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Response to MHRD minister Ms. Smriti Irani’s statements dated 20.01.2016

Response to MHRD minister Ms. Smriti Irani’s statements dated 20.01.2016

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Press release by Joint action committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad

 We strongly condemn the statements and misrepresentation of facts made by the union minister of HRD Ms. Smriti Irani.

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(Human Resource and Development Minister Smriti Irani addresses a press conference over the suicide of a 26-year-old researcher of University of Hyderabad. Photo: Special Arrangement, Source:The Hindu)

1. We would like to make a correction about the deliberate misrepresentation of the fact that the Executive council sub-committee, that took the decision to suspend the students, was headed by a Dalit Professor, whereas the committee was headed by a upper caste professor named Bipin Srivastava (the Dean of Physics department, who was the dean at the time when Senthil Kumar another Dalit research scholar in department was ‘forced’ to commit suicide).

 2. There was no Dalit professor in the entire Executive council sub-committee. The dean of student’s welfare who happens to be a dalit was notionally co-opted as the ex-officio member of the committee. He is the dean of student welfare and therefore it is only a matter of co-incidence that he is a dalit.

 3. Since its inception no dalit representation has been given in the executive council in the University of Hyderabad.

 4. It is just a coincidence that the chief warden happens to be a dalit, he was just implementing the orders of the higher authorities. It is unfortunate that the Minister of HRD is deliberately twisting the facts by observing that hostel wardens have suo-moto powers to expel the students. We expect a bit more know how about the educational laws of the country from the Minister of Human Research Development.

5. We strongly object to the use of the term “lenient punishment” by the minister of HRD. First thing that we want to make very clear that the entire case against the 5 students is a fabricated one and all the documents supporting this statement are already out in the public. Secondly this forced punishment and victimization of the students is done through suspending them, removing them from their hostel rooms and imposing a social boycott against them. The social boycott includes, banning them from public spaces of the university, banning them from moving in groups and prohibiting them from entering the administration block. These punishment are casteist and atrocious in nature as they reproduce the Veliwada (Dalit ghetto) of the caste ridden village societies. As the dalits in the villages are socially boycotted and prohibited from moving freely, by punishing them in this manner the social humiliation is being reproduced is being reproduced. If this punishment is called “lenient” it is equally casteist and atrocious act. This punishment also violates the UGC guidelines on taking disciplinary action toward students.

6. Rohith’s letter states that a man is being reduced to his mere immediate identity, by making this as a dalit versus non-dalit issue Minister of HRD is only proving his point. This is the issue of basic human rights, self-respect and justice. The minister Ms. Smriti Irani is sensationalizing this as a Dalit Vs non-dalit issue. This is an issue of cast discrimination against dalit students and political intervention and targeting of students from marginalized sections. The dalit and non-dalit students in the university and all over the country are coming together as a student’s movement against casteism, Brahminism and Hindutva. She attempted to brand this peaceful and egalitarian movement as ‘casteist’ whereas the series of unsolicited interventions by her ministry for witchhunting a dalit student at the behest of an influential upper caste family with BJP links should ideally be considered as a case of blatant regime backed casteism.

7. This is an autonomous students’ movement for social justice led by a collective of students in the form of joint action committee for social justice. She is trying to turn this into BJP-Congress battle. This derails the process of justice and shifts the focus to the advantage of the BJP and the complicit members. This gives them a chance to absolve themselves of any responsibility and crime.

8. It is really violent that Rohith’s letter is being misquoted and presented out of context and is being used against him. They are deliberately hiding the letter that he wrote on the 18th of December to the Vice Chancellor. Where he says very clearly that the dalit students are systematically discriminated by the university. Rohith requested the VC to provide a “rope” to every dalit student so that they can hang themselves or to distribute poison among them.

9. Ms. Smriti Irani tried to shield her political partisanship by mentioning her act of forwarding Congress MP, Mr. Hanumanth Rao’s letter to the university just as she forwarded Union Minister Bandaru Dattatraya’s letter full of false allegations and demand of action against Amedbkar Student Organisation. AS if that act absolves her of involvement in perpetrating systematic exclusion of the 5 suspended Dalit students and ultimately Rohith’s death. To state the obvious there is difference between a procedural forwarding of representations to the university and sending ministerial directions to university authority for institutional punishment against a particular against a particular Ambedkarite organization.

10. An SC ST Prevention of atrocities case has been filed against the VC Prof Apparao Podile, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya, MLC Ramamchandra Rao and Mr. Nandanam Susheel Kumar, SCST Prevention of Atrocities Act is a non-bailable act, which makes it imperative on part of the government to immediately arrest the accused. The fact that none of the arrested are accused after 48 hrs after filing the FIR, shows Honourable Minister’s political interest in diluting constitutional provisions against caste based discrimination, which is in sync with the malicious agenda of the Hindutva that her party espouses.

11. The SC/ST Teachers and Officers Unions condemned in the strongest terms the MHRD minister Smriti Irani’s press statement today, where she claimed that the EC sub-committee that took the decision of suspension of the students, was headed by a Dalit faculty. This is an outright lie, as the EC sub-committee was headed by Prof. Vipin Srivastava, who is a Brahmin. They also mentioned that no single Dalit faculty has ever been allowed to become an EC member in the history of this university. They condemned this move of the MHRD minister to portray the killing of Rohith Vemula as a Dalit vs. Dalit issue, which is deplorable and humiliating. In protest of all this, all SC/ST teachers and officers of the University today resigned from their respective administrative positions.

12. The University of Hyderabad Teachers’ Association also conducted an emergency GBM today, and resolved that the Vice Chancellor should immediately come to the campus and have dialogue with the campus community, meet with the grieving mother of Rohith Vemula, revoke the suspension orders, withdraw all cases filed in the court, and pay proper compensation, and only then can normalcy be restored.

13. Joint Action Committee for Social Justice resolves to continue with the indefinite University Strike and Indefinite Hunger strike. We have given an ‘ALL INDIA PROTEST CALL FOR EFFIGY BURNING OF MHRD, BJP AND RSS’ on 21st January (Today) against the atrocious comments made by Smriti Irani in the press meet. It is an appeal to the students across all the Central Universities, State Universities and colleges and other progressive democratic organizations across the country to join hands and rise in rage and protest against the injustice meted out to Rohith Vemula. #JusticeforRohith.