Hyderabad: Press Release/Statements on the Suspension of K. Y. Ratnam and Tathagata Sengupta

June 14, 2016

PRESS RELEASE

University of Hyderabad teachers Dr. K. Y. Ratnam, Head, Centre for Ambedkar Studies and faculty member, Department of Political Science and Dr. Tathagata Sengupta, faculty member, Department of Mathematics have commenced an indefinite relay hunger strike in protest against their unjust and casteist suspension.

In a fit of vindictiveness, the University of Hyderabad issued notices of suspension on 13.06.2016, several months after they were already targeted for arrest simply for the noble act of requesting the police to desist from beating and brutalising the students during the lathi charge on 22.03.2016. It is also extremely opportunistic for the University to pass these orders, after using their services for the entire duration of the semester until May, retroactively deeming them suspended starting March 22nd onward until further orders.

This act amounts to a continuation of caste atrocities against Dalits. Prof. Ratnam has been targeted in a casteist manner by Prof. Appa Rao repeatedly since 2002, starting from when Appa Rao shifted him from his position as a warden to specifically tend to sanitation in hostels. Appa Rao’s presence as Vice-Chancellor of the University and his continued actions of socially boycotting Dalit students, being responsible for Rohith’s death, then again creating a social boycott and cutting off access to food and water on campus, arresting students who were peacefully protesting, brutalising Dalit students who were cooking food, tearing apart the tent and banners bearing Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s image and quotes, and now suspending Dalit faculty are creating an extremely intimidating atmosphere for Dalits on campus.

The guidelines on suspension warn that “Suspension, though not a penalty, is to be resorted to sparingly. Whenever a Govt. Servant is placed under suspension not only does the Govt. lose his services but also pays him for doing no work. It also has a stigma attached to it” The guidelines clearly stipulate that the only purpose suspension serves is to stigmatise professors. This in the context of the caste discrimination faced by Prof. Ratnam over the years can be construed as a stigmatization that is casteist in intent, implemented by the same upper caste dominated Executive Council that subjected Rohith and 4 other dalit students to a social boycott, an act punishable under the SC/ST Atrocity Act.

We demand that the suspension be revoked, and that Prof.Appa Rao be immediately suspended from duty and prevented from committing any further atrocity against Dalits on campus. We demand justice for Rohith Vemula and his family, and an end to caste atrocities and discrimination on university campuses.

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PRESS RELEASE BY JOINT ACTION COMMITTEE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE (UOH) DATED 14th JUNE, 2016

Condemn the Suspension of Prof. K.Y Ratnam & Dr.Tathagata Sengupta!

Arrest all the five culprits responsible for Rohith Vemula’s death!

Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (UoH) condemns the atrocious and outrageous decision taken by the institutional murderer Appa Rao Podile-led University of Hyderabad for suspending a senior Dalit Professor K.Y Ratnam and Dr.Tathagata Sengupta in the pretext of their illegal arrest on 22nd March, 2016. The Dalit research scholars Rohith, Prashanth, Vijay, Seshiah and Dr.Sunkanna were ostracized and subjected to social boycott by the same Executive Council that took the decision of suspension on 6th June, 2016 and issued the suspension orders to our teachers on 13th June, 2016.

Appa Rao Podile, after three months, is citing “a Government rule” to justify his decision of suspending the two teachers. It is such an irony that a culprit booked under non-bailable charges is scot free and exercising his power as Vice-Chancellor with complete impunity provided by the BJP-led MHRD and Central Government to take arbitrary decisions against students and teachers protesting for ‪#‎JusticeforRohith‬.

Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (UoH) repeats what we had demanded when Appa Rao Podile had returned to campus on the 22nd March that Section 17 of the SC/ST PoA Act be immediately applied because it clearly states that preventive action can be taken in case of an area prone to atrocities against those who have committed an offense under SC/ST PoA Act. Completely violating this section, Appa Rao Podile has been allowed by MHRD and Telangana State to return to the University. Our fears then, that Appa Rao Podile’s presence on campus will tamper with the evidence and created fear and distress among the students has been proven true time and again.

Prof.Sreepati Ramudu who resigned from the post of Head of Center for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy recently in protest against the appointment of Vipin Srivastava as Pro-Vice Chancellor mentioned in his resignation letter about the constant humiliation and oppression that is meted out to the Dalit community in University of Hyderabad. After persecuting Dalit students, the Kamma Fascist Appa Rao Podile and his political masters sitting in Nagpur are now targeting Prof. K.Y Ratnam, the Head of Center for Ambedkar Studies who along with three other Dalit intellectuals gave a befitting reply to RSS against the appropriation of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s works by Sangh Parivar. In 2002, when ten dalit students were rusticated by the then Chief Warden Appa Rao Podile, Prof. K.Y Ratnam registered his protest against the casteist University administration. Even after their release from jail, Prof. K.Y Ratnam and Dr.Tathagata Sengupta continued to raise their voices for #JusticeforRohith in different parts of the country. It is no surprise that such a decision targeting these teachers has come out at this juncture because Appa Rao Podile feels threatened by the spirit and commitment of the struggling University community.

Post 17th January,Appa Rao Podile fled from campus and after two months, he returned with a massive police force and a well conspired “task list” that chalked out the responsibilities for his stooges in University to ensure his smooth return on 22nd March, 2016 to capture the Vice-Chancellor’s post. On that day, State police and CRPF unleashed its brute force on the protesting students who did not accept an institutional murderer as Vice-Chancellor and demanded for his immediate arrest. Instead, when police started thrashing and arresting students, Prof. K.Y Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata Sengupta intervened and asked the police to not beat us and demanded that the culprit booked under SC/ST PoA Act and Abetment of Suicide be arrested immediately. However, our teachers were dragged inside police vans, subjected to custodial torture and jail time. On 23rd March, 2016, another Dalit research scholar Uday Bhanu, member of Joint Action Committee was brutally beaten up by police and threatened for life for cooking food near Velivada. Students decided to cook food for themselves when Appa Rao Podile created rifts between non-teaching staff and struggling students by luring a section of them and imposed a 48 hour ban on food and other basic amenities. This is the context of Appa Rao Podile’s presence as Vice-Chancellor that we cannot forget.

What took Appa Rao Podile-led Executive Council so long to decide on the suspension of the teachers? Why did Appa Rao Podile conduct the Executive Council meeting during the vacation? Wasn’t this meeting convened to execute Appa Rao Podile’s agenda of suspending the struggling teachers to create fear among the University community? It is not coincidental that University has intensified its attacks on #JusticeforRohith struggle during the vacation. As vacation started, the University administration shut down hostels, stole our tents and desecrated Babasaheb Ambedkar’s images, quotes and the Preamble of the Constitution that amounts to yet another atrocity as per SC/ST PoA Amendments Act (2015), whitewashed all the walls that carried the memories of our struggle and in the latest attack, suspended our teachers who stood uncompromisingly against the dictatorial regime of the institutional murderer.

The unrest and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation prevailing on campus is generated among students after the return of the primary accused in the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula. Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (UoH) demands that Appa Rao Podile must be arrested immediately to stop further atrocity against Dalits on campus. We demand the immediate revocation of suspension of Prof. K.Y Ratnam and Dr. Tathagata Sengupta. We demand the imposition of section 17 of POA act to be imposed upon the university. We reiterate that WE WILL NOT STEP BACK UNTIL JUSTICE IS DELIVERED TO ROHITH VEMULA.Jai Bheem!! Inquilab Zindabad!!

Johar, Rohith Vemula!!