The majority of University of Hyderabad (UoH) students are not ready to support the elements that use campuses to spread anti-India, separatist ideologies, the way it happened at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on 9 February. These students do not want to be part of any larger campaign that seeks to espouse the cause of separatism in Jammu and Kashmir or that of any other terrorist outfit in the country. In fact, except for the members of some hardcore Dalit groups—the campus is a hotbed of Dalit student politics—and left students’ unions, the majority of students are also averse to discussing or talking about slogans supporting Yakub Memon that had been raised by, among others, Rohith Vemula, the student whose suicide has rocked politics for over a month. After witnessing the debate in Parliament on the matter, several students are endorsing the view of Union Minister for Human Resources Development, Smriti Irani and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that upholding academic atmosphere and ending caste discrimination on campus was different from backing anti-national slogans in universities.
“We are for specific action to prevent any further suicides in the university, but we are also clearly against the campus being misused by certain elements that shout anti-national slogans and back the separation of J&K,” said M. Sambasiva Rao, president of the Science Research Scholars Association, while talking to The Sunday Guardian on Friday. After participating for five weeks in the stir which sought justice to the cause of Rohith Vemula who committed suicide on 17 January, the Science and Research Scholars Association, among others, has decided to distance itself from any further stir on the issue. Rao, after holding a meeting with his fellow scholars has communicated the same to the students’ Joint Action Committee for Social Justice.
A vast change has taken place in the atmosphere of the campus. While a handful of students owing allegiance to the left parties and some Dalit groups are meeting regularly at the Rohith memorial, located at the centre of the campus, several other students from integrated, graduate and post-graduate courses have disappeared from the stir.
“We came to express our solidarity with Rohith, a bright PhD scholar, who ended his life in a most distressful condition, and demanded that such incidents should not happen again. But we are not ready to support the other activities of certain unions (Ambedkar Students Association—ASA),” said Madhavi Kumari, PhD scholar from Andhra Pradesh. She is a sympathiser of ASA.
“They are all political slogans and have nothing to do with the present issue of fighting caste discrimination on campus. Rohith died because of caste humiliation and personal isolation, not because of political issues,” said an MSc integrated student.
The Parliamentary debate on the Rohith issue was watched with avid interest by the students. When this newspaper spoke to around 20 students, most of them felt that the follow-up measures initiated by the Central government were satisfactory, but more could be done like bringing in a law to redress students’ grievances. They want it to be called the Rohith Act. However, hardcore Dalit unions are not relenting. “Action must be taken against Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, whose pressure on the university resulted in Rohith’s suicide. The government is busy building a case against Rohith by saying that he was not a Dalit and that he blamed no one for his suicide,” D. Prashant, a Joint Action Committee member told this newspaper.
Even teaching and non-teaching bodies like the university’s teachers’ association and non-teaching unions have decided to end the stir and wait for the reports of the three probes—a judicial panel set up by the MHRD, another by the local police and the third by the Hyderabad High Court—as all of them are in their final stages.
“Most of our demands like the sacking of the then Vice Chancellor, Professor P. Appa Rao and registering a case against Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya have been met. We are interested only in the issues that led to the tragic death of Rohith,” said Dr Janardhan Rao, who was among the 20 faculty members who signed a letter to the President, seeking action against the then VC last month.
Now the agitation is mostly being led by the CPM and CPI’s students’ unions—SFI and AISF—and some Dalit groups. The other students who dominated the stir in the initial days are absent. The student leaders from JNU and Delhi University who camped here for the last four weeks have returned to Delhi, but some leaders from within Hyderabad are still here, coordinating the stir.