UOH Suspends Ten Students, Modi Regime's Assaults on Students Continues: Widespread Protests

Published on: November 14, 2017
Strong and widespread protests against the recent suspension of 10 students have spiralled at the University of Hyderabad (UOH), again=. Suspension, it is alleged has not followed due process. The administration, it is alleged addressed a press meet on November 11, allegedly uttering a string of falsehoods. Yesterday a students protest was organsied in response.

University of Hyderbad
 
The press release issued by the official and duly elected Students’ Union of University of Hyderabad expresses distressed that the University of Hyderabad administration is witch hunting students by slapping 'fabricated charges.' The administration has recently suspended 10 students’ alllegedly without proper inquiry. One of the suspended student is an elected GSCASH representative who was discharging her duties. This blatant move by the administration to protect one of the hostel warden accused of sexual harassment is unheard of in the university history.
 
Facts put the record straight. The press release is intended to counter the university administration’s 'false propaganda' regarding the incidents occurred on the night of 3rd November 2017:
 
In the statement, the UoH Students’ Union states that:
 
Incident
  •  On November 3, around 23:00 hrs, few hostel wardens along with about 10 security guards went on a raid in the mens-hostel J. There was a woman student Athira Unni (MA Sociology) and her classmate Pratyush Nirjher (MA Sociology) in one of the rooms. They were preparing for the UGC NET exam. The wardens started shouting at the students asking the women to get out immediately. While the students asked the wardens to speak politely, they turned more furious. One of the wardens was allegedly drunk and asked Athira “If all the men in the university are allowed inside your ladies hostel room, will you at least be satisfied then”. This led to further, more intense arguments. The security guards started filming the girl and other students using their personal phone cameras. Students objected to this, saying only official cameras should be used, as these men can misuse the footage. Then, the students’ union president, general secretary, GSCASH student representatives and some of the now suspended students arrived at the scene and tried to diffuse the situation. Meanwhile the Telangana police had also arrived at the hostel J.
  • The allegations of Manhandling by the students is a complete fabrication, say the students. There was about ten security guards present throughout the scene and also the Telangana police reached the hostel in no time. Plus there was no complaint made to the police at the spot about any manhandling. Neither were the wardens taken to any Hospital or health centre. The manhandling complaint is allegedly entirely fabricated to target the students. There were verbal arguments but no foul language was used.
  • The narration of switching off the light to assault wardens is also false as it was not intentional. The switch got pressed due to the commotion and within fraction of a second the light were on again. The fact that the light came within a fraction of a second itself shows that it (switching off the light) was not intentional.
 
Punishment
  • Three students were suspended from academic programme and hostels for two years. And 7 students were suspended from academic programme and hostels for 6 months. In addition, it is stated that they won’t be given hostels when they rejoin. It means effectively they were suspended from hostel throughout the duration of the course.
  • One of the suspended students Tinanjali Dam is an elected GSCASH representative. She went to the scene as she got repeated calls from Athira that she is being sexually harassed. As a GSCASH member it is her duty to guide students on how to file compliant of sexual harassment complaints. She advised Athira on filing the complaint to GSCASH. It is particularly atrocious that GSCASH member was suspended for assisting a student to file a complaint against the Warden.
 
Procedural Lapses
  • The University administration in its official press release has mentioned that about 150-200 students were present in the Hostel –J. Why then were only 12 students’ served notices to depose before the Mohanty committee?
  • The university did not provide the individual specific charges against these students and hence the chance to effectively defend themselves was not possible. If there are no specific charges and they are being punished for being a part of the ‘mob’, then why have all those who were part of the ‘mob’ not called for deposition? It is clear that these students were particularly targeted without any basis.
  • The formation of Mohanty committee itself is highly questionable because it was formed, bypassing the Proctorial Board which is actually supposed to take up all cases of allegedly disciplinary breaches.
  • The incident occurred on the midnight of November 3, 2017. Mohanty committee was formed on November 4, and depositions were held on November 5 and 6. The  punishment order was issued on November 8. Such a hurry has never been shown in any of the previous cases. The enthusiasm with which the enquiry was held so quickly in this case clearly shows that the Committee was predisposed to punish the students.
  • The way Mohanty committee functioned and punished 10 students within 3 days itself establishes the fact that administration is using the suspension to scare the students so that they stop questioning the inefficiency of the administration in addressing many basic and pertinent issues. Incidentally, there is an anti-discrimination cell on the campus but that does not function properly and administration has never tried to make the committee active. Recently a committee has been formed by UoH administration to resolve the Students’ Union Vice President issue but the committee report has not been made public yet because administration wants to save one Dean.
  • Incidentally, in the first notice served to twelve students one name was “Povari Sai Kumar” but next day it was changed to “Sai Kumar Yamrathi” which indicates the fact that the Mohanty Committee had functioned in a predisposed manner.
 
Rebuttal of UoH Administration’s Lies
  • The Administration is least bothered about the life and career of the students and it is evident when they nonchalantly said “University is dragged into needless controversy” after handing over academic as well as hostel suspension to 10 students (ranging from 2 years to 6 months).
  • The University has informed students that they are even exploring the possibilities of constructing a co-ed hostel. It is really strange that a university, which is thinking about constructing co-ed hostel, can punish 10 students with academic as well as hostel suspension over an issue that started with a girl being present in mens’ hostel. This exposes the administrations insincerity in exploring such possibilities and their conservative thinking.
  • In the recent press release, the university authorities have stated that wardens do consume food at hostel messes to keep a check over the quality of the food. That is a blatant lie as the quality of the mess food is allegedly very bad and no attempt has been made from wardens or administration’s side despite many representation from the Students’ Union. In fact, it should be noted that such a careless attitude of the administration in addressing basic issues like mess food, water cooler, sanitation etc. only enraged the students on that night and when the wardens failed to defend their inactiveness in addressing basic issues and pro-activeness in raiding hostels and misbehaving with students, they manipulated the entire story and made it into a serious issue like manhandling and hurling abuse.
  • The UoH administration, in its last press release, has claimed to be one of the most gender conscious campus but the language ( “ The warden discovered a girl) they used in the press release itself exposes how much gender insensitive the administration really is.
  • It is true that our university is one of the first universities to set up a committee against sexual harassment but it was not due to the effort of the administration but due to the struggle taken up by student bodies and student community. It should also be noted that UoH is also the first university that has punished an elected GSCASH representative just for performing her official duties.
 
These facts speak about administration’s deplorable stand when it comes to the commitment for gender justice.
  • Lastly we appeal to the UoH administration to restore normalcy in the campus by revoking the suspension orders of all the 10 students completely and by showing pro-activeness in solving the basic issues that are affecting the students badly. Administration should keep in mind that the semester end exam is around the corner and the first thing they should do is, revoke the suspensions unconditionally at the earliest to let the students to focus on their studies. We also appeal to all the stake holders to be vigilant and question the atrocities perpetuated by the administration to uphold the stature of the university as a place that pursues academic excellence with a strict adherence to principles of equality for all, and not witch hunt students/students activist based on gender, class, caste, region, and nationality.
 

Background

 
Protest against UoH Administration for running in nexus with ABVP

 
Demand for declaration of Lunavath Naresh as Vice-President Candidate
 
The election t the Vice Presidential post of the Students Union in Hyderabad has run into a controversy. Students have alleged that the administration of the University of Hyderabad(UOH) is Administration in nexus with the RSS youth organisation the ABVP. The allegation comes n the context of the declaration of the result of Vice-President Post to the Student's Union. The declaration of results have been halted despite the fact, reportedly, that a Tribal candidate Lunavath Naresh has secured more votes than the ABVP’s Vice-Presidential Candidate Apoorv Jain.
 
Lunavath Naresh, the Tribal Candidate under the banner of Alliance for Social Justice secured a total votes of 1884 as against 1624 votes secured by the ABVP’s Vice-Presidential candidate in the pretext of an alleged non-compliance of attendance requirement.
 
Stalling the results for the post of Vice-President in the Students’ Union elections 2017-18, on the pretext of alleged non-compliance of attendance requirement of 75% is both illegal and arbitrary, students have alleged. A huge protest has followed.
 
Upon the perusal of the complaint and oral description given by the grievance cell on the contradictory versions on his attendance, Mr.Naresh (the victorious candidate) submitted a detailed explanation to the cell with a few of his own questions. The Grievance Cell had not given any material on record which suggested that his attendance was below 75%, on the contrary he had material evidence from School of Medical Sciences which showed that he fulfilled the 75% attendance requirement as per the office records as on September 13, 2017. These records have been duly signed by Prof. Geeta.K.Vemungati, Dean, School of Medical Sciences, report the students. Accordingly, his candidature was declared in the valid list of nominations after going through a scrutiny process the by election commission, and ballots on his name for the post of Vice-President were prepared. The entire University went for the polls on September 21, 2017. Ironically an allegedly false complaint was submitted against the candidature of Lunavath Naresh by the President of the ABVP on the day of the polling.
 
According Recommendation 6.8.5 (iii) of the Lyngdoh Committee, the Grievance Cell may dismiss a complaint if: “the complainant has not and / or likely will not suffer injury or damage.”
 
The Complainant who is none other than President of ABVP is not a contestant for the post of Vice-President, and thus bears no injury or damage on the grievance levelled, and thus this complaint was liable to be set aside. Instead the grievance cell chaired by Prof. Debashis Acharya, Dean, Students’ Welfare (DSW) decided to go ahead with an inquiry into the complaint. During the proceedings set in motion to hear the complaint, the DSW has been accused of being hurried and the Grievance Committee of violating several provisions of the Grievance Redressal Mechanism(s) enshrined within the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations in order to favour ABVP. Students have argued that, since it is the Department of Medical Science that has all the records pertaining to student’s attendance, the sole responsibility of investigation lies with the concerned Department to issue an attendance certificate. Students are not in any way responsible for the issuance of attendance certificate nor on the content of the same. Given the facts of the case and material evidence pertaining to the attendance by the Dean, School of Medical Science it shows that there is no reason to believe that he ((Lunavath Naresh) has given false affidavit about his attendance. As per clause 6.8.12 of Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations, it was amply stated that “the complaining party shall bear the burden of proof.” The complaining party, i.e., President of ABVP had not submitted any material evidence, and had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. However, the administration decided to go ahead with the complaint and unduly delivered the verdict against the candidature of Lunavath Naresh in a nexus with ABVP, it is alleged. As an after-thought, in order to affect the candidature of Lunavath Naresh the attendance records were tampered, manipulated and wrongly presented leading to invalidation of his candidature.
 
Prof. Geeta.K.Vemuganti, Dean, School of Medical Science who earlier certified that Mr.Naresh has 75% as per office records, has sent three contradictory statements to the Grievance Committee, at one point stating that Mr.Naresh has 75%, later stating that he has 64% and in the communication before finalising of the decision, stating that Mr. Naresh has 71% attendance. These contradictions in themselves need an explanation coming as they do from a person in a responsible position. The fact that they also favour the ABVP is a moot point.
 
A Perusal of these attendance records shows clear violations, manipulation and tampering undertaken to affect the candidature of Mr.Naresh:
 
1. In Epidemiology (a subject), the  alleged tampering of attendance on August 17, 2017 was made to affect his candidature, only in the aftermath of the complaint made by ABVP. The Attendance register clearly shows that his attendance on August 17, 2017 was tampered with: there was an initial marking of 'Present' that has been subsequently changed to 'absent'. On the same day, he had another class on “Medical Anthropology” for which he was present. Thus there is no reason to believe that he would be absent for one class on the same day while he would be present for another class. Moreover the tampering of the attendance itself testifies the to the political interference it is alleged and the intention to disqualify his candidature in a nexus with ABVP.
 
2. In the course of PHPM-1, till August 8, 2017, a total of 6 classes took place since the beginning of the semester, but the attendance record furnished to the Grievance Redressal Committee, shows attendance only from August 8, 2017, instead of showing the record from the start, that is from July 18, 2017. 
 
3. In the course of PHPM-2, the dates of attendance have not been mentioned. The notification, as well as Certificate of Attendance had specifically mentioned that it was required to certify the attendance as on September 13, 2017. In the absence of dates, the authenticity of the attendance register will itself be in question. This, the students union has alleged, is a grave negligence on the part of the concerned faculty. The concerned faculty had at the same time, has also adopted a procedure of taking attendance on paper sheets, and yet, these same sheets were also not submitted to the Election Grievance Committee. Moreover, the number of classes marked in the attendance register, itself raises doubts on the authenticity of the attendance itself.
 
There are deeper even more serious allegations. Prof. Geeta.K.Vemuganti is also one of the accomplices in the alleged Social Boycott and the reported illegalities committed on five Dalit Research Scholars belonging to Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) including Rohith Vemula along with Prof Podile Apparao at the head. A further playout of this conspiracy that had tragic components witht he 'institutional murder'  of Rohith Vemula in January 2016 has been this current, has been the tampering and permitted manipulation in attendance procedures (by the administration still headed by Podile with the ABVP) to affect the candidature of a tribal student leader, Mr. Lunavath Naresh. Such manipulations are serious crimes, because any manipulation in attendance procedures would eventually lead to the serious impact on the career of the students, since the same is linked with examinations.
 
Mr. Lunavath Naresh, says the Students Union, has, unlike the administration of UOH, duly followed the procedures. On receiving a decision from the Grievance committee on the invalidation of his candidature, he immediately filed an appeal to the institutional head within 24 hours, i.e., on September 26, 2017. However despite due procedures being followed the institutional head, i.e., Prof. Podile Apparao is reluctant to take a decision against the school for manipulation of records, and for the declaration of Mr.Lunavath Naresh's candidature to the post of Vice-President.
 
In the said context we appeal all students and organizations to join the protest against UoH administration at Administrative Block on October 23, 2017 (Monday) at 02:00 PM.
Tribal Students Forum (TSF)