Vice Chancellor, EFL University, Hyderabad: Stop Criminalization of SC/ST/OBC students in EFLU
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We would like to register our strong protest against the way in which criminal cases have been filed against 9 SC/ST/OBC students in EFLU by the administration.
First of all, disregarding all rules and regulations regarding disciplinary action in the university, Mudasir Kamran was sent to police custody at the behest of the Proctor for “counseling,” after he had an altercation with a fellow student. It was after he was arrested and detained in the police station – some reports also say that he was tortured – that Mudasir committed suicide in his hostel room. From the evening that Mudasir died, armed police men were allowed to enter the campus and they kept accompanying the students through the meetings and candle light marches that followed. We hear that the students protested strongly against this till at last the police was made to leave the campus on March 3rd.
It was following this that the students formed an EFLU Struggle Committee and started a peaceful resistance demanding that compensation be paid to Mudasir’s family and that the proctor, Harish Vijra, be suspended. However, instead of listening to the legitimate grievances of the students, you and the administration again brought in the police to deal with them. Often it was the police who tried to mediate between the students and the administration! The police even prepared a list of names of the people involved in the struggle, which included 18 students and teachers, as part of a profiling exercise done in collaboration with the administration. To the shock and dismay of students, soon regular police patrolling has been instituted in the campus and the police has become a permanent feature in EFLU.
On April 30th, we hear that the police was called into the campus again, following the accidental death of Narsingh Rao, a non-teaching staff. It is highly unfortunate that you allowed the police to come in with riot prevention vehicles and that they lathi charged the students and non-teaching employees who had gathered to mourn the diseased. Against all given norms, 8 of them were taken into custody and were detained for a whole day. Such an incident of lathi charging of students is one of the first in the history EFL University. Later in April, yet another student, Moihuddin committed suicide allegedly due to harassment from the administration and staff. This time too, the police was called in and they did not allow Moihuddin’s body to be brought into the campus so that the students could pay their last respect to him.
The police have been freely entering both the Osmania and EFLU campus on a routine basis and making enquiries about students. In EFLU they have been making enquiries about students from Muslim backgrounds. All of this has so intimidated the students that they have started leaving the hostels now. Uniformed policemen are a common sight in EFLU today. The police is not only intimidating male students but they are also troubling female students by passing objectionable comments about their clothes and appearance.
Now the University you have gone even further and filed extremely serious criminal cases against 9 SC/ST/OBC students, for ‘offences’ that were committed while they were protesting for justice for Mudasir.
These offences include:
147: Rioting – 2 Years, Cognizable, Bailable
· 148: Rioting armed with deadly weapon – 3 Years, cognizable, bailable
· 341: Wrongfully restraining any person – cognizable, bailable
· 353: Assault or use of criminal force other than on grave provocation – imprisonment for 2 years – cognizable; non-bailable
· 427: mischief and causing damage imprisonment for 2 years; non-cognizable , bailable
· 448: house trespass; 1 year, cognizable, bailable 506 r/w 149: criminal intimidation (with group liability).
This is nothing but the sheer criminalization of students from marginalized backgrounds.
SC/ST/OBC students are only recently coming to higher elite university spaces, which has been a strong hold of the upper castes for decades now. EFLU started implementing SC reservations only in the late 90s. ST students took many more years to come into EFLU. The OBCs started entering central universities all over India, only a few years back. In most universities SC/ST/OBC teacher posts are not filled up and there are numerous problems regarding the implementation of reservations even for students. Even after they enter, students from these backgrounds have to face an alienating space where the syllabus, pedagogy and the class room are all pitted against them. Most students also have to struggle hard because of the sudden shift from an education in the regional language medium to English.
This new trend of calling the police in and slapping criminal cases on students and profiling them and intimidating them, only worsens the existing situation. Till now these students were so discriminated that they either had to dropout or end up as failures. Many were also forced to commit suicide, seeing no future for themselves in the field of higher education or in the larger society. Now EFLU is showing how such students can be further persecuted by being threatened with jail. This "university to prison pipeline” reminds one of the “school to prison pipeline” that saw the increasing criminalization of black students in America. Many of them were handcuffed, even while in school campuses and pushed into state prisons, causing huge uproar among the black community.
We cannot allow the same methods to be employed on our students. We want our students to be given a fair chance to study, to protest and to resist discrimination and other oppression. Instead of criminalizing them in this manner, the university and larger society should urgently re-cognize their important role in making our society truly democratic.
We demand that all the cases against the students be withdrawn with immediate effect.
We also demand that the police force be withdrawn and the climate of debate and discussion, befitting a university, is restored in the campus.
We strongly suggest that a committee of SC/ST/OBC and Minority/Muslim teachers in EFLU (along with some well known academics from these communities) is set up to look into the many grievances of the students.
We demand the immediate intervention of all concerned in what is happening, instead of leaving our students to the hands of the police.
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