Days after the Telangana government announced the temporary shutdown of educational institutions due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state, hundreds of students of Osmania University (OU) in Hyderabad and Kakatiya University (KU) in Warangal staged flash protests demanding the roll back of the decision on Wednesday. The OU students staged a sit-in at the ladiesâ€™ hostel of the university and Shivam Road near the campus, as well as the Secunderabad PG College. The Kakatiya University students held a flash rally at the university campus. Later, police detained protesting students from all the sites.
On Tuesday, the Telangana government announced that all educational institutes, with the exception of medical colleges, will be shut until further notice, including hostel and mess services. The following day, colleges and universities announced that scheduled examinations will be indefinitely postponed as well. The protesting students allege that the decision will affect their academics and careers.
RN Shankar, a PhD scholar in Economics at OU and All India Student Federation (AISF) State General Secretary told TNM, "The police detained us and released us at midnight for demanding the opening of hostels. When every other institution, malls and function halls are opened, why is the government forcing universities to shut down? Hundreds of students from weaker sections are going to be affected."
He added, "In the last academic year, at least 6 PhD scholars died by suicide at their homes owing to different reasons, including disturbance to their studies. Since most of the students come from marginalised families, they may not have two or three-bedroom houses where they can study in peace.â€ť
Padma, another PhD research scholar from OU Arts College who hails from Bhuvanagiri and resides at a ladiesâ€™ hostel on campus said, "COVID-19 wasn't an obstacle to the government while conducting GHMC and bye elections, so why is running higher educational institutions a problem? They should revoke the decision to shut the hostels."
She added, "We have paid thousands of rupees for hostel accommodations and coaching institutes for competitive exams. With the governmentâ€™s decision, where should we go? Women students will be most affected.â€ť
Speaking about the disadvantage of not being able to access university facilities, a woman student who wished to remain unnamed shared, "Facilities at the university like hostels help us pursue our education, and we have already lost one year. In many cases, parents are forcing us (women) to get married.â€ť
Students from Warangal's KU and other residential institutions, who are concerned about losing out on the academic yet again, also staged a protest at the Warangal Urban Collectorate o ln Wednesday.
According to sources, the OU authorities decided to close messes and hostels on the campus after lunch on Thursday. Police presence was reportedly seen at the campus, in light of the university asking students to vacate the premises. Several students who did not wish to leave have submitted a representation with Osmania Universityâ€™s Registrarâ€™s office. However, university authorities have maintained that the state governmentâ€™s rule will be followed.