Dalit Scholar’s Suicide: Despite VC going on leave, students unhappy with interim charge

Hyderabad(PTI): Under attack over Rohith Vemula’s suicide, Hyderabad University Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile went on leave but it sparked more protests as Dalit faculty members alleged that the professor given interim charge too had “deep involvement” in the case and in the death of another student from the community. A day after the students sitting on a hunger strike were hospitalised, a fresh batch of seven students today resumed the strike to press their demands, including sacking of Podile who has been named in the FIR on charges of abetment of suicide and and under relevant sections of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in connection with Rohith’s case.

The university put a notice on its website saying, “The Vice-Chancellor will be on leave. In the absence of the Vice-Chancellor, Vipin Srivastava, the senior most Professor, shall perform the duties of the Vice-Chancellor wef 24-01-2016.” It did not mention the period of leave.
When contacted, Podile said he was “advised to be little away from campus” to break the current “impasse” in the wake of student’s agiation. “There is no pressure from anybody. It is my concern for my University. We want to resolve the issue now. There is an impasse now and to break that impasse we need to have some mechanism where I am advised to be little away from campus and somebody has to be there to be in command. We have a provision to ask a senior Professor to be in-charge and that’s what we have done,” he told PTI.
Asked whether he would take charge once normalcy returns in the university, he replied in positive.
However, the SC/ST Faculty Forum and SC/ST Officers Forum expressed “shock” over the decision to appoint Srivastava as officiating Vice-Chancellor and said it was disappointed that Podile was not dismissed.
They alleged that Srivastava was one of the “accused” in the suicide of another Dalit student, Senthil, in 2008.
“We are shocked and dismayed at Dr Vipin Srivastava, assuming the office of Vice-Chancellor of Hyderabad Central University. Prof Srivastava has been accused in the suicide of a Dalit student, Senthil, in 2008.
“More recently he headed the Executive Council Sub- Committee which has been responsible for the death of Rohith Vemula Chakravarti,” the Forums said in a joint statement.
The Sub-Committee had recommended disciplinary action against Rohith and four other scholars in connection with an assault case.
In the light of his “deep involvement” in both suicide cases, he may be asked to immediately step down from the Vice-Chancellor’s office, it said.
The development came on the eve of ‘Chalo HCU’ protest march called by agitating students to press for their demands, which include removal of the VC from his post and Rs 50 lakh compensation to the deceased’s family.
Congress leader M Mallikarjun Kharge visited the campus and said that his party would raise the issue of Rohith’s suicide in Parliament, while its student wing NSUI has decided to hold a one-day hunger strike across all state capitals tomorrow.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had yesterday said if Prime Minister Narendra Modi getting “emotional” while expressing grief over the suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith is for real, he should remove the Vice Chancellor.
Kharge, the Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, today said, “The Vice-Chancellor and the (NDA) government have killed the scholar and they have denied human rights, that is why we want to take this to Parliament and tell the entire country how injustice is being done in HCU.” “Definitely we will take this issue, but at the same time we will formulate strategy (on this issue) for the session, because we have to consult with other political parties also. This is not only in the interest of this university, but in the interest of entire Dalit community and also in the interest of the country,” he said.
National Commission for Scheduled Castes member P A Kamalamma, who also visited the HCU today, said that the Commission, soon after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, issued five recommendations to the university authorities and the state government to be implemented within 10 days.

The Commission will wait for 10 days for the response from the Telangana government and the university authorities, she said. The Dalit scholar’s body was found hanging in a hostel room on HCU campus on January 17.
On January 18, Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Podile, BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao and two others were named in an FIR on charges of abetment of suicide and and under relevant sections of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Rohith was among the five research scholars suspended by HCU in September last year for allegedly attacking an ABVP leader. He also one of the accused in the case of alleged assault on ABVP leader Susheel Kumar. Congress has been demanding sacking of Union Mnisters Dattatreya and Smriti Irani. Party leader Kapil Sibal today said if Prime Minister Narendra Modi “was sensitive”, he would have dismissed a number of persons. “If Mr Modi was sensitive, he should have dismissed a number of persons,” he told reporters in Delhi.