On Ambedkar Jayanti, security guards interrupted Koonal Duggal’s speech on “Why Ambedkar Jayanti is also a moment of challenge and not only celebration”

I was treated like a criminal Interview with Koonal Duggal Dalit research scholar at EFLUImage By arrangement
news Dalit Scholar Friday, April 22, 2016 - 10:05

Thursday’s events at the English and Foreign Languages University were nearly a repeat of what happened to Koonal Duggal on Ambedkar Jayanti.

On Ambedkar Jayanti, security guards interrupted Koonal Duggal’s speech on “Why Ambedkar Jayanti is also a moment of challenge and not only celebration”. It was to be followed by a song of resistance by Faiz Ahmed Faiz during the event organized on the campus to mark Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. Koonal was physically removed from the campus and says he was treated like a criminal.

A week later, the EFLU-Joint Action Committee organized an exhibition of Koonal’s art which includes drawings,paintings and sketches which he made in the span of 10 years.He has trained as an artist from Punjab University and as an art historian at MS University in Vadodara.

According to a press release, security officials attempted to disrupt the exhibition which was titled “The Everyday from the ‘I’ of a Dalit Artist” on Thursday. The release said: “The security staff initially asked the students to remove the exhibits, stating that they were acting under orders from the Proctor. The administration also called in the police to disrupt the event.”

A similar sequence of events had occurred on April 14, on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti, when security guards interrupted him, and told him that they had done so on the orders of the university. However, on that day, it went beyond mere disruption.

He later filed a case with the Osmania University police who registered a case under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against Proctor Prakash Kona Reddy for harassment.

Recalling the events, he said that CCTV cameras were installed near the venue. “When I questioned them, the four security guards said they were sent on orders of the Proctor to ‘restrict’ me from the campus. They held me with their hands and attempted to take me to the main gate to the security staffs office. I refused to go,” he said.

They then physically removed him from the venue. “They dragged me from the venue in front of the other students and teachers, and treated me like a criminal. They also called me anti-university, anti-national for singing a song by Faiz Ali. Is it a crime a to sing a song?” Duggal says.

On March 28, EFLU students organized a meeting expressing solidarity with the arrested students and professors of HCU, and also sent post cards addressed to President of India protesting the arrests. “In what way is this writing to the President and fighting for justice for Rohith Vemula anti- national?” he says.

Koonal alleges that he had to face such humiliation just because he was Dalit. “But such humiliation is not new in the university. EFLU is known for discrimination against Dalits, and Adivasi Bahujan students,” he alleges.

He says that EFLU’s claim that he was not a student of the university was “completely untrue”.

“According to the rulebook of PhD students, I continue to be a student until the vice Chancellor approves the result. This happens only after the external examiners give their remarks and the viva is conducted. I have just submitted my thesis and I am awaiting my viva. So I am still a student of the university,” he says.

He said that something was amiss in the manner in which the university had acted. “If the order of the Proctor to ‘restrict’ me from the campus was dated March 29th, why the University administration take 15 days to give me the notice?” Koonal says.

Koonal, who hails from Delhi, came to Hyderabad in 2010 to pursue his PhD. His thesis on “Caste and Religious Politics  in contemporary Punjab'' has to be defended during viva examination. He aspires to be in the academia. He is teaching Art History as a guest faculty member at Hyderabad Central University.

Koonal says the administration should apologize to him and also publicly. He has demanded that the order against him be withdrawn and proctor be removed from his position and arrested under the ST/SC atrocities act.



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