Velpula Sunkanna, the research scholar from University of Hyderabad (UoH), who along with PhD student Rohith Vemula and others were suspended from the university hostel last year, on Saturday refused to accept his doctorate degree from Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile. During the convocation ceremony, when Sunkanna’s name was called, he came to the stage but refused to take the certificate from Podile. Then, Pro-Vice Chancellor Vipin Srivastava came forward and handed over the PhD degree to Sunkanna.
Sunkanna and Vemula were among the five students, who were suspended from the university hostel last year on “disciplinary” grounds. Their suspension was later revoked. In January this year, Vemula’s body was found hanging in a hostel room at the university campus. The Dalit scholar’s suicide caused an outrage and triggered widespread protests with the university students seeking Podile’s ouster.
“I refused to take my certificate from him in protest (over the VC’s alleged role in the Vemula suicide case),” Sunkanna, who is currently doing his post-doctoral course in Philosophy from IIT Bombay, told PTI. After Vemula’s death, the university students, some political parties and social organisations had alleged that the VC, among others, was responsible for the suicide.
When contacted, Podile downplayed the incident, saying it is a student’s choice whether or not to accept certificate from him. “That is his choice. Let us not worry too much about that (Sunkanna’s refusal),” he said.