Protest return to Hyderabad varsity as VC makes a comeback

Hyderabad, March 22 (IANS) After a lull of more than a month, protest returned to University of Hyderabad on Tuesday as Vice-Chancellor P. Appa Rao came back from leave and resumed his duties.

The development triggered strong protest from the students, who ransacked the vice chancellor’s bungalow on the campus.

The students barged into bungalow and ransacked the furniture. Raising slogans and blaming him for the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, the students also attacked his car.

The attack occurred minutes before Appa Rao was to address media persons to announce that he has resumed duties as the vice chancellor after nearly two month leave.

The incident once again triggered tension on the campus as police rushed additional forces to prevent further violence.

The students resorted to protests since Tuesday following reports that Appa Rao is returning to resume duties as the vice-chancellor, and raised slogans like “Killer VC go back”.

The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, an umbrella grouping of 14 students’ bodies, has refused to accept him as the vice chancellor. It threatened that the university will be shut down if Appa Rao doesn’t step back.

Protestors also took strong exception to the action of Appa Rao in inviting a particular group of students for a meeting of the executive council before resuming duties.

Appa Rao, however, told reporters that no court or any higher authority has directed him not to resume duties as the VC. Terming the attack on the VC bungalow as unfortunate, he said the violence will not help anybody and instead bring bad name to the university.

Denying that there was any political intervention in suspension of five Dalit students including Vemula, he said the academic institutions should not be seen from political angle.

The VC said if anybody has grievances, they can approach the courts. To another query, he said he would seek security in view of the prevailing situation on the campus.

Appa Rao had gone on leave on January 24 amid massive protests on the campus over the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.

Vemula, one of the five Dalit students suspended by the university following clash with a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in August last year, committed suicide on the campus on January 17.

This triggered massive protests. On a complaint by a student, police had booked Appa Rao, central minister Bandaru Dattatreya and ABVP leader Sushil Kumar under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and for abetment of suicide.

JAC also blamed Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani for bringing pressure on the university authorities at the request of Dattatreya to act against Dalit students, who were members of Amedkar Students Association.

Several top politicians of the country including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechuri had visited the campus to express solidarity with protesting students demanding justice for Vemula’s family.

The union human resources development ministry formed a judicial commission to probe the suicide of Vemula.

After two weeks of protests by students, SC/ST teachers and other faculty members, the classes resumed from February 1.

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