Hyderabad Central University Vice Chancellor Appa Rao, who is at the centre of a raging controversy over suicide by a Dalit student following his suspension, today asserted there had been “no pressure” from Union Ministers or the HRD Ministry to act against the youth.
He also claimed that the youth, Rohith Vemula, did not mention his suspension as the reason for the extreme step in the suicide note and that he had favoured leniency for the students allegedly involved in the ABVP leader attack in view of their background so that they could continue to get their scholarship to pursue their studies.
“I am not sure whether suspension has really been the cause for suicide. At least not from the face of the suicide note as left by the student,” he said.
Rao said he was deeply disturbed by the loss of a precious life and the disruption of academic activities.
He also sought to distance the HRD Ministry and the two ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya from the decisions taken by the University, which allegedly forced Rohith Vemula to commit suicide.
“There was no pressure. We took the letters received as routine letters,” he said, adding “there was no phone call from either of the ministers or any ministry official”.
The HRD ministry had written as many as five letters to Hyderabad University on Labour Minister Bandaru Dattareya’s complaint regarding “anti-national activities” on the campus and the “violent attack” on the ABVP leader Susheel Kumar. The Ministry has maintained it was standard procedure on such “VIP references”.
Asked why were there discrepancies in the interim report and the final report which called for a suspension, Rao said the interim report was made without talking to the “so called victim”.
He claimed that it was later decided that the punishment would be “mellowed down” in view of the background of the students as a semester suspension would have denied them the scholarship and would have virtually made impossible for them to continue their studies.
The VC appealed to the students to resume academic activities and “not give space for any political games”.
He offered to hold talks with students to resolve the issues raised by them and called for collective efforts to avoid recurrence of such incidents in the future.
Rao said that the mother of ABVP leader Susheel Kumar, who was allegedly beaten up by students including Vemula, had filed a case in the High Court.
The court in return had several times asked the University about what decision it had taken on the complaint, he said.
In an appeal, Rao said, “we are all saddened by the tragic incident in which we have lost the life of one bright student Vemula Rohith Chakravarthi. Let us also join together in sharing the grief with his family members.”
“We also have to note and learn the ways and means to avoid such incidents in our campus. Let us pledge to give our time and thought process to prevent recurrence of such incidents that disturb the peace of the campus,” he said.
“As this semester is a shortened semester and we have a hectic schedule ahead, let us not miss out on the class work, research and administrative work from today. It is appealed to all the members of the University to put all our heads together and learn to work in this crisis situation,” Rao said.
He said that a group of senior faculty colleagues and Dean, students welfare, need to engage in discussions with the students to understand their concerns, resolve matters in an amicable manner and also to preempt such issues of the students in future.
Earlier, a group of students carrying placards and raising slogans protested in the tense University campus this morning even as several politicians including YSR Congress leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury met the protesting students.
Besides Hyderabad many campuses across the country including in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai were rocked by protests yesterday.
The suicide by the Dalit student has snowballed into a major issue with BJP’s rivals wading into it and demanding the removal of Irani and Dattatreya, accusing them of being responsible for the death.
Rahul Gandhi had yesterday led the multi-party charge attacking the government and the Vice Chancellor, saying, “The VC and the Union Ministers in Delhi have not acted fairly. This youngster was put in so much pain that he had no option but to kill himself.”