Clampdown in Hyderabad campus, Protests erupt

After JNU, protests and police repression hit Hyderabad Univ once again

Abeer Kapoor Delhi 

Even as JNU became relatively peaceful after the release of students from jail, the Hyderabad Central University is once again in the eye of the storm with reported police excesses on students. Students in Hyderabad and JNU are terming as a “dictatorial government’s gift to students on Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom anniversary”. 

On Tuesday, reports, videos and personal stories emerging from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) reveal how several students, protesting against the reinstatement of Appa Rao Podile as the vice-chancellor of the university, were lathicharged by the police. Controversial VC, Appa Rao, resumed office on March 22 after a two-month leave following the death of Dalit Ph.D. scholar Rohith Vemula and the massive protests which erupted in the campus, and thereby spread across the country. Accused of being complicit in the “institutional murder” of the Dalit scholar, who committed suicide after the suspension of five Dalits students, including Rohith, he was asked to go on leave indefinitely. Many students maintain that he was directly responsible for their suspension and vitimisation, and, in turn, should be punished for the death of the 26-year-old research scholar. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the university have also pinned the blame on BJP leader Bandaru Dattatreya and HRD Minister Smriti Irani for “hounding” Rohith Vemula  by repeatedly complaining and sending notices against him. 

Students and members of the faculty protested outside the Vice Chancellor's Lodge, opposing the reinstatement. It is alleged that the students and faculty turned violent while protesting; vandalising the lodge of the vice chancellor and destroyed his property. There are reports that the ABVP had barricaded the lodge. However, the JAC claims that it wasn’t them who vandalised the lodge but members of the ABVP who used the furniture from the lodge to create a picket fence.  

The police were subsequently unleashed --the CRPF and the RAF -- on the students. Video footage emerging from the incident shows the police manhandling, and beating up students, dragging them and hitting them continuously.  Male police are shown dragging and beating up protesting girl students, who are peacefully picking. The students, despite the police violence, continued their sit-in peacefully. However, the students have been accused of violence by the police; reports and photographs have emerged of bloodied officers, who were hit while controlling the mob. 

Between 27 and 36 students and some faculty members have been arrested. Students say that 36 students have been picked up and taken to unknown location, including two faculty members. Several civil society organisations have called the police intervention at the university as a “vicious and targeted” response by the government to persecute and crush those who led the protests and agitation following Vemula's death. Students protested in Delhi today, among other places, in solidarity with the students of Hyderabad. JNU students led a march in Delhi. JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar has reached Hyderabad and has wowed to address the students there despite the clampdown. On his Twitter account, Kanhaiya has said that authorities are now scared of what the students want to speak out. 

The university registrar, on March 22, has reportedly written a letter to the commissioner of the Cyberabad Police stating that due to the violence that was witnessed in the campus, the gates of the university will remain shut and no outsiders, media or political organisations would be allowed entry inside. Classes have been cancelled till March 27.  

Students have declared that the university authorities are brazenly lying and a state of ‘unofficial’ emergency has been declared. It is alleged that over the course of the night following the protests the Internet has been blocked, drinking water has been stopped, and the mess has not made any food. This has been engineered by the VC and his coterie, said the students. Moreover, even the ATMs, according to reports on social media websites, have stopped working. Civil society, friends and locals have responded to the situation by calling all concerned to provide shelter and food to the students of UoH. 

Several political organisations have come out in support of the students of the university and have condemned the attacks on the student body. Students organizations like NSUI and AISA have taken to social media to condemn the incident of police brutality, while updating information on “police repression”. The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights has condemned the violence on the students and the clampdown. 

Pic: Muhammad Vasil