Deepening the crisis in Hyderabad University, teachers belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Wednesday unanimously resolved to resign from all administrative posts in solidarity with students protesting the suspension of five students, one of whom committed suicide last Sunday.
The University of Hyderabad SC/ST Teachers and Officers Forum also condemned remarks made by HRD Minister Smriti Irani at a press conference in New Delhi and alleged she had “misrepresented” facts and “misled the nation”.
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“We express our solidarity with students who are protesting against the death of Rohith Vemula and demand the immediate revocation of suspension and removal of police cases filed against our students,” the Forum said in a statement. This is the first time a teachers’ body of the university passed such a resolution. “In response to the honourable minister’s fabricated statements, we the Dalit faculty and officers will lay down our administrative positions,” said one of the teachers at the protest site.
S Sudhakar Babu, convenor of the Forum, said they will begin tendering resignations if their demands are not met. “We want all students reinstated, jobs and compensation for Rohith Vemula’s family and a better mechanism in the university to deal with such student issues,” Babu told The Indian Express.
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According to the Forum, Irani Wednesday said a senior Dalit professor was part of the executive council sub committee that took the decision to suspend the students including Vemula.
“It was headed by an upper caste professor… and there are no Dalit faculty in this sub committee. Incidentally, the dean of student welfare who happens to be a Dalit was notionally co-opted an an ex-officio member of the committee. It is unfortunate that since its inception, no Dalit representation has been given in this council,” the Forum stated.
“Such a baseless and misleading statement coming from the honourable minister of HRD amounts to bringing down the morale of Dalits holding administrative positions in this and other universities. By deflecting this issue, the honourable MHRD minister is absolving herself and the honourable minister Bandaru Dattatreya from being responsible for the death of Rohith Vemula,” the Forum said.
Meanwhile, the university is considering dilution of the punishment meted out to the students and possible closure of the institution for a few days to lower tempers on the campus.
Sources in the university administration said Vice Chancellor Appa Rao may soon call an emergency meeting of the executive council (EC) to discuss the proposal.
Rao, university sources said, is in favour of reducing the six-month suspension, starting December 18, 2015, to one month. Last November, the EC expelled the five students, including Vemula, from the hostel and barred access to public places on campus. They were, however, allowed to attend lectures and pursue their research in the university. The students were punished for allegedly assaulting an ABVP student leader on campus.
If the law and order situation on campus goes out of hand, the university could also consider closing for a few days.
“The student’s death is unfortunate but this issue is now being used to further political motives. The university could also close for some days to help normalcy return to campus life,” said an official who did not wish to be identified.
Irani told The Indian Express Wednesday that she hadn’t received any communication from the university regarding dilution in punishment meant for the remaining four scholars. An official reaction from the university was not immediately available.