Wearing masks of Rohith Vemula and carrying placards, students of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) in University of Hyderabad (UoH) protested against the panel discussion on ‘Prevention of Suicides’ which was supposed to be presided over by UoH Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile. The discussion was held on Wednesday by the Centre of Women’s Studies and Dean Students’ Welfare. In the discussion, the VC supposed to give a brief address.
Learning about the discussion involving the VC, students of the ASA, carrying placards which read: ‘Suicides? Who are responsible for institutional murders???’, ‘Counsel the administration, resist institutional murders’, and ‘Oy Appa! Before talking about suicides, own up to your crime’, protested at the venue, though the VC had abstained from the event.
Appa Rao, the Vice Chancellor is accused of being the reason for the death of Dalit PhD scholar, Rohith Vemula.
On January 17, 2016, Rohith killed himself by hanging, after he was evicted from the hostel and several restrictions were imposed on him as punishment for allegedly physically assaulting a student, who is the former president of Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP).
The protesting students said that it was ironical that a ‘killer’ who pushed Rohith to take the extreme step was lecturing them on how to prevent suicides.
Speaking at the protest, Dontha Prashanth, ASA leader said, “It would have been only apt if Appa Rao was here and addressed the issues of students.” He accused the administration of not addressing the anxiety and isolation faced by the students.
ASA in its statement said, “Prof Podile Appa Rao is not only an accused in the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, but has created an environment of suffocation leaving no room for resolving the redressal of grievances of students, which ultimately lead to the institutional murders of students in general and students hailing from Dalit, Adivasi and marginalised sections in particular.”
ASA accused the university of being “callous” in addressing matters pertaining to the “institutional murder” of students.
“Instead of holding a public forum UoH is organising a seminar on prevention of suicides by hypocritically inviting Prof Podile Appa Rao, who is primarily responsible for several institutional murders on campus and the same is being initiated by a Professor from Department of History who is known for an anti-reservation stance,” the statement read.
ASA further alleged that despite numerous student suicides, the university has adopted even more regressive approaches towards the students. It alleged that the university was arbitrarily suspending and charging exorbitant fines against students in the university. It also said that the university has created an impossible circumstance for continuation of academics of students who come from margainlised backgrounds.