The minutes of a meeting held at the VC’s Camp Office on March 24, suggest that the removal of “unauthorized structures” is on the cards

Hyderabad University to remove Rohith Vemula memorials on campusImage By arrangement
news Rohith Vemula Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 15:37

Just days after a minor victory – securing bail for the arrested students and professors – students at Hyderabad University find themselves gearing up for another battle: to protect the Rohith Smaraka Stupa which they fear will be removed by officials.

The fears of the students may not be unfounded. The minutes of a meeting held at the VC’s Camp Office on March 24, suggest that the removal of “unauthorized structures” is on the cards. The meeting was attended by the deans of schools and the director for the colleges of integrated studies.

Point No. 11 on the list says that “unauthorized things at accumulated at the shopping complex will have to be removed” and that the help of the police would be sought if required.

The document also says that the process “would start after giving notice to the concerned”. In order to prevent such structures from coming up in future, a circular should be issued by the university, the document says.

“Unauthorized things” could mean several things. The most prominent of these are the Rohith Smaraka Stupa, a bust of Rohith near the canteen and the Velivada (Dalit ghetto), the tent set up by the five students and their friends when they were suspended from the hostel last December.

 

However, the whole area around the Shopping Complex in the north campus has many markers of the students’ anger after Rohith’s suicide. Graffiti, for starters. This includes not just Rohith’s portraits, but also caricatures of Vice Chancellor Apparao, often shown as a bug. Other decorations too are still around. There is also a stage, where the students launched the hunger strike, and where many still camp out, including Sunkanna Velpula, Vijay Kumar, Dontha Prashant and Sheshu.

Read the story Here: Student anger turns into art, HCU campus awash with graffiti, posters, paintings

The Joint Action Committee of the students, which has gotten wind of the move, says they will strive to ensure that it does not happen.

JAC member Sushma (name changed) told The News Minute: “The five suspended students started their protest in the Shopcom area. The Velivada was made when the students were sleeping outside in the winter. By removing them, they want to kill the movement from where it was started. We will fight (back) until the VC is sacked.”

The Smaraka Stupa – simple concrete slab with a photo of Rohith – was set up near the Velivada, where Rohith spent his last days before killing himself from his friend’s room on January 17.

PhD scholar Sunkanna, one of the suspended students, said the university’s move wouldn’t work.

“We will not let them remove the Stupa but even if they do, we will re-build it. There are thousands of students to protect the Stupa and the other structures at the Shopcom, which they call unauthorized. Even by removing them, the university will not stop our protest.”

Mass Communication student Amrith BLS says if the administration carried out its threat, it would backfire and that further strengthen the protest.

Students are also disturbed by another aspect of discussion in the meeting, which concerns the continued restriction of entry of outsiders in the campus, especially the media.

On March 23, VC Apparao had issued instructions that no outsider including politicians, media and others would be allowed to enter the campus. It was issued on the day JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar was to visit the university and address the students.

Even Radhika and Raja Vemula, Rohith’s mother and brother, were not allowed inside the campus when they arrived to protest Apparao’s return to the university.

Former HCU student Avnish who is participating in the protests told The News Minute that restricting the entry of outsiders would simply not work. “It will only work on paper. We have our own ways of getting in and out of the campus. After all, it's our university, even if we've graduated from there. It's a vast campus which can't be blocked from each and every corner.”

Amrith BLS wonders why the Vice Chancellor had continued to restrict entry into the campus. “If he believes that he is innocent of all charges, why place restrictions?”

“The ulterior motives of the UOH administration have been revealed. They want to curtail the freedoms of the students, true to the ideas of RSS. Rumours about police outpost being set up inside the campus are also floating, which shows their autocratic nature.”

The minutes of the meeting show that the deans and others at the meeting did indeed discuss implementing the UGC’s directive to set up a police outpost on campus.

PhD scholar Ramji believes that the university wants to block the media because it did not want the goings on at the university to be known outside.

“AP High Court formed a committee to look into the suicides in HCU in the last few years. With all that is happening now after Rohith's death, the cause for suicides is crystal clear. It is an undisputable fact. The faculty and non-teaching staff are supporting outright VC, who is the prime accused. They are blocking media because the media are exposing these facts.”

The meeting of the university officials also constitutes a seven-member committee to negotiate with the “agitating students to restore normalcy on the campus”.

Students however, say they want nothing to do with the committee. Sushma of the JAC said: “The JAC and Students’ Union will never negotiate any demands or neither we will participate in any dialog with the committee formed in the minute meeting".

Professor Vipin Srivastava, who was designated PRO during the meeting denied that there was any move to remove the stupas.

"Yes we had meeting on March 24 with deans from all the departments and all these things were discussed. But the decision of removing stupas and unauthorized things is not true as we have not had any discussion on removal of stupas. This document which you received is fabricated I guess.”

However, a professor of the university confirmed to The News Minute that the minutes of the meeting had been circulated among all departments.

Srivastava did not however, deny that the entry of outsiders would continue. “Media and other outsiders will not be allowed until further notice. For now, our only concern is to restore normalcy in the campus. Students should attend classes and write their exams. We want this to happen in peace. Lots of rumors are doing the rounds and that is the reason we are not allowing media and outsiders inside the campus.”

 

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