Rohith Vemula suicide: For ‘VIP’ Minister, HRD sent five reminders to university

Sources in the university administration claimed that Vice Chancellor P Appa Rao was under pressure to act.

Written by SRINIVAS JANYALA , Ritika Chopra | Hyderabad | Updated: January 20, 2016 9:55 am
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The Ministry of Human Resource Development Tuesday denied putting any pressure on the University of Hyderabad in the matter related to suspension of five Dalit students, one of whom committed suicide Sunday. But between September and November last year, the Ministry sent four letters and an email to the university, seeking “comments/facts” on the matter raised by Minister of State Bandaru Dattatreya.

Watch Video: Dalit Student Suicide Takes A Political Turn: A Discussion On The Latest Developments

Dattatreya had written to HRD Minister Smriti Irani in August last year, accusing the university of being a “mute spectator” after a group of Dalit students, including Rohith Vemula who committed suicide Sunday evening, clashed with ABVP leader Nandanam Susheel Kumar.

Sources in the university administration claimed that Vice Chancellor P Appa Rao, who had been newly appointed, was under pressure to act and this led to the suspension of the five Dalit students, including Rohith Vemula. But Appa Rao maintained that the decision to suspend the five was not based on letters from the HRD Ministry.

The Ministry intervention began with an email from Under Secretary Ramji Pandey and was followed by letters from Deputy Secretary Subodh Kumar Ghildiyal and Joint Secretary Sukhbir Singh Sandhu.

Consider these:

On September 3, an email was sent to the Registrar by Under Secretary Ramji Pandey: “Please find attached herewith a copy letter dated 17.08.2015 of Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, MoS for Labour and Employment, along with enclosures. It is is requested that issues raised by Hon’ble MoS may kindly be examined and facts may be intimated to the Ministry to enable us to submit reply to MoS.” Vice Chancellor R P Sharma, who was about to retire, chose not to act and left it to his successor. On September 23, P Appa Rao took over as the new Vice Chancellor.

On September 24, Deputy Secretary Subodh Kumar Ghildiyal, sent a letter to the Registrar which spelt out the subject: ‘Antinational activities in Hyderabad Central University premises — Violent attack on Sri Nandanam Susheel Kumar, PhD student and President of ABVP’.

“I am to refer to email dated 3.9.2015 (copy overleaf) of this Ministry regarding above mentioned subject and to say that the comments/facts have not been received so far. It is requested that the same may kindly be expedited to enable the Ministry to reply to MoS,” Ghildiyal’s letter stated.

On October 6, Ghildiyal wrote another letter with the same subject line, addressing it this time to the Vice Chancellor. “I am to refer to email dated 3.9.2015 and letter of even number dated 24.9.2015 addressed to the Registrar regarding above mentioned subject and to say that the comments/facts have not been received so far. It is requested that the same may kindly be expedited to enable the Ministry to reply to MoS,” he wrote.

On October 20, Joint Secretary Sukhbir Singh Sandhu wrote to the Vice Chancellor: “Please refer to Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, Minister of State for Labour & Employment (Independent Charge) letter dated 17.8.2015 (copy enclosed for ready reference) regarding affairs of the University of Hyderabad. The facts called for through email on 3.9.2015, reminders dated 24.9.2015 and 6.10.2015 on the issues raised in the letter has not been received so far. I would appreciate if you could kindly look into the matter personally and get the facts provided at the earliest to enable the Ministry to submit a reply to the MoS.”

On November 19, Under Secretary Ramji Pandey wrote another letter to the Vice Chancellor. “I have been directed to refer to DO letter of October 20 of JS (CU&L) regarding above mentioned subject and to say that the comments/facts have not been received so far. It is therefore requested that the same may be kindly expedited to enable the Ministry to reply to MoS.”

On Tuesday, HRD Ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel refuted allegations that pressure was mounted on the university. He said the Ministry was only doing its duty by seeking the university’s comments as it is obligated to give a time-bound reply to all “VIP references”.

“The Ministry was only following procedure. As per the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure, the government should acknowledge a VIP reference within 15 days and respond to it in another two weeks. As it is evident from the content of the letters, the university was asked to only respond with comments and facts so that the government can draft its reply to the VIP reference. Reminders were issued as there was no reply from the university authorities. It’s wrong to insinuate that the Ministry put pressure on the university administration,” Goel told The Indian Express.