The Hyderabad Central University (HCU) changed its interim vice-chancellor on Friday night, as Dr Vipin Srivastava went on leave just hours before Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reached the university campus to express solidarity with the protesting students.
M Periasamy, the next senior-most professor, will take charge as Srivastava’s stand-in. He teaches in HCU’s School of Chemistry.
“Yes, he (Srivastava) has gone on leave for four days and Professor M Periasamy will be in charge,” university Registrar M Sudhakar confirmed to The Indian Express.
Asked whether Srivastava will join back as the interim V-C after the leave, Sudhakar said, “I don’t know about that right now.”
According to sources in the university, Srivastava was “requested” to go on leave to break the impasse and start talks with the protesting students, and he relented reluctantly. The sources added that his predecessor, Prof Appa Rao Podile, too, may eventually have to relent to the students’ demand for his resignation.
Srivastava could not be reached for a comment.
The Indian Express had first reported on January 27 that the HCU administration was mulling a change at the top to open a channel of dialogue with the protesters.
Srivastava took over as the interim V-C after Prof Podile went on indefinite leave on January 24. But his appointment drew immediate outrage from the protesting students and teachers, as he was chairman of the committee that had recommended suspension for the five Dalit students, including Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide on January 17. The five scholars had been punished for allegedly assaulting an ABVP student leader.
The protesters claim that Srivastava had earlier faced allegations of harassing another Dalit student — Senthil Kumar, a research scholar in the Physics Department who had committed suicide in 2008.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is visiting the university for the second time in less than 12 days to join the protesters, who are gearing up to observe Vemula’s birthday on Saturday. He would have turned 27.
Students of the Joint Action Committee, formed to steer the protests, plan to take out a candlelight march on the campus at midnight; Rahul is scheduled to join them.
The Congress leader had earlier visited the Hyderabad university on January 18, a day after Vemula was found hanging in a hostel room, and had met his family and friends.