Civil rights activists in Telangana have launched a solidarity campaign in support of Dalit activist-academician professor Sujatha Surepally for the ‘malicious’ campaign against her allegedly carried out by the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS. The campaign accused her of being a ‘Maoist’, and allegedly recruiting students to join extremist groups. Sujatha is the head of the Sociology Department in Satavahana University, Karimnagar.
The solidarity campaign also demanded the state government to take steps to curb the vicious campaign against her and take prompt action on the complaints of alleged sexual harassment in Satavahana University. Assistant Professor from the Department of Botany, Dr Penchala Srinivas, has been accused of sexually harassing female students.
In an open letter, the activists said that Sujatha was an Ambedkarite who even contested in the recently-held Telangana Assembly Elections which is a testament to her faith in a parliamentary democracy.
The activists accused the ABVP for the defamatory campaign against her, alleging that it was because Sujatha has been resisting the ‘saffron-manuvadi’ agenda in Telangana universities.
“We further believe, based on our inquiries, that she is also being targeted now for standing by the students opposing and protesting the Brahminical and Hindutva onslaught, whether in OU, UOH, EFLU or Satavahana University,” the letter states.
They further alleged that the ABVP through WhatsApp and other social media has been indulging in a deliberate misinformation campaign against Sujatha. Misusing photos from the study tour to Bhadrachalam, activists alleged that the ABVP had been circulating the photos suggesting that they were from Chhattisgarh, which has a strong Naxal presence, and that the study tour was to visit Maoists.
Subsequently, the ABVP carried out a protest and filed a complaint with the police on May 15 about the ‘Maoist activity’ in the University. On the same day, Commissioner VB Kamalasan Reddy through a press release stated that Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV), a student organization, has been working as a front for Maoists and recruiting students by brainwashing them. He, however, did not conclude that Sujatha had taken students to Maoist affected areas.
Earlier speaking to TNM, the Commissioner said that there was no proof to show that the student group met Maoists and said that the allegation does not 'seem to be true'. The Commissioner, however, added that the police knew that certain leaders of TVV (not from this particular university, but leaders of the organisation as such) did have ties with Maoists and met them periodically.”
Sujatha alleged that the campaign against her is a conspiracy by Karimnagar Police Commissioner VB Kamalasan Reddy, Satavahana University Registrar U Umesh Kumar and the RSS as a mechanism to deter her from seeking justice for the victims of sexual harassment, and remove her from the job. She further alleged that that Penchala Srinivas, who had been accused of sexual harassment by students, had links to the RSS.
“Since TVV and I are fighting for justice, they want to divert the issue and tarnish organizations, which are vocal against the state government,” alleged Sujatha, speaking to TNM.
TVV had been in the forefront of the agitation to remove Penchala Srinivas, and after their demand for probe, the University constituted a committee and took disciplinary action against him in March.