Revoke the suspension of Professors in University of Hyderabad
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A PETITION TO THE VISITOR OF UNIVERSITY OF HYDERABAD
The Honourable President of India,
Visitor, University of Hyderabad.
The death of Rohith Vemula led to a huge uproar in the length and breadth of the country and also internationally. It is a bugle call for action against caste discrimination. In the wake of death of Rohith Vemula, Mr. Appa Rao Podile absconded from the university abdicating the responsibility of leading the university in times of deep distress and anguish. In spite of the assurances given to him by the students and faculty, he never formally met the university community at that time nor explained or apologized for Rohith's death. To this day, he has not made any efforts to reach out to the Dalit faculty and students who feel vulnerable. Instead, all of his actions have been in such a way that they only demoralise them further.
Prof.Periaswamy assumed charge as the interim vice-chancellor on February 1st and brought back the university to some sort of normalcy. Prof. Appa Rao came back and joined duty on March 22nd, informing a few faculty and a section of students who are favourable to him. The students have gone to protest at the VC lodge, where Appa Rao was holding a meeting with a section of students, non-teaching staff and faculty. There was an altercation between the students who were agitating and the non-teaching staff and the section of the students who were there in the VC lodge already. After a while, the police came and proceeded to evacuate the VC lodge and the protesting students went into the back lawns and continued their protest.
Some faculty members went to the VC lodge, including Dr. Tathagata Sengupta and Dr. Ratnam, primarily to see that there were no further altercations between sections of students. Dr. Tathagata Sengupta, Assistant Professor, School of Mathematics and Statistics, arrived at the VC lodge after 12:00pm from his department when he heard about the return of Prof. Appa Rao to the campus and the resulting protest which was going on in his lodge. At around 3:00pm Prof. Ratnam, Head, Centre for Ambedkar Studies came to the VC lodge. He was in an interview all of the morning and after lunch he came to know about Prof. Appa Rao's return and the protest. When he came, the police asked him to persuade students to leave the VC lodge premises as it is a private residence. He proceeded to talk to the students conveying this message and was waiting for the answer of the students. When the students were evicted with force soon after that, he left the VC lodge area along with the other faculty. When the faculty came outside, they found that the students were being brutally and indiscriminately lathicharged and girl students were molested. They tried to persuade the police not to brutalise the students even if they arrested them. For this “crime”, the faculty were brutally beaten up and arrested under false charges. Now to top it all, the university authorities have suspended them on the basis of the same false charges.
While it is true that any employee who is in jail for more than 48 hours is deemed to be suspended, the rules for suspension say that this should be used sparingly. In this case, there is no real “crime” of the faculty other than expressing their solidarity with students and trying to protect them from police excesses. They were also there to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate any further than it was already. It is also clear that the administration was aware of the arrest of the faculty through the newspapers which carried the news item prominently, through the families and colleagues of the faculty who represented to the VC and respective Heads/Deans that they are unable to report to duty as they were arrested. Yet, the administration did not take any action immediately nor for the entire semester that they were working. Under such circumstances, to suspend them beyond the period of their incarceration reeks of vindictiveness and malafide intention on the part of the administration. It is also surprising that their suspension orders cover the period where they have taught, evaluated and discharged all their duties to the institution with the full knowledge of the university.
There are very few highly qualified faculty, as such, in the universities of India. Prof. Ratnam and Prof. Tathagata are well-respected faculty in their fields. Further, they are extremely caring of their students, especially those who come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. In conditions where the Dalit students are already feeling vulnerable and feel they are under attack, the suspension of faculty to whom they can turn in times of distress only leads to more stressful conditions for Dalit students. This is the sort of climate which led to the tragic death of Mr.Rohith Vemula. Perpetuating the same circumstances shows the callous disregard of the administration to the concerns of Dalit students who feel vulnerable and highly discriminated against.
We appeal to you, in your role as Visitor of University of Hyderabad, to write to the Vice-Chancellor of University of Hyderabad to revoke the suspension immediately and withdraw all the cases filed against the faculty and students to restore a semblance of normalcy on campus so that the institutional interests may not suffer.
(SC/ST Teachers' Forum and Concerned Teachers)
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