V-C says that allowing Gandhi might trigger clashes between rival student unions over his visit.

 

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been denied permission to enter the Osmania University (OU) campus in Hyderabad for a meeting on 13 or 14 August. Gandhi would be touring Telangana on these two days, for the first time after he assumed charge of the party. An interaction of him with the students of OU was planned on the occasion by the AICC, but the university rejected it.

Osmania University Vice-Chancellor Dr S. Ramachandram on Friday told the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC)’s student wing leaders in writing that it would not be possible to allow Gandhi inside the campus as it might trigger clashes between rival student unions who are opposing his visit.

“There is a possibility of breach to peace on the campus and hence it would not be possible to allow the Congress president inside,” he informed a joint action committee (JAC) of student unions that sponsored Gandhi’s lecture. Earlier, ruling party’s student front TRS Vidyarthi Vibhag (TRSVV) submitted a letter to the V-C opposing Gandhi’s programme.

The OU campus has been witnessing protests for and against Gandhi’s visit, ever since the AICC suggested it last week. The TPCC was asked by the AICC to arrange a meeting for the party president on the OU as its campus played a key role in the Telangana statehood agitation but has now become a hotbed of anti-KCR movement.

Sections of around 5,000 students are angry with the TRS government for its failure to fill up around 1 lakh jobs in the government as it has been promised at the time of the statehood agitation. So far, the government could only recruit around 20,000 jobs due to procedural hurdles and another 15,000 jobs are in pipeline.

Due to students’ unrest, CM KCR couldn’t even speak on the inaugural of OU centenary celebrations in April 2017, when then President Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest. The centenary valedictory was conducted on a low-key as the CM had declined the turn up for any events on the campus. The Indian Science Congress in this January, too, was shifted out of OU for the same reason.

Congress, which has pinned many hopes of wresting power from TRS in Telangana in 2019, has planned a series of interactions for Gandhi with different social groups. The party wanted to cash in on the students’ unrest against the TRS government and mobilise youths and students behind it. The OU campus event was an important item for Gandhi’s team.

Gandhi surprised the students, especially those from SC/ST and minority sections, by joining the protests on University of Hyderabad two years ago when its scholar Rohit Vemula committed suicide. Gandhi’s aides in AICC believe that he must visit the OU campus which is full of students from rural areas of Telangana, to reach out to them.

Leaders of OU JAC, who planned Gandhi’s visit—Manavatha Roy and M. Krishank—told The Sunday Guardian cancellation of his visit was “undemocratic and arbitrary” on the part of the V-C. “This is not a political event, we just wanted to listen to the president of a national party to update our understanding, but the TRS government is afraid of him,” they said.

They, however, were opposed by TRSVV leader Anjaneyulu Goud who said that Gandhi’s visit would definitely disturb the academic atmosphere on the campus. “How can he (Gandhi) come here as it was the Congress which is responsible for death of scores of innocent students during the statehood agitation?” asked Goud. TRSVV threatened fresh stir if Congress was bent on Gandhi’s visit.

However, TPCC president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy announced on Friday evening that the Congress would like to avoid any trouble on the campus and instead hold a meeting of unemployed youth at Saroornagar Stadium on 13 or 14 August. “We will invite all OU students to the stadium and Rahul Gandhi would interact with them there,” said Reddy.

Besides, Gandhi would be interacting with social groups—women self-help groups, entrepreneurs, government employees and editors of newspapers—during this visit. This is seen as an equivalent of BJP national president Amit Shah’s mass contact programme, “Sampark Se Samarthan”.

Gandhi would also visit two prominent restaurants—Paradise, famous for Hyderabadi Biryani in Secunderabad, and Madina Hotel, a vintage Chai Samosa joint in the Old City of Hyderabad—during this visit.

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