version of the case.
Professor Amruthavalli, in-charge Vice Chancellor explained that the rustication order issued to Sri D Kotesh based on a complaint by Sri Ravindar Kumar Vemula, a faculty member, EFLU is kept in abeyance due to procedural lapses in issuing the rustication brought to her notice. She announced formation of a new Inquiry Committee comprising of three professors from other universities to inquire into the complaint of the faculty member against the student. She read out the names of the newly constituted committee members. We saw the abeyance order on the notice board. It was clear from the explanation of the in-charge VC that the internal inquiry committee supposedly constituted immediately after the complaint did not call either the complainant or the accused to ascertain facts before it supposedly made the recommendation for action against the student. Evidently, the accused student was not given an opportunity to present his case. So, the in-charge VC had no option but to withdraw the rustication order that is in violation of the principles of natural justice. In-charge VC told us that university is very considerate towards the students and has not filed any police cases against students despite vandalism on the campus. But the facts are otherwise. University did file a police case against five students with names u/s 341, 353, 427, 506 IPC & Sec. 3 of PDPP Act and Sec. 7 (1) Crl. Law Amendment Act on 30 November 2011. Complainant is the in-charge Registrar Prof. P. Madhavan.
Then we sent word to Sri Devulapally Kotesh, the student accused of misbehaviour and rusticated, to present his version to us. He came along with another student who was with him when the incident occurred. Kotesh explained the background of the interaction with the complainant faculty Sri Ravindar Vemula. It all started when Smt. Shakunthala, a former student of Ravindar when he worked in Tamilnadu approached Kotesh with a grievance against Ravindar. She has also come before us to explain what she went through because of Ravindar. Kotesh met Ravindar regularly to sort out the matter and see that she is paid the salary due to her from an NGO with which Ravindar is associated. On the day of the reported incident Kotesh met Ravindar along with a friend and asked him about settling the payment due to Shakunthala. After a brief interaction Ravindar changed his stand and denied any responsibility to pay her. He became aggressive and pushed Kotesh and an altercation ensued.
After finishing with Kotesh we invited Ravindar Vemula, Asst. Professor, EFLU to present his version of the case. He readily obliged and came down. He started with his association with Shakunthala at a university in Tamilnadu both being Telugu. Then he lost contact for several years and met her again when she visited him in his office at EFLU. At her request, he tried to help her get a job with an NGO to which he was an advisor. He only facilitated her getting a job and he has no responsibility towards her salary payment. On the fateful day, Kotesh came to his room and behaved indecently. He listed out the abusive words used against him in Telugu that are very offensive. He stated that about 50 faculty members are a witness to the incident. But the student accompanying Kotesh says that there was no one else except him all through the incident. Another aspect that we noticed is that the abusive words supposedly used are not commonly used in Telangana and especially not in such situations. He admitted that he was not called by any inquiry committee. He also told that he informed the Faculty Association of his willingness to withdraw the complaint and settle the matter with Kotesh amicably.
Next in turn was Prof. Nageswara Rao, who was the in-charge Registrar at the time of the incident. He was replaced on 4 November 2011 after the new in-charge VC took over. He was plain and expressed that he was not aware of any Inquiry committee being formed to look into the complaint of Ravindar Vemula during his tenure. He was the Registrar on the dates on which the committee was supposedly formed and it submitted its report. He categorically stated that no such committee was formed or submitted any report during his tenure. Several questions arise:
Was the Inquiry Committee true or fictitious?
What were the terms of reference to it?
How did it pass the verdict without following normal procedures?
How did the authorities act in haste without caring to know the validity of the verdict?
Why were the authorities so eager to act without following procedures appropriately?
Is the whole thing cooked up with a view to punish the student and assert authority?
Why was no cognizance taken of the students complaint against the faculty?
Prof. Nageswara Rao informed us about a faculty meeting addressed by a DCP, Hyderabad City on this issue and several faculty members walking out in protest to uphold academic independence. It appears that the police official congratulated the university authorities for acting tough on student indiscipline and explained the invalidity of the rustication order. It appears that the university authorities have chosen to form a new committee to legitimize their previous action on the advice of the police official. If true it indicates the downfall and surrendering of academic freedom.
Prof Tharakeshwar, Faculty Association also joined us. He informed that Ravindar met him and gave his Willingness to withdraw the complaint and requested for an amicable settlement to be facilitated by the Association. Smt. Shakunthala, victim on whose behalf Kotesh was interacting with Ravindar presented herself before us while Profs. Nageswara Rao and Tharakeshwar were there. She narrated her problem with Ravinder. She knew Sri Ravindar Vemula as a student and then lost contact after she completed her course. She leant about him being in EFLU through a classmate. She received a call from Sri Ravinder while she was in Warangal. She was working with an NGO at that time and was comfortable.
Ravindar Vemula suggested that she join a new NGO being formed and would get her a salary of Rs40, 000/-. She trusted him and agreed to join without a formal letter of appointment against the advice of the head of the organization she was working with. She worked for four months and the NGO folded without paying her salary. She was paid just Rs15,000 in all. Ravindar kept on asking her to wait. She had to sell her gold to maintain the family. Only proof she has of the employment with the NGO was the email correspondence and phone call log. On the day she met Kotesh with her grievance, Ravindar was rude to her and asked her not to visit him on the matter of her salary as it is not his responsibility. A foreign lady on the campus saw her crying and wanted to know her problem. On being told, she advised her to meet student leaders. It is on this advice that she contacted Kotesh. She has now filed a complaint against Ravindar in the OU police station.
Based on the assimilation of facts, it is our considered opinion that the university authorities are discriminatory and biased against weaker sections and dalits.
We are suspicious about the existence of the first committee and its recommendations. The new
Committee should transparently establish the truth on that committee. We understand that Sri Ravindar Vemula has already submitted a letter withdrawing his complaint. University authorities standing on prestige and going ahead with inquiry is unfair. We hope the committee will not allow itself to be the handmaiden of the university authorities and acts independently and fairly keeping in mind the Principles of natural justice. To uphold constitutional and democratic values
Human Rights Forum
Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi
Telangana Praja Front
Andhra Pradesh Civil
Lambadi Hakkula Porata Samithi
[Thanks, Karthik Navayan, Human Rights Forum]