Hyderabad: The agitation at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) over the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula escalated on Monday with students rejecting the appointment of Vipin Srivastava as interim vice-chancellor and calling for a nation-wide university strike on 27 January.
On a day when students from different universities converged on the campus to pledge support to the stir, the joint action committee (JAC) also said a strike will be called in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh if their demands are not met.
The students are demanding ouster of vice-chancellor P. Appa Rao, who has proceeded on leave, and enactment of a legislation called “Rohith Act" aimed at preventing suicides of scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and minority students in universities.
“We are discussing with JACs of other universities to form a nation-wide JAC to take forward the agitation until justice is delivered to Rohit. The JAC also calls for a strike in universities across the country on 27 January," a spokesperson of JAC for Social Justice (HCU) said.
Srivastava appealed to the students to withdraw their hunger strike, saying the deadlock could be resolved only through dialogue and that the administration should be allowed to function. “We have been telling them for the last three days not to go on hunger strike. The main problem at this time is, today is 25th of January, students’ scholarships, fellowships... there is a procedure to be followed. Somebody has to sign the cheques," Srivastava said.
The students and SC/ST faculty and officers forums had objected to the choice of Srivastava to perform the duties of the VC alleging that he headed the executive council sub-committee “which has been responsible for the death of Rohith" and was one of the “accused" in the suicide of another Dalit student Senthil Kumar in 2008.
Srivastava said the reasons behind the student taking his own life in 2008 were not clear. “He was going through pre-PhD course work and for reasons which are still not clear, he committed suicide," Srivastava added. He said he met some faculty members on Sunday night, and has sent an email to his colleagues “if they can come down to my residence and we can talk". “Only through talks we can arrive at a solution. I reiterate the administration should be allowed to function and laboratories should be opened so that students do not experience any irreparable damage," he added.
Security was beefed up with a large number of police personnel being deployed around the campus.
As the indefinite fast launched by a fresh batch of seven students entered the second day, hundreds of students from Pondicherry University, Andhra University; Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay; Osmania University, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences converged on the campus pledging support.
The hunger fast was resumed on the campus on Sunday after the previous batch of seven fasting students were shifted to hospital on Saturday. According to HCU chief security officer T.V. Rao, over a thousand students and others have come in from different parts of the country. They marched from HCU shopping complex area, the hub of the protest, to the main gate and administrative building and back.
B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar also visited the campus and interacted with students. The HCU on Monday told the Hyderabad high court that it has revoked suspension of four students, against whom action had been initiated along with Rohith Vemula. However, the counsel of the four students contended that they were not served with the order copy in this regard, following which the court directed the HCU to file before it the documents of the circular or order on revocation of suspension along with the counter affidavit to be filed on the petition challenging their suspension. PTI