THE HYDERABAD Central University’s decision to suspend five Dalit students, including Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula who committed suicide on Sunday, for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader came after an inquiry panel initially found no “conclusive evidence” to prove the charges.
Detailing the series of flip-flops on the issue, university sources said the decision to suspend the five was based on photographs submitted by ABVP leader N Susheel Kumar and statements by witnesses.
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On August 5, then university Vice-Chancellor Prof R P Sharma constituted an inquiry committee, headed by Chief Proctor Prof Alok Pandey, to probe allegations that Rohith and four other members of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) had assaulted Kumar. The students denied the charges and said they had questioned Kumar about his Facebook post that described them as “goons” and obtained a written apology from him.
Prof Pandey reported that he could not find any conclusive evidence that the ABVP leader N Susheel Kumar was beaten. But he stated that based on photographs submitted by Kumar and witness statements, it was evident that Kumar was manhandled, beaten and forced to tender an apology by more than 30 students led by D Prashanth, one of the suspended students.
Apart from Prashanth, the report also identified the main culprits as Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula, Vijay Kumar, Sesu Chemudugunta and Velmula Sankanna.
A university official, speaking on condition of anonymity said that the inquiry process “became serious” after a letter from Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya alleging that “the University administration has become a mute spectator” to the assault on Kumar was forwarded by the Union HRD Ministry to the V-C.
“The letter was received just as Prof R P Sharma was preparing to remit office and new Vice-Chancellor Prof P Appa Rao was to take over. Prof Sharma had already dismissed the Proctorial Board’s recommendations to take strict action against the ASA students for manhandling Kumar. He constituted another inquiry committee which could not carry on after the V-C changed on September 21,” said the official.
“In between, the V-C’s office sent an explanation to the HRD Ministry in which it dismissed the incident as a clash between two student groups. However, after a few days, a sub-committee of the Executive Council decided to act on the recommendations by the Proctorial Board and decided to suspend the students. The new V-C was clearly under pressure to show that some action was taken and on December 17, the students were suspended,” said the official who drafted one of the replies to the HRD Ministry.
Meanwhile, the flip-flops had started:
* On September 10, sources said, the five students were suspended by the Proctorial Board for a semester but the move was stopped by Prof Sharma who constituted another inquiry by a sub-committee of the university’s Executive Council.
* On December 17, the university rejected the students’ appeals and upheld the decision to suspend them.
* On January 3, officials said, the council considered the board’s recommendations and suggested that the five students be suspended.
* On January 7, Prof P Prakash Babu, Dean, Students Welfare, said the university’s council took a “lenient view” and made the punishments conditional, barring the students from the hostel and all non-academic and political activities on campus.