Students at Hyderabad University, led by the Joint Action Committee, have decided not to raise slogans on Tuesday – Republic Day. Just the previous day, songs, slogans and speeches rang out across the campus.
Member of the Joint Action Committee and co-convenor of the Ambedkar Students’ Union Sannakki Munna told The News Minute: “We will not raise slogans today. It is Republic Day and we respect the Constitution.”
He said that the students would tie a ribbon across their mouths as a means of protest, but would refrain from sloganeering. The students have also organized a screening of Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai and an interaction with the film’s director Nakul Singh Sawhney.
Rohith Vemula and another student at the Velivada (Dalit ghetto), some days before his death. In the background are photos of BR Ambedkar and Savithribai Phule.
“This is how it all started actually. We had organized a screening of this film and that’s how Susheel (Kumar, ABVP activist) ended up putting that Facebook post. They brought in that Yakub Memon story later. It was in the second report that they made us ‘anti-national’,” he said.
On Monday however, according to the JAC’s estimates, over 2,000 students converged at the university in response to their call for ChaloHCU.
Students from all over the country joined students of Hyderabad University for the Chalo HCU protest including those from IIT Mumbai, IIT Madras, Andhra University, Osamania University, English and Foreign Languages University, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, students affiliated with the Congress’ NSUI. Students of Bangalore University protested in front of the Town Hall in Bengaluru and uploaded a video on YouTube. They sang “We Shall Overcome” and raised slogans against Vice Chancellor Appa Rao, union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya.
Students performing the street play in Hyderabad University.
On the day of the protest, being on the campus was a sensory experience. In several areas within the campus, especially around the shopcom (shopping complex), fine arts students had set up paintings, created art work and graffiti on the walls.
Elsewhere, protest songs were being played to the beat of drums. These were interspersed with speeches by head of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, senior journalist and founder of People’s Archive of Rural India P Sainath, intellectual Kancha Ilaiah, Meena Kandasamy, senior journalist VT Rajashekhar, Vimala Akka, Gadar, intellectual G Haragopal.
Students too, took turns in addressing the gathering in English, Hindi, and Telugu. Some of them sang songs dedicated to Rohith Vemula. A street play was performed about caste discrimination on campus.
However, despite the energy at the protest and the turnout, members of the JAC were a little disappointed. A 21-member committee of students organized 200 student volunteers to arrange for food and water for around 5,000 participants for Monday’s protest. However, only around half of these were used.
Arpita, JAC member told The News Minute, “We expected at least 5,000 students but unfortunately police officials didn't allow the students to enter the campus. They even stopped the students coming from nearby areas like Gachibowli and Kondapur.”
However, she said that they would continue to protest until their demands were met. “We are disappointed but we will not stop until our demands are met. If police do not allow the students inside the campus, we will surely go outside the campus and protest,” she added.