UoH students protest against suspension of 5 students, demand withdrawal of FIR

The suspension would mean that the students are now ineligible for their JRF and post-doctoral fellowships.
Students at the protest site
Students at the protest siteX/@iamohith
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Students at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) initiated an indefinite protest on Monday, June 24, demanding the revocation of suspension orders issued against five students by the university administration. The students were allegedly suspended for an earlier protest against the postponement of their annual cultural fest Sukoon, and were also instructed to vacate their hostels by July 1. The university also filed a complaint against these students, based on which the Gachibowli police registered a first information report (FIR) against them.

The suspension order was issued on May 31, and affects Students Union (SU) president Ateeq Ahmed, Kripa Maria George, G Mohith, Sohail Ahmed, and Asika VM for a semester from July to December 2024. The university has claimed that these students “trespassed and attacked the residence of Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof BJ Rao on the morning of May 18.”

The FIR was filed on a complaint given by UoH registrar Devesh Nigam, and charges the students under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 448 (house trespass) and 342 (wrongful confinement) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention). Five other students were fined Rs 10,000 as disciplinary action.

Among the suspended students, two are beneficiaries of the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF), while Union President Ateeq Ahmed holds the Institution of Eminence (IoE) post-doctoral fellowship. The suspension will mean that the students will now be ineligible for these fellowships. 

During their protest, the SU demanded that the suspension against the students be revoked and the FIR and fine imposed on them withdrawn. 

According to the SU, the issue began after the university administration kept denying permission to conduct the event citing various reasons. They alleged that the union even had to make all the arrangements and pay vendors from their own money, since the administration did not release any funds. They also alleged that the administration was not satisfied with the event dates, and waited until the last minute to raise any concerns and write a letter to the police asking for permission to conduct the event. 

Despite the Gachibowli Deputy Commissioner of Police assuring the SU that they would have full cooperation from the police, the university administration still postponed Sukoon citing lack of permission, the students alleged. 

“Due to the administration's lack of response despite reaching out to them multiple times, we protested peacefully in front of the Vice Chancellor’s guest house, ensuring no property damage. However, the administration called the police, got an FIR filed against us, and issued disciplinary orders within a week. Baseless accusations were raised against us claiming that we trespassed, blocked the route of the Vice Chancellor, prevented him from leaving and attacked him,” said Ateeq Ahmed. 

Ateeq said that it was a group of merely 20 people who had gathered in front of the VC’s lodge. They stood outside his house waiting for a chance to speak to him, but as they were unable to do so, they decided to sleep outside his house. Ateeq said that early in the morning the next day, the police were called and the students were removed from outside the VC’s house.

Deepak Arya, UoH SU general secretary, added that the university has also asked the students to write an apology letter, which if not done would allegedly result in an increased punishment.

Several students also accused the university of being biased towards the right wing student outlet Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). “A few months ago, ABVP attacked students in this campus and groped women who objected to ABVP playing communal songs during a farewell. Those people are still occupying university spaces. There has been no action against them despite students complaining about it to the administration with video proof. But when the students’ union protested against the arbitrary cancellation of the annual cultural event, the university went to the extent of suspending and filing an FIR against them,” Deepak said.

The students alleged that the university was targeting them for their politics like it did to Rohith Vemula, whose death by suicide in 2016 had sparked national outrage. However in Rohith’s case, he was additionally targeted because of his Dalit identity. His death took place a year after the varsity reportedly stopped paying his fellowship money. He was also suspended after getting involved in a fight with some ABVP members.

“This double punishment that the university has given the students — an FIR outside the campus and fine and suspension inside — was exactly what had happened in Rohith’s case. It is depressing that the university has still not learned anything from that incident,” Deepak  said.

Since June 24, Monday, the students protesting against the suspensions and the FIR have gathered at an on-campus protest space named Velivada, which means “Dalit Ghetto” in Telugu. Velivada had become a site of resistance after Rohith’s death, as this was where he and others staged their protest against the administration. It now features a bust sculpture of Rohith erected by students in his memory.

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