Dalit Sthree Sakthi
Certain abusive comments in the Facebook and subsequent skirmishes on 3rd and 4th August 2015 led to the expulsion of a few scheduled castes Ph.D scholars of University of Hyderabad and it was alleged that the authorities of the University of Hyderabad had taken unilateral action on a few scholars belonging to Scheduled Castes at the behest of political pressure. Upon knowing about the incident, DSS conducted a fact finding on 7-1-2016 with 5 members. The fact finding team met all available and concerned students, examined the relevant reports of various committees and other orders passed by the University and prepared the following report.
Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) is a Scheduled Caste Students Union having a strong base in University of Hyderabad since many years. On the day of the incident i.e., on 3rd August 2015, ASA has been informed that one Mr. Susheel Kumar, President of ABVP-UoH, an inmate of the University, posted defamatory and disparaging comments in the Face Book calling Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) as goons. The students of ASA being inmates in the University have asked him to remove the defamatory comments and upon their deliberation he voluntarily submitted his apology letter to ASA and handed it over to Security Officer.These deliberations took place on 3rd August and in the presence of the then duty security officer of ‘C’ shift of UoH, and several other students.
After receiving apology letter, the students belonging to ASA left the place. Everything occurred in peaceful atmosphere and there was no complaint by Mr. Susheel Kumar or the Security Officer about any use of force or otherwise. On early hours of 4th morning Mr. Susheel Kumar of ABVP was admitted in the hospital and lodged a police complaint stating that the SC students belonging to ASA have beaten him. All of a sudden on 4th morning the Police of Gachibowli, summoned PhD scholars D. Prasanth, Ch. Seshaiah, V Sunkanna, V Rohit and D Vijay Kumar to the Police Station and were sent back after seeking their explanation.
Annoyed by the police action, ASA students met University authorities and asked them to stop the police interference without any direction from the University authorities. However, aggrieved Scheduled Caste students also complained over Mr. Susheel Kumar on 04/08/2015 at Gachibowli Police Station, but no action was taken. Meanwhile as the said SC PhD scholars were attending the police enquiry on 4th August 2015, the high ranked BJP leaders trespassed into the University and staged a dharna demanding the University authorities to take action over ASA students.
During this dharna one Mr Rama Chandar Rao BJP MLC forcibly entered into the V. C’s chamber and insisted for the suspension of the ASA students. The University authorities sought the report of the Security officer who was physically present during the alleged incident. The said security officer fairly narrated about the said incident and affirmed that there was discussion about bad comments in face book and that Mr. Susheel Kumar initially denied that it was posted by him but later confessed and apologized. The report which is full and there was no incident of beating or use of force by ASA scholars on Mr. Susheel Kumar.
Despite the clear statement, the university further constituted a committee, namely “Extended Proctorial Committee”. The Extended Proctorial Board Report dated: 12/08/2015 also stated that there was no evidence of beating Mr. Susheel Kumar from any one and that it was established that Mr. Susheel Kumar posted the objectionable comments in the face book. The said committee submitted its report recommending that both the clashing parties i.e., Susheel Kumar of ABVP (for posting bad comments in the face book) and SC Ph D students (for going to Susheel Kumar room and demanding apology) should be warned. Meanwhile, the BJP leaders including Bandaru Dattatreya, Central Minister sought the intervention of Union Government MHRD department to influence the University authorities.
The minster wrote a letter to MHRD department mentioning that extremist and casteist elements have grown on the campus and specifically mentioned that Ambedkar Students Association had bet Mr. Susheel Kumar and demanded for necessary action. He complained that the University administration has become just a mute spectator, thereby implying that the University should take action on students of Ambedkar Students Association.
In response to MHRD, the University authorities have ordered for continued enquiry by the proctorial committee, obviously, to revise its report and recommend action on scholars of Ambedkar Students Association. Accordingly, the continued proctorial committee gave a report desired by the authorities in which it found that Mr. Susheel Kumar was “abused, manhandled, beaten, forced to write (sic) apology letter”. How the committee which affirmed that there was no assault in its earlier report now found that Mr. Susheel Kumar was assaulted? What was the new evidence? The committee states that it examined Mr. Susheel Kumar and two other witness whose names or kept confidential which led it believe that Mr. Susheel Kumar was manhandled etc.
Likewise, the committee which earlier recommended for warning Mr. Susheel Kumar and the other students for their respective wrongs, now doesn’t mention about the facebook posting but recommends suspension of 5 scholars of Ambedkar Students Association. Just within a week of this continued enquiry report, there were suspension orders suspending 5 SC PhD scholars. The sequence of events, the BJP leaders holding dharna against the authorities for not taking action, the minister’s letter accusing the University for not taking action, the decision to continue the closed enquiry, the revised report, the recommendation to suspend and suspension, all very clearly point out that the University acted at the behest of ruling political party.
This open and unabashed, illegal order for continued enquiry and suspension evoked unanimous protest from all sections of the University campus. In response to the large scale protest and also the representation of Ambedkar Students Association, the University authorities revoked suspension orders on 11-09-2015 with a condition that there shall be another enquiry and “the students should comply with the final decision taken by the University, based on the recommendation of the Committee”.
Accordingly, another sub-committee of the Executive Council was constituted and the said Executive Council Sub-Committee submitted its report dt. 24th November 2015. This Committee based its Report mainly on the basis of the records and oral narrations of a few University and police personnel, but it did not examine either Mr. Susheel Kumar or the scholars of Ambedkar Students Association. However this report also admitted that there was no physical assault on Mr. Susheel Kumar and that he got surgery for appendicitis in the hospital. This report stated that they agree with the findings of the Proctorial Board Report. This Committee did not recommend any specific action on anyone but made recommendations that the University formulate guidelines for the Security Staff for dealing with situation like this in future and also recommended that there should be a general notification inviting depositions in such incidents.There was no recommendation to punish anyone.
Despite no findings on guilt of any scholar of Ambedkar Students Association, the University passed orders, dated 16-12-2015, expelling 5 students of Scheduled Castes from entering the hostels till the completion of their course and also prohibited them from entering administration building, and other common places on the campus . The order issued at the time of revocation of suspension clearly stated that “the students should comply with the final decision taken by the University, based on the recommendation of the Committee”. The question remains how the University can take action of expulsion when there was no recommendation to take action by the Committee. Also, the expulsion order is one sided in as much as there is no action on Mr. Susheel Kumar for the defamatory comments posted in the facebook.
This Committee report is vague and is not clear. However, it did not find that Mr. Susheel Kumar was manhandled or beaten and on the other hand it suggested that he joined hospital for appendicitis surgery. Further, the constitution of this Executive Council Sub-committee is technically problematic as one of the co-opted member in the Executive Council is from the accused party in this case. The co-opted member in the Executive Council is the Dean of Students’ Welfare who has been accused in the Write Petition filed in the High Court. This Committee did not seek the appearance of SC students to give their depositions and they were not even aware of the constitution of such committee.
It is obvious that the University constituted this committee with an a priori decision to take some action or other on the Scheduled Caste students. It is not only strange, but also pertinent that the order prohibiting the scheduled caste students from entering administration building, and other common places on the campus, smacks of untouchability. This order is clearly violation of Article 15 of the Constitution apart from Art.14, 21. As such, such kind of enquiry made with several lapses is highly objectionable and its report is entirely unfounded, without evidence and is against all principles of natural justice.
It is not out of context to point out that the University of Hyderabad is known for its discriminatory practices in the wake of the suicide of Madari Venkatesh, a Ph.D Scholar. In this case, out of 5 Scheduled Caste Research Scholars, four are children of agricultural laborers, while one has no parents and is about to submit his Ph. D thesis. The present VC with Brahminical ideology was recently appointed. 12 years ago, during his tenure as Chief Warden, he was instrumental in rusticating 10 SC students. Hindutva forces, taking advantage of the present situation, used the present VC to take an unilateral decision in suspending 5 SC Ph D Scholars. Therefore we humbly request you to take immediate action and do justice to the 5 Ph. D Scholars of University of Hyderabad.
~ Jhansi Geddam, National Convener, Dalit Sthree Sakthi