There was a palpable tension in the air at Osmania University’s Arts College building, generally considered the epicentre of all dissent on campus, on Tuesday.
A few policemen deployed at the spot looked on cautiously, as students spoke to each other and a few mediapersons gathered.
“I got out of the police station last night. This was their gift to me as I tried to run away,” said one student raising his trousers to reveal a big bruise on his left leg.
Trouble began in Osmania University on Sunday when E Murali, a 21-year-old student doing his Master’s degree in Physics, hanged himself in the bathroom of the University’s Maneru Hostel.
According to the police, a suicide note recovered from Murali said that he had decided to kill himself because he was afraid of failing his exams.
However, many students say that the real reason for Murali’s depression was the possibility of unemployment and blamed the state government’s delay in releasing the job notification.
Angry students then blocked access to the hostel for many hours and refused to let Murali’s body be taken away for a post-mortem.
Following this, a video on Sunday night showed policemen in riot gear breaking down the door of a hostel room and assaulting students with lathis.
This was followed by more clashes on Monday when students gathered in large numbers at around 10 am and shouted slogans against Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and the police.
Several students were detained by the police, who charged them with violence on campus.
(Scenes from the protest on Monday. Image Credit)
A larger problem
Hailing from Gajwel of Siddipet mandal in Telangana, Murali came from an OBC community and was a first-generation graduate student from his family. There are several students like him on campus and they all have one major problem – unemployment.
“Consider this. No matter how many MNCs come to Hyderabad, where will they recruit from? Will they go to private colleges or come to the placement cell here? We have no scope to be part of this so-called development,” says Kota Srinivas, the state president of the Telangana Vidyarthi Samithi (TVS).
“Unemployment is our biggest problem… we spend several years to get an education, only to settle for menial jobs. Don’t we have the same ambition to join these big companies?” Srinivas asks.
Others also remarked that many people on campus were waiting for job notifications.
“In the last three years, at least 50,000 people may have retired, while around 1.5 lakh jobs were going to be notified by the Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress government in 2014, before Telangana was granted. However, KCR had opposed it at the time, saying that those jobs would be notified after the formation of the state to ensure that no ‘injustice’ was done to the people of the state,” one student leader pointed out.
However, three years later, the predicted 2 lakh jobs are nowhere in sight, the students say.
“The only notifications which have progressed smoothly are the ones for liquor outlets and contractors, as there is a lot of scope to pocket money in these fields,” Srinivas remarked.
Most students who had gathered on Tuesday were part of the Telangana struggle for a separate statehood, but now are vexed with the TRS government for going back on its promise of providing placements.
(SFI burns an effigy on Tuesday)
It was this same sentiment that was tapped by the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), led by KCR’s former aide N Kodandaram, which organised a rally of unemployed youth and students in Hyderabad on Monday.
Speaking at the “Koluvula Kotlaata” (Fight for jobs) rally, Kodandaram, who had played a key role in the movement for a separate Telangana state, alleged that the government had failed to fulfill the promise to provide jobs and this had led to frustration among youth.
He demanded that the government take steps on war-footing to fill the 3 lakh vacancies. He said instead of addressing the issue, the ruling TRS was branding them politically unemployed.
“This is not the Telangana which we had fought and the martyrs laid down their lives for,” he said.
Crackdown on dissent
Many students are also irked with the state crackdown, saying it was uncalled for.
“Universities are supposed to be centres for freedom of expression that is guaranteed under the Constitution. If we can’t express ourselves here, where will we do it?” one student asked.
Many questioned if they fought for a separate Telangana, at the very same spot, only for the new state’s government also to turn on them.
A fact-finding committee also visited the University on Tuesday to ascertain what had happened on Sunday night.
“The students were demanding a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the deceased’s kin. However, the irony is that the state spent at least 10 times more money in mobilising hundreds of policemen and attacking the students,” said AM Khan Yazdani, a member of the committee.
“The move reeked of vengeance. The government wanted to send a message across that protests like these would not be tolerated,” said Jeevan Kumar, President, Human Rights Forum (HRF).