Report of the People’s Tribunal on Caste Discrimination & Police Action in University of Hyderabad

September 8, 2016

Report of the

People’s Tribunal on Caste Discrimination &

Police Action in University of Hyderabad

Members of the Tribunal:

Justice K Chandru

Retd. Judge, High Court : Madras

Prof Ghanshyam Shah

(formerly Prof, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

Prof Govardhan Wankhede

(formerly Professor & Dean, Tata Institute of Social Sciences , Mumbai)

Report of the People’s Tribunal on Caste Discrimination & Police Action in University of Hyderabad

Present:

Justice K Chandru

Prof Ghanshyam Shah

Prof Govardhan Wankhede

Venue : National Cement Bhavan, Gachibowli, Hyderabad.

Date of Hearing : 16.4.2016

Reference :

The Tribunal was organised by the concerned teachers, writers and lawyers of Hyderabad. It was requested to go into the following terms of reference:-

  1. To recommend protocols to enable marginalized students to fully participate and enjoy the academic, political and social space of the university more productively and effectively.

  2. To examine the existing grievance redressal systems to prevent caste discrimination in University of Hyderabad and evaluate their effectiveness.

  3. To examine the existing appeal provisions provided by the University Regulations in the case of students who are subjected to major punishments such as rustication, expulsion and suspension.

  4. To examine the existing guidelines and protocols for the entry and deployment of police in University of Hyderabad.

  5. To explore restorative and compensatory measures, which could initiate the process of healing and reconciliation in the university.

  6. To make any other suggestion or recommendation that the Tribunal may deem appropriate.

The initiative to organize a Public Tribunal was taken
by concerned teachers, writers and lawyers of Hyderabad. Some of these teachers were part of a Committee appointed by the High Court in PIL No. 106/2013 dated 30.4.2013 for recommending both short term and long term measures. Later, a Division Bench of the High Court passed an Order dated 1.7.2013 observing that the report submitted to them was exhaustive. It directed all the Vice Chancellors of various universities in the state to implement the suggestions as well as the scheme given in the report.

The proceedings of the Tribunal began at 11.00 a.m. The Tribunal was welcomed and the objective of organizing the Tribunal was introduced by Prof Rama Melkote. Later the witnesses were introduced by Dr R Srivatsan. As it was a public hearing, people were allowed to watch the proceedings. Substantial number of students, scholars and teachers from the University of Hyderabad and other institutions were present in the hall. The proceedings were also videographed.

Before the proceedings began, the members of the Tribunal were given a copy of the University of Hyderabad ACT, 1974 and the statutes of the university. The members were supplied with three typed sets of papers containing the deposition of witnesses (pre-recorded by them) and also certain documents which may be relevant to the public hearing as well as orders of the High Court in earlier cases of suicides and caste discrimination. The typed set included copies of Reports submitted to University of Hyderabad regarding earlier suicides committed by students i.e. M.Venkatesh (December 2013), P.Raju (April 2013) and Senthil Kumar (April 2008). Copies of UGC Regulations regarding Student Entitlements, Grievance Redressal Regulations and Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions were also given to the members.

The organizers of the Tribunal also sent notices to The Registrar, University of Hyderabad and the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad as early as 7.4.2016 asking them to attend the Tribunal and to give their inputs so that a comprehensive report can be prepared. On the date of the hearing fixed for the Tribunal, none of those officers attended the hearing.

List of Witnesses:

Due to paucity of time, the Tribunal members requested the organizers to limit the number of witnesses whose statements were to be recorded. Accordingly the following witnesses were examined before the Tribunal:

  1. Dr.Velpula Sunkanna, s/o Swamidas, aged about 36 years, r/o. Damagatla village, Nandikotkur Mandal, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh .

  2. Mr Seshaiah Chemudugunta, s/o. Chenchuramaiah, native of Kagithalapuru village (Nellore Dt.), Research Scholar, University of Hyderabad (UoH).

  3. Mrs.Radhika Vemula (mother of Rohit Vemula)

  4. Dr.K.Lakshminarayana, s/o. Late K.Venkaiah, r/o. Flat No.306, Pleasant Apartments, Bazarghat, Red Hills, Hyderabad, Associate Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad.

  5. Ms Firdaus Soni, d/o. Vaidehi, aged 23 years, r/o. LH-1, North Campus, UoH, M.Phil student in Department of Sociology, UoH.

  6. Mr Uday Bhanu, s/o. Narasaiah, aged 29 years, r/o. NRS Hostel, Research Scholar in Department of Telugu, UoH.

  7. Dr.K.Y.Ratnam, Director, Centre for Ambedkar Studies, UoH.

  8. Prof. Amita Dhanda, Professor at NALSAR University of Law at Hyderabad.

  9. Prof. Vinod Pavarala, Department of Communications, UoH

  10. Prof. Sasheej Hegde, Department of Sociology, UoH.

  11. Mr D.Prashanth, Student, M.A. Political Science, UoH

  12. Mr Kaki Madhava Rao, Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

List of Testimonies :

The statements recorded from other persons who were not examined before the Tribunal, but who were present were circulated to the Tribunal are as follows:

  1. Ms.Ishani Ghorai , d/o. Namita Ghorai, aged 23 years, 4/o. LH-6 Room No.231, Project Fellow in Department of Political Science, UoH.

  2. Zuhail K.P., s/o. MoideenKoya, aged 26 years, Research Scholar, Department of Physics, UoH.

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) represented by S.Jeevan Kumar,(President) and V.S.Krishna (General Secretary) submitted a memorandum to the Tribunal dated 16.4.2016. In their memorandum they stated as follows:-

We submit an article written by Late K.Balagopal, Human Rights Forum, (General Secretary) practising advocate in A.P.High Court, on a similar situation that erupted in 2002 when the present V.C. Mr.Appa Rao was Chief Warden. We feel that this article would contribute towards understanding the biased atmosphere held in the University and the way the students issues were handled by the people holding positions. “

Background :

The background details leading to the suicide committed by Rohit Vemula Chakravarthy, a Research Scholar of the UoH on 17.1.2016 as well as the police action subsequent to his death and the existing caste discrimination practice by the University was provided to us by the organizers of the Tribunal.

The starting point of the present episode was the protest of ASA on the 3rd August, 2015 against violation of right to expression. It was in response to ABVP’s attack on the screening of a documentary film ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, directed by Nakul Singh Sawhney. The screening was organised on the 1st August 2015 by Montage, the Film Society of Kirorimal College, Delhi. The film was about the Muzaffarnagar and Shamli riots. For AVBP the film was “anti-Hindu” and critical of the Prime Minister Modi (Indian Express dated 2/8/15).

Moreover, the ABVP alleged that the ASA also protested on death penalty to Yakub Memon, accused in the Bombay bomb blast. The AVBP further alleged that ASA displayed placards with Yakub Menon’s picture and write up: “If one Yakub is hanged, another is born in every house”. The ABVP called the ASA’s protest as ‘anti-national’.

The ABVP president of UoH N Susheel Kumar called the Dalit activists as ‘goons’ on Facebook. Offended by the comment, a group of ASA activists went to Susheel Kumar and asked him to withdraw the derogatory remarks. There are two versions of the event. Susheel Kumar alleged that the ASA activists went to his room at midnight and demanded written apology for the remark. Susheel Kumar accused that “he was beaten by them”. On the other hand ASA students reported that they called Susheel Kumar near cycle stand and persuaded him to withdraw his comments and asked for apology. This happened in the presence of university security person.

However, the next morning Susheel Kumar got admitted in the hospital with a complaint that he was beaten with hands and feet.” He was operated for an acute appendicitis. ABVP lodged a police complaint and the university instituted an inquiry on the incident. The medical officer who treated the injured issued a medical certificate stating that the injuries sustained by Susheel Kumar during the incident were ‘simple’. According to Dr Anupama Rao, Senior Medical Officer of the University of Hyderabad who opined:

“After collecting all the medical reports of Susheel Kumar and examining them, I could not reach the conclusion that he developed appendicitis due to the alleged assault. There was one line that there was a bruise on his left shoulder. I could not say if he was allegedly punched or beaten up. I did not examine him as he did not come to me and the hospital’s report does not mention that he had any external or visible injury.”

The Proctorial Board consisting of the Chief Proctor and two faculty members took note of this complaint, conducted an enquiry into the said incident. By Report dated 12-08-2015 the Proctorial Board gave a finding that there was no reliable evidence of assault but nevertheless issued a strong warning to Susheel Kumar for posting offensive comments on Facebook and to six Dalit students that they should not have taken the law in their hands and should have instead complained to the University authorities. The decision of the Proctorial Board is reproduced which is as follows:-

  1. A strong warning is to be issued to Mr Susheel Kumar for posting of such comments on Face Book.

  2. Strong warnings to be issued to Mr D Prasanth, Mr Vincent, Mr Rohith Vemula, P Vijay, Mr Sunkanna, Mr Seshu Chemudugunta for going to Sushil Kumar’s room and hostel and asking for apology and deleting his comment from face book, in the midnight, instead of complaining to appropriate authorities.

Subsequent to this decision of the Proctorial Board, in the period between 12-08-2015 and 16-12-2015, the University received five letters from Ministry of Human Resource Development which repeatedly sought for explanation about the action taken by the University in respect of the Dalit students. The first of the letters dated 17-08-2015 was written by the Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya to the Minister of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Smriti Irani complaining about the University’s inaction in respect of the “extremist, casteist and anti-national politics” of ASA. This crucial letter was followed by five letters from the MHRD dated 3-9-2015, 24-09-2015, 6-10-2015, 20-10-2015 and 19-11-2015 asking the University about the steps taken in this matter.

In a related development, the mother of N Susheel Kumar had moved the High Court at Hyderabad with a writ petition in W.P.No.28073 of 2015 making the University, the State of Telangana and the Director General of Police as parties. According to her, her son was brutally attacked in the campus and the police were hand in glove with the attackers. She also alleged in her affidavit dated 26.8.2015 that the investigation was not done properly by the police and attempts are made to erase the evidence. The relief claimed by her before the high court was as follows:-

Declaring the inaction on the part of the respondent authorities in providing security to students like the son of the petitioner and in taking any remedial steps in this regard as illegal and unconstitutional and consequently direct the respondent authorities to set up a mechanism to prevent such incidents and punish the persons responsible for this attack on the son of the petitioner in early hours of 4-8-2015 and the authorities especially respondent Nos.6 and 7 for perpetuating and supporting such violent incidents in the campus.”

Notices were issued in that W.P, the Inspector General of Police (Law & Order), Murgesh Kumar Singh, I.P.S, Commissioner Of Police, Cyberabad (C.V.Anand) and the Registrar of UoH (B.Pandu Reddy) had filed counter affidavits in that W.P. That matter has been pending before the High Court.

In the University, putting aside its earlier report dated 12-08-2015, the same Proctorial Committee reopened the enquiry on 31-08-2015, examined Susheel Kumar and gave an entirely different Report. In this Report the Proctorial Committee recommended that four students D.Prashanth, Rohith Vemula, P.Vijaya Kumar and Seshaiah Chemudugunta should be completely suspended from classes, courses, hostels and other related spaces of the university for their ongoing/current semester.

This decision was implemented by the Registrar of the University on 8-09-2015. The four students by letter dated 10-09-2015 appealed to the Vice-Chancellor and sought for a) the setting-aside of the punishment b) for a fresh enquiry with a new set of members. The following day the Registrar by a letter dated 11-09-2015 revoked the suspension.

The order passed by the University is very peculiar and it is necessary to extract the text of the order:

Sub : Revocation of the suspension of students and constitution of a Committee to look into the incident that took place on 3.8.2016 (night) and 4.8.2015.

Ref : Registrar’s order No. UH/REG/2015/5789 dated 8.9.2015.

Vice-Chancellor’s orders dated 11.9.2015

Based on the representation of the students dated 10.9.2015, the order first cited placing the following students under suspension is hereby revoked with immediate effect.

  1. Mr.Dontha Prashanth (13SEPH14) Ph.D Economics

  2. Mr.Chakarvarthi Rohit Vemula (14SKPK01) Ph.D Science, Technology & Society Studies.

  3. Mr.Pedapudi Vijay Kumar (13SPPH03), Ph.D Political Science

  4. Mr.Sheshaiah Chemudugunta (14SIPH04), Ph.D Centre for study of Social Exclusion and inclusive policy.

This decision is subject to the following conditions:-

  1. A committee shall look into the incident that took place on 3.8.2015 (night) and 4.8.2015

  2. The students should comply with the final decision taken by the University based on the recommendations of the Committee.

REGISTRAR i/c (11.9.2015)

Subsequently the Vice Chancellor appointed a Sub Committee of the EC to enquire into the matter. Instead of conducting an enquiry afresh, the EC Sub-Committee headed by Prof Vipin Shrivastava by Report dated 24-11-2015 confirmed the decisions of complete suspension taken by the Proctorial Board. No fresh enquiry was conducted. Opportunities were not given to either of the parties to recount their versions of the event. This can be seen from the recommendations made by the Committee which is as follows:

Recommendations

Based on the details mentioned above and the interactions with the university security and police personnel, review of records and observations that the Committee could make and verify within the short period that was given to it, they concur with the findings and recommendations of the Proctorial Board.

Based on inputs provided during the meeting, the committee recommends that the University should evolve a procedure in which a general notification is given to the University community inviting information /evidence whenever an incident of unlawful nature or connected with indiscipline occurs on the campus.

The University should formulate detailed guidelines / protocols for the security staff to deal with such sensitive and serious situations and develop an effective reporting system to higher authorities.”

This decision was tabled in the Executive Committee Meeting dated 27-11-2015 chaired by the Vice Chancellor as an Ex-officio Chairman. This meeting was also attended by Prof.Vipin Shrivastava in the capacity of being the senior most Professor.

In the Executive Committee held on 27-11-2015 the decision of the EC Sub-Committee was partly modified and it was decided to limit the suspension only to hostel facilities. Thus the Registrar by an order dated 16-12-2015 communicated the decision of the Executive Committee held on 27.11.2015 in which the following students names were found in the order. The order read as follows:-

University of Hyderabad

Office of the Registrar

UH/REG/2015/9198 Date : 16.12.2015

Sub : Implementation of the EC Resolution under Item No. EC:167:2015:10(c) on the incident that took place past midnight of 3.8.2015.

References : 1. Final report of the Proctorial Board dt 31.8.2015

2. Order No. UH/REG/2015/5788 dt. 8.9.2015

3. Order No. UH/REG/2015/5789 dt. 8.9.2015

4. Order No. UH/REG/2015/5823 dt. 11.9.2015

5. Order No. UH/REG/2015/5961 dt. 15.9.2015

6. Report of the EC Sub-Committee dt. 24.11.2015

7. EC Resolution No. EC:167:2015:10(c) dt. 27.11.2015

8. Vice Chancellor’s approval dt. 15.12.2015

In compliance with the Resolution of the Executive Council of the University under Item No.EC:167:2015:10(c) on the incident that occurred past the midnight of 3rd August 2015. On the campus of the University, it has been decided.

  1. Not to allow the following students to stay in hostels at the University till they complete their respective courses / programmes at the University.

  1. Mr.Dontha Prashanth (13 SEPH14), Ph.D, Economics

  2. Mr.Chakravarthi Rohith Vemula (14SKPK01), Ph.D. Science, Technology and Social Studies.

  3. Mr.Pedapudi Vijay Kumar (13SPPH03), Ph.D Political Science.

  4. Mr.Sheshaiah Chemudugunta (14SIPH04), Ph.D Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy

  5. Mr.Velpula Sunkanna (former student of Ph.D in the Dept. of Philosophy)

  1. The above students are permitted to be seen only in the respective

Schools/Departments/Centres, the Library and academic seminars / conferences/workshops of their subject. They are not permitted to participate in the Students’ Union Elections, enter the hostels, administration building and other common place in groups.

  1. Violation of (ii) above, will attract punishment recommended by the Proctorial Board.

The above decision is subject to the verdict of the Hon’ble High Court in W.P.No.28073 and the case registered in the Gachibowli Police Station vide FIR No. 296/2015 under Sections 448,341,506,323 read with Section 147 IPC.

REGISTRAR (I/C)

The university asked the five students to vacate the hostels. These students belonging to poor families from rural areas were not in a position to rent a house in Hyderabad. Moreover some of them did not receive their fellowship amount for the last six months. Rohith Vemula expressed his anguish the way in which the university authority was approaching what he felt “Dalit problem”. On 18th December, 2015 he wrote to the Vice Chancellor,

First, let me praise your dedicated take on the self-respecting movement of Dalits in campus. When an ABVP president got questioned about his derogatory remarks on Dalits, your kind personal interference into the issue is historic and exemplary. 5 Dalit students are ‘socially boycotted’ from campus spaces. …I am tempted to give two suggestions as a token of banality. (1) Please serve 10 mg of Sodium Azide to all the Dalit students at the time of admission with dire to use when they feel like reading Ambedkar. (2) Supply a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalit students from your companion, the great Chief Warden. As we the scholars, PhD students have already passed that stage and already members of Dalit Self-respect movement unfortunately, we here are left with no easy means it seems.

Hence, I request your highness to make preparations for the facility “Euthanasia” for students like me. And I wish you and the campus rest in peace forever”.

The university authority ignored this crucial letter and simply filed it.

To express their protest against the decision of the university, from 2nd January, 2016 the five Dalit students set-up a temporary shelter in a public space in the university which became popularly known as “Velivada”, (Dalit ghetto). The students saw the expulsion order as a contemporary social boycott suffered by Dalits in the centres of higher education in the country. It was winter and the students were living in open. The university authority was indifferent to the students. On 18-12-2015 the five students filed WP 41516/2015 in the High Court of Hyderabad seeking a direction to set-aside the Order passed by the Registrar. The case came up for admission was adjourned for four weeks for Counter. The students did not get relief in the admission stage of the writ petition.

On the fateful day of 17-01-2016 Rohit Vemula committed suicide by hanging himself in a hostel room. The suicide note dated 17-1-2016 recovered from the body of Rohith Vemula shook the conscience of everyone in this country. It is worth reproducing and it reads as follows:-

Good Morning,

I would not be around when you read this letter. Don’t get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.

I loved science stars. Nature. But then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.

The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity. And nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field in studies. In streets in politics and in dying and living.

I am writing this kind of letter for the first time. My first time of a final letter. Forgive me if I fail to make a sense. May be I am wrong. All the while in understanding world, in understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while. Some people, for them, life itself is a curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.

People may dub me as a coward. And selfish or stupid. Once I am gone, I am not bothered about I am called. I don’t believe in after death stories, ghosts or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds!

If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship. One lakh and Seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.

Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I happy dead than being alive.

From shadows to the stars.” Bye.

V.Rohith Vemula

17/01/2016

Uma anna, Sorry for using your room for this thing.

To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish you all the very best for the future.

For one last time,

Jai Bheem Bye…!

I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself. No one instigated me either by their acts or by their words to this act. This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this. Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.

Sincerely,

V.Rohith Vemula

17/01/2016 “

On the early morning of 18-01-2016, a complaint was registered in the Gachibowli Police Station against the Vice Chancellor as the first accused, Union Labor Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and two others for abetment of suicide and committing a caste atrocity against Rohith Vemula in particular and the other four Dalit students. Witness No 11 Dontha Prasanth filed the complaint which reads as follows:

Respected Sir,

Sub : Complaint against the death of Vemula Rohith, S/o. Vemula Mani Kumar due to harassment and the atrocities of Podile Apparao who is the vice-chancellor of University of Hyderabad, Bandaru Dattatreya (Member of Parliament, Secunderabad). BJP MLC N.Ramachandra Rao, Mr.Krishna Chaitanya, Nandanam Susheel Kumar and Nandanam Diwakar under the provisions of SC and ST (Prevention of Attrocities) Act and under the Provisions of Indian Penal Code.

I, the above named Dontha Prashanth, S/o. Dontha Rajaiah, pursuing Ph.D Economics in University of Hyderabad and also a member of Ambedkar Students Association do hereby submit the following few lines for your kind consideration and necessary action against the culprits in respect of death of Rohith Vemula, who was doing his Ph.D in Science, Technology and Society Studies at University of Hyderabad.

I submit that on 17/1/2016 at about 7 p.m. when I was at shopping complex, University of Hydrebad, I received an information from my friend by name Vijay Pedapudi, informed that when Room No.1-207 of N.R.S.Hostel of UoH was knocked several times, the room was not opened immediately. I along with Matta Srinivas, Ph.D student, School of Economics, went to NRS hostel and tried to knock the door, but it was not opened. Then immediately I informed the Security Officer, T.V.Rao on the same. Immediately a team of security guards led by Ramulu reached the spot and opened the door. There they found the body was hanged to the fan. Immediately they informed doctors and the doctor reached the spot, who examined the body of Rohith and declared that Rohith Vemula was dead.

I submit that the case of death of Vemula Rohith was due to harassment and the atrocities of Prof. Podile Apparao who is the vice-chancellor of the University of Hyderabad. Bandaru Dattatreya, (Member of Parliament, Secunderabad), BJP MLC N.Ramachandra Rao Mr. Krishna Chaitanya, Nandanam Susheel Kumar and Nandanam Diwakar.

I submit that, the following facts have led to the death of Rohith Vemula, which are enlisted below:

I submit that, on 03rd August 2015, Ambedkar Students Association conducted a protest gathering against ABVP attack on Montage Film Society. At that time, one student who is the president of ABVP namely Nandanam Susheel Kumar, Ph.D Scholar in Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies posted a message in social media (face book) insulting ASA as goons. Our association condemned the said comment and requested him to remove the comment from social media and asked to tender unconditional apology. During such conversation the university security officer was present and witnessed the incident. Consequently the said student tendered his apology and the same was handed over to the security officer present there at, who in turn subscribed his signature over it.

I submit that, this incident shaped differently by the ABVP General Secretary Mr.Krishna Chaithanya, Msc. in his complaint dated 04/08/2015 submitted to Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabd. The said complaint is made with full of false allegation, fictitious and concocted version. In fact he was not at all a witness to the incident occurred with Nandanam Susheel Kumar on 03/08/2015. Further he traversed beyond the factual position of the incident and made several false accusations including picturizing us including deceased anti-nationalists. Basing on his complaint the BJP party member and present MLC to the state of Telangana Mr.N.Ramachandra Rao entered into the university and conducted a movement against us including deceased insisting the authorities take action over Nandanam SUsheel Kumar’s mother, Nandanam Vidya also accompanied him to raise sentimental emotions.

I submit that, without enquiring the facts of the above allegations, the university authorities said themselves with the ABVP and BJP and took action over me and (1) Pedapudi Vijay Kumar (2) Seshaiah Chemudugunta (3) Sunkanna Velpola (4) Rohit Vemula (deceased). In that process, we including the deceased were suspended from the university and facing criminal cases Meanwhile Mnister Bandaru Dattatreya in his personal capacity wrote an influencing letter to Smriti Zubin Irani, MHRD without examining the veracity of the complaint forwarded by Nandanam Diwakar, who is none other than Vice-President, Bharatiya Janata party, Rangareddy Dist. Infact Nandanam Diwakar’s complaint (forwarded to Bandaru Dattatreya is nothing but a replics of Krishna Chaitanya’s complaint dated 04/08/2015. MHRD office being misled by the letter of Bandaru Dattatreya used their power without enquiring the matter and thereby instructed the university authorities to report the decision taken against us including deceased on the alleged incident of 03.08.2015.

The university authorities constituted a committee and through such committee took actions against us including deceased. In fact the constituting of the said committee has been concealed until passing orders against us. It is nothing but legal and misconceived. Thereafter its orders have been ratified by the V.C of UoH and Registrar.

I submit that, Rohith Vemula is a recipient of UGC-JRF and he was not in receipt of fellowship for last 7 months as a part of the harassment of the University Authorities. At this juncture university not permitted us including the deceased person to enter hostels, administration building and other common places in groups, through its order dated 16.12.2015 as a response to communication received from MHRD which also consists the false allegations of Mr.Bandaru Dattatreya and Nandanam Diwakar against us including deceased. The decision taken by Prof. Apparao, at the instigation of above said person decreed said dated 16.12.2015. The same was challenged before Hon’ble High Court of AP and Telangana by filing a writ petition and the same is pending. Since, Rohith Vemula was not allowed to enter Administration Building, he could not pursue his claim for fellowship, thus he did not have access to stay outside as such we along with deceased stayed at an open area in the University premises. However, the deceased further stated that he submitted a representation to Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad stating his agony on the injustice meted out to Dalits on campus. It has been 14 days since we along with Rohith Vemula were staying out in open. All student organization gave several representations to university authorities to suspend the illegal orders, but there was no positive response from the university authorities.

I submit that, we including the deceased are members of Scheduled Caste Community, the above said persons in collusion with the university authorities harassed us as stated above due to which we along with deceased Rohith Vemula, underwent mental agony, but Rohith Vemula could not bear the atrocities, humiliation, harassment, insults and injustice of Professor Podile Apparao, at the instigation and abetment of Bandaru Dattatreya (Member of Parliament, Secunderabad) BJP MLC N.Ramachandra Rao, M.Krishna Chaitanya and Nandanam Susheel Kumar , Nandanam Diwakar, which caused to his death.

I therefore request you to conduct proper investigation in to the matter of the death of Rohith Vemula and atrocities against us and take stringent action against the culprits under the provisions of SC and ST (Prevention and Atrocities) Act, 1989 and under the provisions of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Yours faithfully,

(DONTHA PRASHANTH)“

On the basis of the same, FIR 20/2016 was registered by the Station House Officer, Gachibowli Police Station. On registration of the FIR, SHO informed the local Magistrate as follows:-

Honored Sir,

Today i.e. on 18.01.2016 at 05.30 hours received a complaint from Sri Dontha Prashanth, S/o. D.Rajaiah, Occ: PHD Student, R/o.HCU Hostel, Gachibowli, Serlingampally mandal, Ranga Reddy dist, in which reads as under follows:

Brief facts of the case are that the above said accused in collagen with University authorities harassed us due to which we along with Rohith Vemula (deceased) underwent mental agony, but Rohith Vemula could not bear the atrocities, humiliation, harassment, insults and injustice of Professor Podile Apparol, at the instigation and abetment of Bandaru Dattatreya, (MP of Secunderabad), BJP MLC N.Ramachandra Rao, Mr.Krishna Chaitanya and Nandanam Susheel Kumar, Nandanam Diwakar, which caused to his death.

As per the contents of the above complaint registered a case in Cr.No.20/2016 U/s 306 IPC, Sec 3(I ) (IX) (X) and 2(VII) of SC/ST POA Act and investigation handed over to Asst. Commissioner of Police, Madhapur Division.

Hence the FIR.

Inspector of Police

P.S.Gachibowli”

There were massive protests in the University as well as universities across the country. In this background the Executive Council conducted a special meeting on 21.1.2016 and passed a following resolution:-

Taking up the agenda of the meeting, the Council recollected the resolution adopted in the 167th meeting of the Executive Council held on 27th November 2015, wherein it was resolved not to allow five Ph.D students to stay in hostels, apart from not permitting them to participate in Students’ Union elections, enter the hostels, administrative building and other common places in groups, till they complete their respective courses / programmes at the University.

Taking into account the extraordinary situation prevailing in the University, and after discussing the issue in detail, the Council resolved to terminate the punishment imposed on the students concerned with immediate effect.

Further, it was resolved that this decision of the Council is subject to the verdict in the cases filed vide W.P.No. 28073 of 2015 and WP No. 41516 / 2015 (in the Hon’ble High Court), and the case registered in the Gachibowli Police Station vide FIR No. 296/2015 U/S 44, 341, 506, 323 R/W 147 IPC”

Within ten days of Rohith’s death, the Vice Chancellor went on leave and an In charge Vice Chancellor Vipin Shrivastava was appointed. It may be recalled that Prof Vipin Shrivastava was the same person who headed the EC Sub Committee and confirmed the suspension of the Dalit students. The said Shrivastava also had a record of caste discrimination in the earlier suicide of Senthil Kumar in 2008. Again, there were wide spread protests against the appointment of Shrivastava as the In-charge Vice- Chancellor as he also had a record of caste discrimination. Following these protests, Prof Shrivastava also went on leave. Subsequently Prof Periasamy was appointed as the In-charge Vice Chancellor.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) constituted a Commission headed by a Retired Judge, Shri Justice Roopanwal. This Commission conducted its enquiry on 23-25th February at the Golden Threshold, Abids. It invited students, teachers, student unions of UOH and other stakeholders to give inputs on the facts and circumstances leading to Rohith’s case as well as for making recommendations for setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms to prevent caste discrimination in the campus. A copy of the representation signed by 87 university teachers before the Commission was also given to this Tribunal.

While this was so, even as the university was limping back to normalcy, on 22-03-2016 the Vice Chancellor Podile Appa Rao suddenly returned from leave and resumed duties. This led to a fresh wave of protests in the University. The shocking question was the way in which the Vice Chancellor could resume duties when a cognizable and non-bailable criminal case was pending against him. It was not his case that he got any legal protection and perhaps a stay of his arrest from the High Court.

The students and faculty were shocked at the resumption of duty by the VC and that too at a time when the faculty was struggling to complete the syllabus and preparing the students for examinations. The students were extremely angry, upset and frustrated at the impugnity of the VC. They protested in front of the VC lodge in which he was holding meetings of university bodies.

To prevent increasing protests, the Registrar of the University sought for police intervention which led to a forceful and violent stoppage of the protests, resulting in a lathicharge on the students. 24 students, 2 teachers and one filmmaker were taken away by police on the evening of 22nd March 2016 at about 5p.m. They were beaten up brutally in the police van, abused with caste names. The Muslim boys were asked to return to Pakistan. There was no information given by the police about the whereabouts of the students and the teachers until late night of 23rd March, 2016 when they were produced before the XXV Metropolitan Magistrate, Miyapur in his residence. The arrests were made in complete violation of the provisions of S 41B of the Criminal Procedure Code and the guidelines of the Supreme Court.

On the same day a blockade was imposed by the university authorities by denying water, food, electricity and internet services to the students living in about 22 hostels from the evening of 22nd March to the evening of 24th March 2016. Subsequently, on 29.3.2016 the students got bail and were released from jail. The students and teachers spent one day in police custody and six full days in judicial custody.

The campus has been tense since then. The gates are barricaded and there has been heavy police presence in the campus. The entry of outsiders has been severely curtailed. Prof. Yogendra Yadav former member of the UGC was also prevented entry into the campus. Media has been barred from entering the campus. The students have been put to extreme distress and uncertainty with these developments.

Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) of Telangana represented by its spokesperson Prof. P.L.Vishweshwer Rao sent a complaint to the State Human Rights Commission(SHRC) at Hyderabad on 28.3.2016 complaining about the human rights violations committed by the police against the students between 22.3.2016 and 28.3.2016. In their complaint, they had made the following allegations against the University and the Police :-

1. The Police brutalities, torture since March 22nd is still continuing, which needs to be thoroughly investigated for necessary actions. This amounts to total violation of Human Rights.

2. Extreme Provocation by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao and his hench-men and ABVP group, should also be investigated.

3. Even today, that is March 28th 2016, Students are being terrorized and attacked by the Police and others.

4. Many students live in fear because of Police threatening which are in massive numbers.

5. Freedom of expression is under threat, which is also violation of Human Rights.

6. Physical assault while in custody in Police van and ambulance leading to serious injuries of students, which is also Violation of Human Rights.

7. Torturing them for 30 hours by not disclosing the whereabouts of Students & faculty, also a violation of Human Rights.

8. The arrested students were not allowed to access to any legal course, which is blatant & total violation of Human Rights.

9. All the essential services were also disconnected and not provided intentionally and deliberately, which is also a violation of Human Rights.

10. Police torture, man handling, beating and abusing and calling them as Anti-National are also Violation of Human Rights.

11. students who are beaten and not given proper treatment and some of them vomiting all through the night of March 22nd and 23rd Night, also violation of Human Rights.

12. Not producing the arrested students & faculties within 24 hours as required by law, is also violation of Human Rights.

13. Parents and relatives were not informed about the whereabouts of the arrested, is also violation of Human Rights. Even they were not allowed in the Campus.

14. All Attempts are made to deliberately, internationally, purposefully, so that they cannot get bail.

15. Women Students were kicked in their abdomen and threatened of rape and molestation by Police and others, which amounts to Violation of Human Rights.

16. The ‘Conflict of Interest’ issue should also be investigated as the Hon’ble Judge hearing a bail petition in Miyapur Court is the Wife of a BJP activist.

17. The Prohibitory Orders are still in force on UoH campus. Not allowing four or more students & faculties to meet, to discuss, have a talk, even today (that is March 28th).

The SHRC registered a complaint as H.R.C.No.2465 of 2016 and issued notice to the Vice-Chancellor. It also passed an interim order to the following effect:-

In the meanwhile there shall be a direction to see that no violation of any of the Human Rights takes place so far as the points mentioned in the complaint i.e. 1,3,4,5,6,8,12,13 and 17 and be attended to immediately. Let this order be sent to the Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad, through fax.”

The Vice-Chancellor of UoH submitted a note on the incident that occurred on 22.3.2016. Based upon the same, the SHRC passed an order dated 26.3.2016 disposing of the complaint filed by the Aam Aadmi Party. However, the SHRC initiated suo motu proceedings and passed the following order:-

Suo motu proceedings:

Regard being had to the scope and ambit of a human right which embraces within it, the development of an individual including development in the field of education, effective measures to remove the impediments those can hamper the educational development of the researchers / students is need of the hour. On top of it, is the necessity of restoration of congenial and conducive atmosphere within the campus in order to ensure requisite peace in all fields of research and studies and peaceful stay with self respect and dignity of all the inmates viz. the students, members of the teaching and the non-teaching staff on the campus. Embarking upon the area of concern let suo motu proceedings commence.”

It was thereafter the Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad sent his reply dated 1.4.2016 and the matter was adjourned to 2.4.2016. Thereafter as to what had happened before the SHRC is not made known to the Tribunal.

Brief summary of depositions of witnesses:

The following are the summary of the depositions of witnesses made before the Tribunal:

Witness No.1 (Dr Velpula Sunkanna)

The witness is a native of Kurnool Dist. of Andhra Pradesh. He got a Ph.D from UoH March 2016. In his deposition, he briefly narrated his background and his being a Scheduled Caste and how he had suffered during his school days. He was handicapped in learning English properly and with great difficulty he joined the University and did M.A.Philosophy. He finished his M.Phil in 2007. While speaking about caste discrimination in his village, he narrated the discriminatory practices adopted by the dominant caste and he told that it was visible. However, he submitted that the kind of caste discrimination practice in the UoH was invisible. To quote his own words on the issue:-

There are several forms of caste discrimination in the campus. In 2005, there was a rule that the first page of the entrance exams should carry one’s name, father’s name, mother’s name, caste, and religion. Then second page onwards the answer is written. During evaluation, the moment the teacher saw the first page, the marking was affected. The evaluator generally doesn’t want to give seats to Dalits, tribes and OBCs in the general quota. So less marks were given to Dalits and tribes. We fought against this for three four years. In 2008, the university changed the rule. They introduced the star system. If you’re SC 1 star, if you’re ST 2 stars, if you’re OBC hash, if you are physically challenged 3 stars. More importantly the first sheet will not go to the evaluator, it will remain with the administration. However, when the results are announced, the stars are added beside the name. There is public information about which student is a Dalit. We cannot escape this identification.”

I can cite another example. Cut off marks was introduced in 2008. If you are SC/ST you have to cross minimum 45 marks. If you are coming from general quota, you have to cross 55 marks. If you don’t cross these marks, thought there are seats, the seats will not be filled. Even if there are seats for SC/ST, if the candidates don’t cross 45 marks, the seats will not be filled. Most of the Dalits and tribes got less than 45 marks and the seats were kept vacant. Ambedkar Students Association fought against this practice, and this resulted in the introduction of dynamic cut off marks. In this system, if there are seats in the SC/ST category, and if Dalits and tribes fail to cross 45, then the cut off marks will be lowered to fill up the seats. In this way all the SC/ST reserved seats get filled up. But there is a problem. Dalits and tribes rarely get 5 marks to qualify for the general quota. They are deliberately given less marks to even bright Dalit students. We have been fighting on this issue also. In this particular campus the SC/ST strength is more than the reservation percentage because we have been fighting to get SCs and STs into the general category.”

In his own case, he stated that after the incident dated 3.8.2015, he was issued with a show cause notice and subsequently given a warning by the authorities. This warning was given to both the parties. On 2.9.2015, he submitted his thesis and went to his native place. He was informed that his thesis was sent back to his Department. He came to know that four scheduled caste students were suspended for one semester but no punishment was given to him. However, his thesis was not sent for evaluation though he did not suffer any punishment. On 11.9.2015 the suspension of four students were revoked. Since in his case he was not under suspension the question of revocation did not arise. Yet his Dean informed him that unless he gets a letter from the Administration his thesis will not be sent for evaluation.”

The Registrar, UoH gave a letter that the suspension of four students though was revoked, a fresh committee will be formed to enquire their conduct. On the basis of this letter, his thesis was sent for evaluation. It was not clear as to what kind of enquiry that was to be conducted. However what happened later will puzzle anyone. He further deposed as follows:

The EC Sub-Committee, constituted by the university, surprisingly went through the Proctorial Board report which was set-aside and came to the conclusion of suspension. Instead of conducting a fresh enquiry, the EC Sub-Committee simply confirmed the punishment imposed by the Proctorial Board. By not conducting a fresh enquiry, the EC Sub-Committee violated the order of 11th September 2015. And then surprisingly, my name again came up in the Minutes of the Executive Council meeting and the Order of the Registrar dated 16-12-2015. Again my submission was stalled. By then my viva was coming up, I was waiting for my Ph D external reports. I wanted to finish my viva and get my degree. But with all these developments, it was getting postponed.”

Between 16th December,2015 and 17th January 2016, several times we went to the administration, spoke to the VC to revoke the suspension. Every time the VC said that he cannot take a decision as Susheel Kumar’s mother’s write petition is pending in the High Court, that it will be contempt f the court. But on 21st January 2016, after the death of Rohith, they revoked the suspension. Even at this time Susheel Kumar’s mother’s writ petition was pending. How come it was not contempt of the court. I asked him “Why couldn’t you do this before the death of Rohith”? Atleast Rohith would not have died.”

I finally gave my viva after the revocation letter issued by the Registrar on 21-01-2016. I received my PhD degree on 15th March 2016.”

Witness No.2 (Seshaiah Chemudugunta)

This witness is from Kagithalapuru village (Nellore Dist.). He is a research scholar in the centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy and was a resident in the hostel. He comes from a poor family. His father worked as a bonded labour. He studied in the village school initially and while he was in the IXth class, his mother died and thereafter his father died in the year 2015. With difficulties he completed his degree course. During his degree days, he used to do odd jobs like working under a caterer, he worked as a painter and a construction worker during holidays and earned money to pay his fees.

In 2009, he joined the Central University. For paying his fees he worked under the NREGA scheme. He did his M.A.English in UoH. Through his hard work he improved his English knowledge and got admission for M.Phil and Ph.D.

With reference to the incident of 3.8.2015 he deposed as follows:-

On 3rd August, 2015, this incident happened where we were accused of beating Susheel Kumar from ABVP. At that time, the proctorial board called us for depositions. We went and gave our depositions and one week later, we got orders. These orders were sent to every department including my HoD. The orders stated that “this is last warning for you as well as the ABVP”. I thought it was the end of the case. After that I went home to help my sister on some work.

While I was at home I got a call from my department that I was suspended for one semester. I immediately returned to Hyderabad and all of us asked the V.C as to why a second set of orders were issued when the first order of warning was already given. The university then promised to set up a new committee and this suspension was revoked.

By the end of November we came to know that the University was getting letters from Bandaru Dattatreya and the HRD ministry. By 6th December, we got the third set of suspension orders. This was the third action on the same case. First we got warning, second was a full suspension for a semester. The third order said that we could complete our courses, but without hostel facilities and participation in social and political activities.

All five of us from agricultural labour families. If we rent rooms, it would cost us at least Rs.5,000/- and we couldn’t afford that. All of us needed to send half of our fellowship amounts to our home. How could we rent a place outside? We realised that this was injustice.

There are very few central universities in our country. Students come from long distances and remote areas to study in a central university. Even within the state, we travel almost 600 KMs to reach here. Hence the rule in a central university is to provide hostel facility to every student who gets admission. It is our right. If hostel accommodation is not provided, it is as good as not getting an admission. Giving us admission and not hostel accommodation is one kind of boycott / discrimination. We felt humiliated.

We didn’t know where to go. We decided that we will stay in the same university. So we stayed in the open for first 2-3 days in the cold. I got fever. So we put a tent. Rohith was very depressed, though he didn’t show it to us. He used to keep asking why VC never came to meet us. Why is this happening to us? He was worried that our admission that our admission might get cancelled because political leaders were involved against us. He was worried that he might never be able to finish his Ph.D. Rohith and I used to share the same blanket. It was a big blanket which was offered my senior. He used to share his thoughts with me. He told that since he wasn’t getting his fellowship money, he was forced to borrow money from others. In these conditions, he died.”

Witness No.3 (Mrs.Radhika Vemula)

This witness is the mother of Rohit Vemula who was a research scholar and whose suicide created a massive protest all over the country came to depose before the Tribunal accompanied by her surviving son Vemula Raja Chaithanya Kumar. She spoke in Telugu and it was translated by Ms Syamasundari. In her deposition she said that her adopted mother’s name was Anjana Devi and her father was Musaliah. She got married at the age of 15 (by then she had written Xth std examination) to one Manikumar. After her marriage it was informed to the family of her husband that her original caste was Mala which is a notified scheduled caste. Her husband was a gambler and did not pay attention to the family. He used to beat up his own mother and unable to bear his activities, she left to live with her mother’s house in Guntur. Despite her husband was counseling her to come back, she did not return to his household and was living in a colony occupied by mala caste people. She was struggling to support their education. Her son Rohit was keen to study science and did a degree course in Bio-Technololgy. After he got his degree, she fell ill Rohit wanted to discontinue his study in order to get a job so as to support the family. She told him that not to give up education. Rohit cleared his M.Sc and got a good rank. When Rohit asked as what should be done further, she advised him to continue his studies and thus he joined a Ph.D Program in UoH.

It is relevant to extract the rest of her testimony with reference to her son’s continuing his studies in UoH, which will throw some light on the plight of Rohith Vemula. It is as follows:-

As I continued to be unwell and also had to undergo a surgery due to gynaecological problems, my children did not allow me to go back in tailoring. Rohit kept about Rs.5000 from his fellowship for his expenses and sent the rest home to support me and his younger brother. Suddenly the stipend stopped and I did not know the reason. He said it was some problem at the office and would soon sorted. He stopped coming Guntur and when I asked him to come atleast during holidays, he said that when there was not enough to eat, he did not like to come and add to the burden. Suddenly he sent some money saying that some part of the fellowship money had been sanctioned. My younger son Raja worked in NGRI as a research fellow, and both the brothers did not want to leave me alone in Guntur as my health did not improve. I was not in favour of moving to Hyderabad as the living expenses would become higher. Both my sons tried to persuade me saying that I can start my tailoring in Hyderabad, but I knew that it would be difficult in the beginning. People have to get to know me before I get continuous work. But finally, in the last week of December (27th December 2015), I moved to Hyderabad.

I called Rohit and asked him to come and stay with me. He said that it would be difficult to commute the distance from the University, and would come and see me sometimes. I persuaded him to come and see the house immediately. He came that evening (28th December 2015) along with his friend Rajeev. When I saw Rohit, I felt he did not look alright. He never looked into my eyes, and did not allow his friend to leave his side. He did not allow me to get a few minutes alone with him. He had his dinner and immediately went to sleep. I was concerned by his behaviour and felt that he was deeply disturbed about something. I woke up several times in the night to look at him. He did not wake up until I woke him up at 8.30. Then he was in a hurry to go, and said he could not stay for lunch. I said that I will cook chicken for him. But he did not want it. I asked him to definitely call on the 31st and told him not to go out on the eve of New Year as there may be all kinds of people around. He told me he was not using the phone as he was preparing for Civils and did not want to be disturbed. Since then I lost direct contact with him and could reach him through couple of his friends.

In January I asked him for Rs.10000 for his brother’s coaching. He promised to come on the 5th (January). When I asked Rohit to come during festival (Sankranti) holidays, he asked me whether I was watching TV, that there was some trouble going on in the University. I surfed all the channels but could not find the news. I am not used to watching TV regularly and hence could not check for news. After Rohit died, many people who saw me said, “Are you Rohit’s mother? We saw your boy was living in a tent protesting.” Unfortunately I did not know anything. On Sunday (17th January) mind was anxious; I could not rest, eat or do anything. I kept calling Rohit’s friends, fearing that if there are problems the police may come and beat these children. I never dream that he was facing caste discrimination, that he was suspended and that he had no shelter. After Rohit hinted at trouble in the university, my only fear was the police beating up the children. I called his friend and when he could not contact Rohit, I cried on the phone. He assured me that he will contact Rohit and get him to call me. In about two hours I get the news that Rohit was hanged himself. Then I had only Rs.100/- with me, and could not even travel to the university. The house owner saw my state and helped me to reach the university.

I stayed near the tent where Rohit had to live after suspension for more than two weeks. My son was out in the cold from December, for more than fifteen days. Why had the V.C. not informed me? When I sat at the tent with the other suspended students and Rohit’s other friends, no one from the administration came. The VC did not come. I demanded that the suspension be revoked and two days after Rohit died, suspensions were revoked. I felt the authorities could not take the same action before my son’s death. They could not extend the same gesture when my son was alive. If I had been informed of Rohit’s suspension, I could have at least come and save his life. I demanded that the V.C. has to come and explain to me why my son had to take his own life?

After I came back home the University administration offered Rs.8 Lakhs as compensation but I refused it. Two members of the faculty along with two policemen came to our Uppal house and offered compensation, assuring that the V.C would come and meet us. I refused saying that the V.C. had not come to meet when I sat on Campus near the tent where my son had to take shelter for more than two weeks. He did not come to see him even after death and this was not time or place to come and meet me secretly. When students of the University demanded justice for Rohit, the VC called and police and got them beaten. Girl students were threatened with sexual abuse. I am considered an outsider and am not allowed to enter the campus to see the place where he lived and died and pay my respects at the stupa the students erected in his memory.

My son died because the V.C suspended him and imposed restrictions in social boycott on him. This V.C. Apparao killed my child. The Union Minister Smriti Irani, Bandaru Dattatreya and the VC are responsible for the death of my son. They should be prosecuted. The cases on the children of the University must be removed and the university must function without any caste discrimination. The State should pass the Rohit Act to prevent caste discrimination in academic institutions. This is my wish. Jai Bheem.”

Witness No.5 (Ms.Firdaus Soni)

This witness is the only woman student from UoH, who deposed before the Tribunal. There is no disciplinary action pending against her. She is an M.Phil student from the Department of Sociology. She is also a resident in the north campus hostel for women. She was an eyewitness to the incident of police brutality on 22.3.2016 and 23.3.2016. In view of the same, it is necessary to reproduce her full deposition made before the Tribunal:-

On 22nd March, 2016 I along with other students were sitting on the lawns outside the VC lodge and giving slogans. Myself and everyone else present there were very upset that the VC had returned despite criminal cases pending against him. The police were there and asked us to leave. We said that we will not leave as this is our campus and we have a right to protest democratically.

When the police started charging towards the protesting students, all of us decided that we will all just lie down. Then they started dragging and hitting us in order to evict us from the VC lodge compound. I was pulled by my hair and dragged out by 4 police women. We were evicted from the back gage of the lodge that opens into the jungle instead of the front gate. In spite of evicting us from the compound, as soon as we reached the back gate, the police to our surprise started lathi charge. I saw many of the male students being pulled back by the police when they were trying to run away and then lathi charge them. They chased us for almost another kilometer till the humanities department. Students who were standing near their departments got beaten up even when they had not come for the protest.

By about 4.30 p.m, the police started beating the male students mercilessly. Some of us tried to shield the male students as we believed that male police officers will not touch or beat women students. We formed a human chain around our male student friends. At that time a heavy police man called Lal Mathur and other police men placed on lathis on our breasts and pushed us back. We were also beaten on our buttocks. They asked girl students to go and study and not participate in such things. They kept yelling that we are anti-nationals and that they will charge us with sedition.

The campus has been like a military camp. Many of us girl students were not able to walk alone. All of us were in a state of fear that any moment, we would be picked up by the police. On the afternoon of 23rd March 2016, many of my friends saw Uday Bhanu being beaten up by the police when the food was being cooked in the Shopcom area.

For the next 5-6 days there was constant police presence. Even now, at night time, there are police patrol vehicles patrolling the campus and I do not dare to walk to the ladies hostel alone. When lawyers tried to reach to us they were not allowed entry inside. We argued with the security at the main gate and they asked us to get a written permission from the VC. It seemed as though they were mocking us. Our names are in the FIR. In a situation when we have been named by the administration to the police, and so many of our friends and faculty were in Jail, not even allowing us to access legal aid was very intimidating and scary.

In the beginning there was so much of confusion. Our lawyers told us that anticipatory bails will be moved. We are being asked to be careful, to be in groups, to not to be alone. We have to find a safe place in our own campus. I still haven’t been outside campus alone due to fear.”

Witness No.11 (D. Prasanth)

This witness is a Ph.D student in the UoH and he was a resident in the HCU hostel. D Prasanth was one of the students who was arrested by the police and subjected to police lathicharge.

On the incidents that took place on 22nd to 24th, he deposed as follows:-

On 22nd March when the incident happened at the Vice Chancellor’s Guest house, all students were protesting peacefully for the arrest of the Vice Chancellor as he was booked under SC/ST Atrocities Act and abetment to suicide. And the second one was there was a danger that he will tamper with the evidences that there in the university. Hence on that account the police, when they tried to appeal for the first time, students have made a request that you please arrest the Vice Chancellor as there is a danger of tampering the investigation. But instead of doing that, police have started lathicharge without any provocation from the students which would be evident from their own video recordings. And they have taken the students forcefully into their possession.

I was also one of the persons who was picked up from near the School of Humanities and they would put us in custody even more than 24 hours and they have made us forcefully to sign on certain documents. And on those documents, for example when I was asked to sign on few papers when I read those papers it was written that “ I was issued a Notice since I failed to comply with the Notice, I will have to sent to judicial remand”. The second thing was that I was allowed to seek legal remedy and that we were given clothing etc which was not true. Hence I asked the police person in person as to why you are asking me to sign on this paper…I will not sign because there are all these things. And then they forcibly said that if you don’t want to sign, just push this person up, let the other sign. Otherwise they also threatened that if you are not going to sign on this, you will not get bail orders in this issue. Hence since students had already missed their classes for more than 24 hours and there was also this question of fear, lets sign which was a kind of consensus. All this was done very forcefully. Their also when I was writing the description, that there was no legal assistance given and then also my papers were snatched. Finally I could write down on the paper that I have signed by force. Similarly all the students who were taken into custody on 22nd March and they were produced before the Magistrate on 24th, in the early hours.

Since this is the matter of the career of all students, the cases were slapped without any investigation, without asking for any reply from the concerned students, were slapped with an intention to curb the voice of the students. That we will file any number of cases against you so that you will not speak.

Now there are many PG students who are going to finish their courses, there are PhD students who are yet to submit their theses. At this juncture a case against them is going to deprive them of their opportunities. Hence our appeal on behalf of all students against whom cases are slapped is that since the judicial process will take its own time and in that time many career opportunities will come. If they lose these opportunities they will have no access again to such opportunities. Hence it will be suggested if cases can be dropped it will be good for the career of the students or even if a speedy trial is ensured.

There was no speedy trial in the case of Rohith and the four of us and when the cases were filed against us, even when we wrote that all the cases that were filed against us were fabricated and there was no complaint submitted to us, and no FIR handed over to us, but yet still the case continues, this is going to damage the career and this is also written by Rohith Vemula in response to the notice received from the police.

Since there is long pendency of cases, since it will also have a psychological pressure on the students, in this context it is appealed to withdraw the cases.

The witness further added that when they were taken by the police, the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in D.K.Basu Vs. State of West Bengal 1997(1) SCC 416 were not followed. (The violations were highlighted before the SHRC by the Aam Aadmi Party which have been referred to earlier). Even after an FIR was filed, till date, he was never informed by the police about the fate of his complaint.

The following witnesses were drawn from the faculty of either UoH or from elsewhere and the gist of their depositions are given below.

Witness No. 4 (Dr.K.Lakshminarayana)

This witness is an Associate Professor in the School of Economics. At the time of the suicide of Rohith Vemula, he was also the President of the University of Hyderabad Teachers Association (UHTA). Earlier he was part of the Committee constituted by the Vice Chancellor to enquire into the circumstances leading to the demise of P.Raju, a student of CALTS and committed suicide on 20.3.2013. The Committee gave its report in 25.4.2013. He was accommodated in the Committee representing the faculty. A copy of the report given by the committee was also circulated to the Tribunal. He received a mail from Professor Alok Pandey, Chief Proctor on 21.8.2015 inviting him to join as a special invitee to the Proctorial Board meeting held on 26.8.2015. On receipt of the same, he wrote to the Chief Proctor on 25.8.2015 as follows:

We believe that all the members of an inquiry committee must be allowed to contribute their opinion and reach a consensus after careful consideration of facts. We were informed at the very end of the last meeting held on 10.8.15 that we do not hold voting rights as special invitees nor could we be part of the deliberations.

As UHTA representatives, we refrain from such committees constituted by the administration. Hence, we would like to inform you that we cannot attend the next meeting to be held on 26.8.2015 unless we are equal members and are in a position to contribute to the deliberations.”

He narrated the incidents leading to the reference being made to the Proctorial Board for conducting enquiry. Thereafter the nature of enquiry and the role played by UHTA was narrated by him and it is as follows:

The Proctorial Board consisting of the Chief Proctor and two faculty members took note of this complaint, conducted an enquiry into the said incident. Myself and Dr.Deepa Sreenivas were invited to be part of this Proctorial Board Committee as we were the President and Secretary of the University of Hyderabad Teachers Association (UHTA). We attended the meeting that was held on 10-08-2015. At the end of the depositions, myself and Dr.Deepa Sreenivas were told that UHTA members were there only as “special invitees”, and did not have the right to vote. We expressed our strong objection to such constitution committees, that it was undemocratic. We argued that the inclusion of representatives of the elected Bodies (teachers, students and non-teaching) in committees should be substantive rather than for the sake of formal membership.

By a Report dated 12-08-2015 the Proctorial Board gave a finding that there was no reliable evidence of assault but nevertheless issued a strong warning to Susheel Kumar for posting offensive comments on Facebook and to the five Dalit students that they should not have visited him at late night.

On the very same day we wrote a letter to the then Vice Chancellor R.P.Sharma that we differed from the Proctorial Board Report and that everyone has a right to dissent, including dissent against capital punishment, for example, the hanging of Yaqub Memon, we further added:

We condemn threats of violence and high-handedness by the police, and the corresponding abdication of responsibility, laxity and passivity of the University administration in allowing the police into the campus. Also, we could find no evidence of physical violence on Mr.Susheel Kumar. None of the testimonies, or the documents submitted, including the medial report filed by the Chief Medical Officer at the University Health Centre, prove any kind of physical violence. This is further corroborated by the report filed by the Security Officer who was present during the verbal altercation that happened between the student groups. The medical reports only support the fact that there were no internal injuries or bleeding.”

We thought that the matter had ended there. At no point is it mentioned that the report of 12.8.15 was an interim report. However much to our surprise the same Proctorial Committee reopened the enquiry on the ground that the earlier report was an interim report and that the current one is final report. I received letter dated 21.8.15 inviting us to join as special invitees to the Proctorial Board meeting to be held on 26.8.2015. By our letter dated 25.08.2015, we wrote to Prof Alok Pandey that our opinion should be taken into account and that the issue should be decided after a careful consideration of facts. We did not get any response.

Later we came to know that the Proctorial Board put aside the earlier dated 12-08-2015, examined Susheel Kumar and issued a fresh punishment by Report dated 31-08-2015. In this Report the Proctorial Committee decided that four students D Prashanth, Rohith Vemula, P.Vijay Kumar and C.Sheshu should be suspended from classes, courses, hostels and other related spaces of the university for their current semester. This decision was implemented by the Registrar of the University on 8-9-2015. The four students by letter dated 10-09-2015 appealed to the Vice Chancellor and sought for a) the setting-aside of the punishment and b) for a fresh enquiry with a new set of members. The following day the Registrar by letter dated 11-09-2015 revoked the suspension subject to the condition that a Committee will look into the incident of the intervening night 3 /4 -08-2015 afresh.

Here important developments took place in the period between 12-08-2015and 16-122015. The University received five letters from the Ministry of Human Resource Development which repeatedly sought for explanation about the action taken by them in respective of five Dalit students. We also came to know that the five letters were prompted by the letter written by Bandaru Dattatreya to the Minister of Human Resource Development (MHRD) Smriti Irani about the University’s inaction in respect of the “extremist, casteist and anti-national politics” of ASA. This crucial letter was followed by five letters from the MHRD dated 3-9-2015, 24-09-2015, 6-10-2015, 20-10-2015 and 19-11-2015 asking the University about the steps taken in this matter.

The university tried to constitute another Committee to enquire into the issue. But since the Proctorial Board was a statutory Committee, the Vice Chancellor appointed a Sub Committee of the EC to enquire into the matter. Here, instead of conducting an enquiry afresh, the EC Sub-Committee headed by Prof. Vipin Shrivatsava by Report dated 24-11-2015 confirmed the decisions of complete suspension for a semester taken by the Proctorial Board. No fresh enquiry was conducted. Opportunity was not given to either of the parties to recount their versions of the event. This decision was tabled in the Executive Committee Meeting dated 27-11-2015 chaired by the Vice Chancellor as an Ex-officio Chairman. This meeting was also attended by Prof. Vipin Shrivatsava in the capacity of being the senior most Professor.

In the Executive Committee the decision of the EC Sub-Committee was partly modified and it was decided to limit the suspension to hostel facilities. However the suspension was not limited for one semester but for the rest of their academic career in the university. The Registrar by letter dated 16-12-2015 conveyed the following to the students:

The above students are permitted to be seen only in the respective Schools/Departments/Centres, the library, academic seminars /conferences/workshops of their subject. They are not permitted to participate in the Student’s Union elections, enter the hostels, administration building and other common places in groups.

Thus what started as a warning to both parties, that of the ABVP and the ASA, ended up as major penalty only against the Dalit students. It is unfortunate that the EC sub-committee relied on the flawed Proctorial report and concurred with it totally. We strongly believe that had this been treated as a minor conflict between two groups of students with recourse to internal mechanisms which are equipped to address and deescalate such issues, we would have avoided such momentous consequences. Through procedural lapses and insensitivity and by succumbing to politically motivated external pressure the administration allowed it to spiral out of control.

We are surprised and saddened that a strong dissent from UHTA, submitted to the VC at the early stage of this unfortunate chain of events, was ignored at every point in subsequent inquiry and decision-making, even though the then President of UHTA is also an active member of SC/ST Teachers’ Forum It could have served as a cautionary document to the university authorities. We have since submitted the above mentioned facts and observations, both through writing and deposition, to the Committee set up by the MHRD for inquiry into the suicide of Rohith Vemula in January and to the Ashok Roopanwal Commission that conducted an enquiry in February, 2016.”

In the letter written by UHTA to the then Vice Chancellor R.P.Sharma, they questioned the entry of police into the campus and also they raised serious concern about how the university was being governed. It is necessary to refer to these passages from the letter written by the UHTA:-

We want to raise the question as to how the University allows the police to enter campus, while the campus has its own internal security mechanisms? Why was the police allowed to pick up students from within the campus, and how could the police detain them for an entire day? How could the police file an FIR on our students, without conducting a proper enquiry into the complaints filed? We are also against political parties filing cases or prompting others to file cases, fake or not, against our students. The University administration may permit political groups to enter the campus only if they are there to hold discussions with the administration. We also take serious objection to the following remarks made by Ramachandra Rao (MLC): “Some action should be taken against them. Otherwise outsiders will teach us how to behave in this country.” We will not tolerate such acts of intimidation and threats from those in power.”

We want to reiterate our serious concerns about how this University is being governed, and the kind of attack by police and other powerful groups that our students are being exposed to. We, as University teachers, have the responsibility of ensuring that our students do not feel vulnerable like this, and we strongly feel that this kind of an atmosphere of threat and violence is contract to the critical thinking and creating of knowledge that the University community is supposed to be pursuing.”

Witness No. 7 (Dr.K.Y.Ratnam)

This witness is working as an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and he was also head of the Centre for Ambedkar Studies (School of Social Sciences, UoH). He was an eye-witness to the incident that took place on 22.3.2016 and 23.3.2016. Despite being a faculty member, he was picked up by the police and taken to Balanagar Police Station. Later he was kept in judicial custody at the Central Prison, Cherlapally. His evidence is important. It will show how the police did not even spare a faculty member who questioned the brutality of the police action and it is necessary to refer to his evidence in detail :-

On 22nd March 2016, I was in an interview Committee for the selection of DEOs in the Centre for Human Rights, School of Social Sciences. After completion of the selection process around 1.30 pm along with the Selection Committee members, I went for lunch at the University Guest House. While coming from the lunch, I met some of the faculty members at the School of Social Sciences building and came to know that the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (JAC) was protesting at the Vice-Chancellor’s bungalow against Prof. Appa Rao Podile resuming his duty as the Vice Chancellor. Around 3.30 p.m along with some faculty members I went there and saw that the students were protesting and raising slogans. The students were surrounded by the police. The police were asking them to vacate the VC’s bungalow but the students were continuing their protest in a peaceful manner.

Within no time the police started lathi charge and forcefully began evicting the students. The girl students who were sitting in the front row were dragged, beaten up very badly and brutally. One of the police officers who was particularly violent and was leading the attack on the students was Mr.Lal Mathur, SI Gachibowli. The students were abused, kicked and girl students were threatened with rape. Students were running helter-skelter and they were being chased by the police. The faculty members who were witnessing all this were also warned that they should leave the place. As a faculty member who served nearly 16 years on the campus, I never witnessed this kind of police violence on the campus.

Being a teacher I began requesting the police to not to beat the students and not to pick them up by force of violence. Despite my plea that I am a faculty member, I was also picked up and thrown into the police van. 17 students were forcibly put into the police van. This was around 6 p.m.

The police van started from the Humanities Building of the campus. Soon the police snatched away all our cell phones and once again resorted to violence on the students. They beat everyone for about 40 minutes till we reached the Miyapur police station. I requested the police to not to commit such violence. While asking me to keep quiet the police slapped me in the van. The police abusively asked us as to why we conducted beef festival or the kiss of love festival on the campus. They asked me if I taught about Pakistan, about anti-nationalism, and as to why I should stay in India. They also said that we will be held responsible for whatever, wherever and whenever something happens in and out of campus. We felt threatened. Our fathers, mothers and sisters were abused.

We were taken to the Miyapur police station around 7 p.m. All our information was recorded and we were asked to sit in the police station throughout the night. Next day, i.e. on 23rd March around 3.00 p.m. we were taken to the Balanagar police station. Around 7.30 p.m. we were taken to Area Hospital, Kondapur. I was feeling uncomfortable and I asked the doctor to check my BP. When the nurse checked my BP, it was 200/140. The Doctor asked me to take rest in the hospital but I was asked by the police to sit in the police van. After a long wait in the police van, the police officers got our papers intimating our arrest and forced us to sign on them without reading. We were also not allowed to mention the time of signing. It was forceful and threatening. We wanted FIR copies and demanded legal consultation but they threatened and forcefully took our signatures. This was mainly overseen by Mr.Naveen SI Gachibowli and Mr.Ramesh CI Gachibowli. Then we were taken to Magistrate and produced around 11.00 p.m. However, Magistrate could see only few of us. I was not allowed to meet the Magistrate. From there we were taken to Cherlapally Central Prison around 1.00 a.m. on 24th March. Despite our appeal, the doctors in the prison did not record our external injuries and we were not given proper medical check-up and prescription.

The university students have been protesting after the death of Rohith Vemula and this is continuing for the past three months. However, the students’ dissent against the university administration specifically against the Vice Chancellor Professor Appa Rao Podile has not been properly understood and addressed. In fact, Vice Chancellor Appa Rao podile went on leave, without minimum sense of humanness after death of a Dalit scholar, very quietly. But he made his entry into the campus very forceful knowing that SC/ST Atrocity case is filed against him. This hurt the students, who were desperately waiting for justice, and prevented them from expressing their protest against the Vice Chancellor.

I have been victimized. In 2002 the present VC Appa Rao was Deputy Chief Warden. I was one of the Wardens. At that time Appa Rao tried to introduce a Central Purchasing Committee (largely displacing dalit students who were mess secretaries in many hostels). Regarding this as a first step in privatizing the student’s mess, myself and another Warden R Vijay opposed it. It was our contention that students should be in charge of running student messes and that cost would increase which would be a burden on poor students. Despite our protest, the new policy was introduced. Immediately the costs went up and the students were very angry.

I raised strong objection to this move. In order to silence me, Appa Rao who was briefly an In-charge Chief Warden bifurcated my duties, took away my cheque signing powers and assigned me sanitation, general administration and gardening. I objected to the bifurcation of my duties on the ground that thee had been no financial irregularity, and also this was the only hostel in which bifurcation was done. There was a lot of student protest at that time. One of the wardens, Rajashekhar was beaten up and ten students were rusticated for this incident.

On 22nd March I was repeatedly asked by the police if I was Ratnam. When I confirmed, I was immediately taken away. I cannot help but think that I have been subjected to victimization.

I therefore request this Tribunal to recommend to the University of Hyderabad to drop all the false cases field against myself other faculty and students, and take legal action against all the police officers who are responsible for the brutality and the violation of the Indian Constitution that was drafted by Baba B.R. Ambedkar.”

Witness No. 8 (Prof. Amita Dhanda)

This witness is working as a Professor at NALSAR University of Law at Hyderabad. When a student by name P.Raju committed suicide, a committee was appointed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in PIL No. 106/2013. Professor Amita Dhanda was in that Committee as a special invitee. The report was accepted by the High Court and a direction was given to all the universities to implement the same. She deposed before the Tribunal in her capacity of the Professor, academic administrator and as a specialist in disability rights. She said that she was concerned with the questions of inclusion. She also said that the inclusionary procedures should hold special relevance to running a university because a university needs to encompass the universe. It needs to make a space for diversity, be a place for dialogue, dissent and in some special situations even disorder. According to her, all these varied communications need to be carried out within the physical and mental space of the university. She also deposed about the role and obligations of universities while dealing with students’ protests and that the rule of law binds all of us. While dealing with the dispute in the university, she said that it began between two groups of students. She further said:-

In the first instance, the University administration, irrespective of political affiliation, censured each group for what it did wrong. This even handed treatment restored peace on campus. Subsequently, however with political pressure mounting, all principles of natural justice were given a go by and decisions having such wide ramifications as rustication, social excommunication were reached by executive fiat, abandoning even the pretence of reasoned decision-making. An administration cannot punish the breach of rule of law, after infringing the rule in both form and substance.”

On the right to dissent she said:

It is important to appreciate that for students, at a certain period of time – and I think everybody recognizes this having been students – rule breaking and protest is inherent to being student. This defiance is an integral part of growing up. Very often, students appreciate the following of rules by breaking them. This fact we have to continually appreciate as teachers, educators and university administrators. Consequently, our disciplining needs to be proportionate and undertaken in such manner that the inter se dialogue between the administrators and the administered does not stop, and their engagement with students and their issues continues.”

On the police action, she said:

University authorities cannot use its policing powers to deny basic life needs such as food and water to students. The use of economic blockages and information clampdowns, whether to break the spirit of protesters, or otherwise, needs to be pronounced as an illegitimate use of power by university authorities. Any authority which heedlessly uses its policing powers, without making any attempt to overcome opposition through dialogue, mediation or negotiation should be viewed to lack the moral and legal authority to demand rule observance from its students”

On the role of the Vice-Chancellor and his subsequent conduct, she said as follows:-

Due to the emotionally explosive circumstances after the death of Rohith, the Vice-Chancellor moved out of campus, an acting Vice-Chancellor was appointed, and an inquiry was instituted to investigate into the circumstances surrounding Rohith’s death. As the campus started to limp back to normalcy, the Vice-Chancellor, without even informing the colleague who was acting in his absence, chose to return to campus. An action which runs counter to all principles of preventive policing. Preventive policing, can for a limited period curb the freedoms of movement and speech of all those whose very presence may disturb peace. In so far as in the perception of the students Vice Chancellor Appa Rao was responsible for the death of their colleague, there was a case for circumscribing the movements of the Vice Chancellor to prevent any untoward situation. Prof. Appa Rao was advised to stay away from campus but he chose to ignore the advice.”

And she commented on the conduct of the Vice Chancellor as follows:

Was not the conduct of the Vice-Chancellor in breach of all norms of responsible functioning, which is expected of every holder of public office? The Vice-Chancellor did not act according to the law but on his own will and caprice. Even when as a holder of public office he was required not just to be fair, but to be seen to be fair.”

With reference to the duties of a university during police action, she had to say the following:

It should be asserted that police presence should only be used in extraordinary situations for the shortest time possible. If the universities are constrained to call the police, the police should not be given a free rein but restricted to the issue or person for whom they have been invited. Supposing the police have been invited to deal with a couple of miscreants on campus, then they cannot be permitted to criminalise an entire university, which is how the police action played out at UoH. Further, the police cannot be used to alter the university space from a place of education to place of penal correction. The obligation to think of the entire university community does not abate at any time. As a professor who works in the field of disability rights, I know for a fact that there were students with disabilities on campus who were without any kind of food, water, for nearly 24 hours. This happened because the University authorities did not think of the fate of persons with disabilities and made no efforts to break the food blockade, in any way for them. The pluralist composition of a university cannot be lost sight of by university administrators at any time.”

She emphasized that there should be no stoppage of basic life survival services for students and there can be no denial of survival resources of food and water. She held that such is a cruel and unusual punishment and are prohibited by the Indian Constitution on the International Human Rights Law. With reference to the role of the university if some students are arrested she said:

If students are arrested the university is obligated to inform the parents, communicate the grounds for arrest. Further every effort needs to be made to use the least restrictive option. Thus if order can be restored by obtaining bonds of good conduct, then criminal cases should not be registered and an entire criminal process should not be started. There must be clear guidelines informing university administrators on the perils of the criminal justice system and its various processes. These procedures of criminal law should be sparingly used, but when used the process of employment must be in conformity with the Constitution of India, and the code of Criminal Procedure. In order to ensure that these requirements of the meta law are observed in both letter and spirit, it may be useful that these requirements are suitably incorporated in University statutes and the attendant rules and regulations.”

On the question of avoiding discriminatory practices by the University regarding students’ identity she said as follows:

The practice of publicly marking out the identities of students, who are not from the ‘general category’ in rank lists, seems to have left students with the impression that caste and not their performance was the basis of evaluating their answer scripts. The deponents who referred to the practice were not alleging that necessarily every single teacher was evaluating on the basis of caste but that such a system raised the fear that this may be the case. The Tribunal should recommend that the practice of marking out the names of affirmative action students should be discontinued. Similarly, the Tribunal should ask for the discontinuance of the practice of providing the written test marks to the interviewing committee, which allows scores to be given in order to ensure that SC/ST students do not occupy general category seats.”

She emphasized the need to disburse fellowship amounts immediately and there should be no delay in the said matter. With reference to students, she said that the University should have affirmative action to equip the students with requisite soft skill. She said that the burden of developing the capability should not be placed on students. On the question of applying the principle of reasonable accommodation, she said:-

Affirmative Action ensures the admission of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to obtain admission in elite institutions of higher education. However, the admission does not wipe out their initial disadvantage. For substantive equality to be extended to all students, it is necessary that the normative requirements are suitably customized to reasonably accommodate the particular needs of each student. One of the student deponents before the Tribunal had pleaded for some amount of accommodation in the academic rules. Thus some relaxation could be introduced on the number of courses the student would need to clear for purpose of promotion or the number of attempts within which a course could be cleared and other such accommodations. It is an accommodation and not a relaxation that is being suggested. The standards should not be lowered but the time within which each student is permitted to reach the desired proficiency could be modified depending upon their background disadvantages. For example one of the deponents informed the Tribunal that his father was a bonded worker till he died and yet he was pursuing doctoral research at the University. It is students of such mettle who can contribute towards building the nation. It is important that the rules of the university assist him to flourish and not place obstacles in his way.

Disability Rights celebrate human difference and social pluralism. Hence it is our belief that what is good for persons with disabilities is good for all of humanity. It is sagacious to draw from disability rights jurisprudence to enlarge the learning universe of universities.

Finally she emphasized the need to bring a “Rohith Act”. She elaborated as to what was meant by Rohith Act in the following words:-

I think when we speak of the Rohith Act, we are again stressing the fact that no individual person should fall by the wayside because the individual needs of that person have not been encapsulated in the majority rule. This principle of accommodation needs to be explicitly incorporated in legal text, which speaks to University Administrators-be it guideline, directive, notification. This is required because very often administrators don’t read the Constitution, but much more read the notification, order or directive addressed to them. Consequently, it is necessary to incorporate the values and principles of the Constitution into subordinate legislation into that particular rule or order which actually binds, whether it is the Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar or the Dean or whoever, on the ground on whom the particular duty is reposed.”

Witness No. 9 (Prof. Vinod Pavarala)

This witness is working as a Dean of S.N.School, UoH. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Fact Finding Committee in the wake of the death of Senthil Kumar, a Ph.D student in Physics. The reported submitted by the Committee dated 15.4.2008 was submitted before the Tribunal. The witness also stated that the report was placed before the Academic Council. The terms of reference given to the Committee was as follows:

  1. To examine the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incident involving Ph.D student of the School of Physics

  2. To examine the existing practices with regard to allocation of guides in the Science Schools

  3. To recommend remedial steps to ensure that incidents like No.1 above do not recur.

One of the findings given by the Committee was found in Para 4.9 is as follows:-

Although at the University level, there are entities such as the Office of the Dean, Students’ Welfare, the Central Grievance Committee, and the SC/ST cell to address any problems faced by students, there is no formal, institutional mechanism in any of the Schools for redressal of grievances of students, especially those who belong to the reserved categories. The existence of such agencies even at the University level and the procedures to be followed to take complaints to them are not widely known to the student community. The doctoral committees, which may be expected to take up this role, exist more on paper than in practice in all the Schools.”

The Committee also made the following recommendations found in Para 5 which is as follows:-

5.1 The Committee is of the opinion that individual Schools and departments must have the academic autonomy to institute course work requirement for their Ph.D programmes. The current UGC administration also strongly recommends course work for Ph.D across the country. However, the nature of the course work, the criteria for passing the required courses, the number of credits to be accumulated, and the period over which these credits are to be accumulated must be ambiguously defined and intimated to the students before the beginning of the programme. This could be mentioned in the relevant part of the Prospectus.”

5.2 In order to avoid any inconsistencies and subjective judgments from entering the process, it is desirable that the Office of Controller of Examinations is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the records and declaring the results of the course work.

5.3 If the course of work extends to more than one semester, the students should be informed at the beginning of the second and each subsequent semester the number of credits he/she is yet to accumulate before starting the research work.

5.4 Where there is a course work requirements, the student should be given transcript or a mark sheet, detailing all the courses and the grades he has received in them.

5.5 With regard to allotment of Supervisors, both the models in place – immediate allotment upon admission and allotment after completion of course work – seem to have some merit. Variations in the quality of incoming students, the nature of the particular discipline concerned, and the desire to give students an opportunity to make informed choices after a period of stay in the department /School have made each science school institute a different model. However, the Committee recommends that whichever model the school follows, adequate safeguards should be in place to ensure a transparent process that is applied in a uniform manner. Where a Supervisor is not immediately allotted, given the varying backgrounds and uneven maturity levels of the incoming students, a strong mentoring and advisory system should be put in place to do the necessary hand-holding of the students until he/she starts working full time with a Supervisor. The University may consider discussing this on a wider platform before suggesting specific guidelines to this regard.

5.6 The role of a faculty advisor that is being suggested in 5.5 above or as currently being practiced by the School of Physics (or as being proposed by some other Science Schools) should be defined unambiguously and consistently. It is desirable that a faculty member who is designated as the faculty advisor for a student is someone who is potentially the thesis Supervisor, based on similarity of interests. When a faculty advisor is being assigned to a student as an interim measure, pending clearance of course work requirements and eventual allotment of thesis Supervisor, the relationship between the advisor and the student should be that of a mentor. In terms of allowing such students to start working in the laboratories of their advisors, the department of School must implement a consistent policy to either allow all students access to labs or not allow any of them during this interim period.

5.7 There is a dire need for activating the doctoral committees in all the science Schools. These committees must be seen as a safety valve against sudden bursts of pressure on the student from a lone Supervisor or simply as a mechanism by which students are made accountable to a wider group, beyond the Supervisor. Committee meetings held, at least, once in a semester, allow the students to present their ongoing work to a small group and also protects the Supervisors against potential accusations of deliberate delays or any such issues.

5.8. Important decision that are taken in various University-level bodies regarding student matters, both academic and non-academic, must be announced to students at the earliest, perhaps with a sense of urgency where there are critical decisions (ref.2.3 above, Deans’ Committee decision on scholarships). A mechanism for rapid dissemination of such information should be developed by the University, including possibly, through the Students’ Union, special notice boards on student matters, and electronic bulletin boards.

5.9. Every School/Department must have a grievance redressal mechanism which the students can turn to without fear of reprisals. This institutional mechanism must involve both faculty and students, with adequate representation of reserved category and women members. The existence of such a grievance redressal committee should be made widely known to all students and the procedures to be followed made clear. One model that could be adapted for this purpose was what used to exist in the School of Life Sciences more than 10 years ago.

5.10 In order to avoid any bias in the admission process, it is suggested that some urgent measures are taken in the procedures practiced in all the Schools, including a) the written test marks should not made available to the interview board so that the oral examination could be evaluated independently; and b) the social status of the candidates being interviewed should not be made available to the interview board. This could be applied not only for Ph.D admissions, but also for those Master programmes where there is an interview.

5.11 Overall there is a need for all faculty members to internalize greater sensitivity about students belonging to the reserved categories, including those from other socially and educationally backward classes. Rather than being impervious to caste and other markers of inequality who come from less privileged backgrounds, both in the classroom and outside. At a time when ‘access and equity’ in higher education are the watchwords of the government and the UGC, it is imperative that a top-ranking central institution such as ours takes a lead in nurturing and promoting a corps of scientists from among the marginalized sections of our society.

5.12 Informal conversations and discussions with various sections of the campus community during the course of this fact-finding activity suggest that the non-science Schools of the University may not be immune to some of the problems related to Ph.D admission, allotment of Supervisors, and the actual process of supervision of research scholars. The University administration may consider initiating a wider examination of practices adopted in all such Schools so as to identify anomalies and aberrations, if any an d take steps to rectify them.

With reference to the campus discrimination, he made a categorical assertion and it is worth quoting his statement before the Tribunal:

There were also issues about the complaints of Dalit students that in the Entrance even if they performed well in the written exam, they are deliberately given low marks in the interview so that they can get seats only in the reserved category. Since we have heard this repeatedly from different sets of students, one of the recommendations was that the university follow a double blind system of evaluation where the social background of the student is not known and also that the written test marks are not given to the interview board. That these processes are done independently”

Since the report made by the Committee was already several years old, he made the following statements:-

I think it has almost been eight years since the Report was done. There were subsequent suicides. There were couple of other Reports which you would know of. It is perhaps time for the university to undertake some kind of an Audit of those recommendations and see where we stand. What recommendations have been implemented, what have not been implemented. What difficulties if any that departments and Schools are facing in implementing these recommendations and also talk to the students if any of the practices that came up in the Report are still in vogue in certain programmes.”

On the question of setting up grievance redressal mechanism, one of the member of the Tribunal (Justice K Chandru) put the following question and the answer given by him are extracted below:-

Justice Chandru: You have suggested grievance redressal mechanisms combining students in Clause 5.9 of the Report. Was there any such Committee that was set-up?

Witness: The time when we did the Report, some Schools had grievance committees. I think from what I know, some departments which have grievance redressal mechanisms also have students in them. There are grievance redressal committees which I know on campus which don’t have students on them. So that particular issue should come up in the audit to see how well we have implemented that. But I do recommend that students should be part of grievance redressal committees.”

Witness No. 10 (Prof. Sasheej Hegde)

This witness is a Professor working in the Department of Sociology, UoH. He was part of the Committee constituted by the Vice Chancellor to enquire into the circumstances leading to the demise of P.Raju, a student of CALTS and committed suicide on 20.3.2013. The Committee gave its report in 25.4.2013. A copy of the report given by the committee was circulated to the Tribunal.

Again when M.Venkatesh, a Ph.D Scholar attached to the Advanced Centre of Research of High Energy Materials (ACRHEM) committed suicide on 24.11.2013, a Committee was appointed by the Vice Chancellor and once again he was part of the Committee. The committee submitted its report dated 2.12.2013 and the recommendations of the committee were as follows:-

  1. This report must be read in conjunction with the earlier report of the V.Krishna Committee submitted in April 2013 and also in the light of the Vinod Pavarala Committee of 2008. Glaring instances of insensitivity and the lack of diligence especially in attending to students who come from marginalized sections have been highlighted in all these reports.

  2. The University needs to show greater alacrity in setting up and adequately monitoring the mechanisms for making the campus a more inclusive and rewarding experience for its students. The many student organizations and forums on the campus, including (we believe) the University teachers’ association, have a role in offering the requisite support for students, especially those in distress.

  3. The Committee also urges a special session of the AC to deliberate the matter with an appropriate framing of the issues that emerge in the light of all the three reports. A University level consultation involving the entire faculty should be held as a prelude to the special session of the AC. It is imperative that both consultation and the special AC session have a precise and determinable agenda emerging in the light of the various reports.

  4. The Committee recommends the University to inquire into the lapses in the ACRHEM administration relating to admissions, appointment of supervisors, and constitution of DRCs for research students.

As an immediate measure, however, the Committee recommends an ex-gratia payment to the bereaved immediate family of Mr.M.Venkatesh. This is certainly not reparation for the discernible institutional failure in ensuring an academic future for Mr.M.Venkatesh.

02 December 2013”

To a pointed question put by one member of the Tribunal (Justice K Chandru), he answered as follows:

I think that in the first one, the Puliya Raju…it is important to recognize that the campus today is a different demography in itself. The student Puliya Raju came from the Integrated programme. The Integrated programme involves students who are coming into the university after the Plus 2 stage. This was the flagship programme of the university. The students go through three years in the Integrated Programme, Centre for Integrated Studies and then they merge with the MA component of the Post graduation programme. The issues with Puliya Raju has to essentially do with the seventh semester, that is when he had entered into the MA component of the Language Science programme. And there were certain administrative lapses, which the Report has documented. There was also some kind of lethargy on the part of the Department in terms of administering exams on time, valuations in time etc that accentuated the anxiety that the student had about moving into the eighth semester. The Madari Venkatesh case, the second case, also has certain institutional specificities. I think it is important to recognize the fact that you have huge Science Centres , which perhaps, I think there is a certain new demand that it places on the governance and structures of the university. We were trying to document that in the Report and of course the kind of issues that Senthil Kumar confronted about not having a supervisor etc, was reenacted in Madari Venkatesh.

I am saying that it is important for the descriptive ground on the basis of which the recommendations are being made. I think the recommendations are as important as the descriptive ground that it has sought to seek to cover. I think the Report has been fairly concentrating on recalling the factual circumstances in which certain things went on to happen.

One more thing is that many times there is a certain moralized psychology that administrators get involved in. I think it is important that when we address issues, in institutional terms, such moralized psychology should not be the line in which Reports get written. So somewhere along the factual ground that the Report has sought to enlighten is also engaging with a certain moral psychology of the students themselves. And a moral psychology which does not degenerate into some kind of a moralized psychology.

Another member of the Tribunal (Prof.Shah) asked him about the teacher’s role and how they had not taken the issues seriously, he answered as follows:-

I think Vinod’s point is that there should be an Audit, of the kind of institutional recommendations that have been made by the various committees. And in terms of the other question about the teachers can take on that mantle, I think there is something about caste, a certain touchiness with which the caste question comes to participate. I think it is important that the certain touchiness about the caste question be on the way side. I think some part of the touchiness of the caste question also has to do with what the Tribunal has noted about why teachers are not supporting in larger numbers in the Rohith case. I think one has to negotiate that question along the axis. Yes, mentoring etc are exercises, but whether at the level of the university, an institutional site, mentoring exercises can hold dividends. The institutional level is a question that one has to raise, although individually at our own levels, there is a certain active role that all of us seek to play.

I think there is a IQAR cell in the university which lot of the university administrators invoke. So there is a sense in which the IQAC cell will recognize. It has to do with the teachers participation in some of these initiatives. There is a certain incentivisation with the quality parameters on the basis of which the faculty get judged. So maybe some of these teacherly contributions etc have to translate into some tangible quality parameter.

Witness No.12 ( Mr Kaki Madhava Rao)

This witness is a former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps he is the only witness from the official side though not holding any office at present. As noted already, the two officials to whom notices were sent by the organizers of the public tribunal i.e. The Registrar of UoH and the Commission of Police of Hyderabad neither of them had sent any responses nor chose to appear before the Tribunal.

The witness spoke about the incident relating to a rustication of a tribal student by name Mohan Dharavath and the subsequent incidents that took place. According to him a committee was appointed to go into the incident. He said that when the University wanted to punish the student met the Vice Chancellor and informed him the punishment was too harsh. On the meeting with the then Vice-Chancellor he said as follows:-

the VC said that she has taken action as per rules. Then there was no option but for this student to go to the High Court. The High Court heard him and the Counsel for the University and they felt that if there was a tension between a particular student and a Vice Chancellor, particularly after he was rusticated, and that there must be some kind of rapprochement. So they advised Mohan Dharavath to give a letter of undertaking that he will not cause any disturbance in the university. He gave that letter. He apologized for an act which he did not commit. But it was done on the advice of the advocate who felt that this was the only way to handle an issue when the institution or the authority was so insensitive to any principles of natural justice. Now when you punish a person, you give an opportunity to be heard, and when 13 of the 16 witnesses said that he was not present, how do you rusticate that person….It is as crude a justice as that. The principle of natural justice of being heard never occurred either to the Proctoral Committee or the Vice Chancellor. So he went to the High Court. They asked him to give an undertaking. He gave an undertaking. They said that the wording is not comfortable to us, give another. He gave a second one. They said we are still not happy. He gave a third one. Her ladyship was not happy. A fourth one. Fifth one. Sixth one. Seventh one. And after the seventh one, the High Court which was hearing all these appeals, finally set-aside the rustication Order. And then only his thesis was accepted. Now after the thesis was accepted, the Supervisor sent names for the examiners, the VC rejected all the six names and wanted another list of names. His Supervisor immediately sent another list of names and it was sent to the Examiners then. The Examiners gave their Report. That Report was kept in the dark. And after a number of months a date was given for the viva when he had to defend his thesis. But the date was postponed without any explanation and without indicating any future date.”

He concluded by saying that :

university must have discipline. The students cannot do what they want but they must have a minimum sense of discipline. But the autonomy is not dictatorship……..The university autonomy has to be hemmed in. Minimum sense of humanity and principles of natural justice.”

However, he refrained from making any comments on the incidents that took place in UoH.

Stand of the University and the Police as expressed before the High Court of Hyderabad.

As noted already, the mother of N.Susheel Kumar had filed WP No 28073/2015 before the High Court of Telangana & Andhra Pradesh seeking for a direction to the State and the University to set up a mechanism to prevent the recurrence of the incidents in UoH and also to take action against persons who allegedly attacked her son. On notice from the High Court, Mr.Murgesh Kumar Singh, IPS then IG of Police, Law & Order filed a counter affidavit dated 31.10.2015. In his affidavit, he had averred as follows:-

I submit that on 04.08.2015 at 06.30 AM a Medical intimation was received by the Police of Gachibowli Police Station, Madhapur Zone, Cyberabad from Archana Hospital, Madinaguda about the admission of one Nandanam Susheel Kumar, Hyderabad Central University student (son of writ petitioner herein) alleged to have been beaten by some fellow students of the same university belonging to another students group at Hyderabad Central University Campus, on the intervening night of 3/4.8.2016. Accordingly, the Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police of Gachibowli PS visited the hospital and recorded the statement of the victim Susheel Kumar. Basing on the statement of Mr.Susheel Kumar a case in Cr.No.296/2015 U/s 448, 341, 506, 323 r/w 147 IPC was registered a Gachibowli Police Station, Cyberabad on 04.08.15 and the investigation was taken up.

It is respectfully submitted that during investigation, it came to knowledge of the investigating agency that the alleged incident took place inside the Hyderabad Central University campus at Annexure Hostel wherein the said Susheel Kumar, Ph.D linguistics student (son of the petitioner herein) is staying in Room No. 113, Annex hostel, Hyderabad Central University.

He is the President of Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) students group of Hyderabad Central University. Ambedkar Student Association is another student group which is very active and opposed to the activities of the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad(ABVP). The Ambedkar Student Association (ASA) group had demonstrated protest on the execution of Yakoob Memon by displaying placards as “If one Yakub is hanged, another is born in every house” on 31.07.15. After seeing these placards, Susheel Kumar strongly opposed and condemned the activities of Ambedkar Student Association group with an impression that Ambedkar Student Association is supporting terrorist ideology in the campus and posted comments on his Facebook account as “ASA Goons are talking about hooliganism-feeling funny”. Subsequently on intervening night of 3/4.08.2015 the ASA students went to the Hostel of Susheel Kumar and called him by knocking the door and demanded him to withdraw the comments made against Ambedkar Student Association and also pressurized him to give a written apology on this, there was an altercation and Susheel Kumar alleged that he was beaten by them. As a large group of ASA students was pressurizing him, Susheel Kumar wrote an apology letter to them and posted on his Facebook page stating that he is withdrawing the comments made against Ambedkar Student Association.

Later Susheel Kumar along with his brother went to Archana Hsospital. As soon as Susheel Kumar went out of the university he had de-activated his face book account.

I humbly state and submit that during the course of investigation, the Police recorded the detailed statements of Sri.Susheel Kumar. Where in he alleged that the accused criminally trespassed into his room and dragged him out, beat with hands & fee and abused, gave the fist blow on his abdominal part and stomach, threatened him that they will burn him etc. Further examined his brother Vishnu, his mother Smt. Nandanam Vinaya Karnakar (petitioner herein), and some others i.e. S.Dilip Singh (Duty Security Officer), K.Venkateshwarlu (University Security), Ramesh (driver of the University security vehicle), Anand (roommate of victim Susheel Kumar) and Dr.P.Chennai Reddy, Doctor Archana hospital (who treated the victim Susheel Kumar) and collected the Medical certificate. The investigating officer also seized the apology letter which was written by Mr.Susheel Kumar on 04.08.2015. The allegation to the contra is denied.

I humbly state and submit that the Medical officer Dr.Chenna Reddy of Archana hospital Madeenaguda, Hyderabad who treated the injured issued a Medical Certificate on 12.08.2015 stating that the injuries sustained by Susheel Kumar (son of the petitioner) during the incident were ‘SIMPLE” in nature but during the course of treatment it was revealed that Susheel Kumar was suffering from Appendicitis and was operated for that. He also stated that during the examination he came to know that Appendicitis is not due to the result or any assault and it is coincidental that existing ailment was diagnosed and treated when Susheel Kumar got admitted.

I humbly state and submit that after the incident special vigilance was kept on the activities of student organizations. On the same day i.e. on 04.08.2015, the ACP Madhapur immediate supervisory officer visited the place of incident and guided the investigation officer. Subsequently, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Madhapur Zone and Addl. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Madhapur Zone had conducted a meeting with the University authorities and also the Students of various students Organisations and explained the consequences also the legal action being taken against the erring students.

It is to submit that the students were advised to maintain peace in the University and to be cautious on the social media and with college student organizations. They were informed the consequences of getting involved in criminal cases.

It is also pertinent to note that students demanded stringent disciplinary action from the university authority during such incidents. In pursuance of invitation of University Authorities on 18.08.2015. C.P.Cyberabad attended members meet and briefed all the students about the strict action that would be taken during outbreak of peace.

It is submitted that in the allegation of the petitioner that she came to know that her son dialed 100 and also informed SI of Police Gachibowl Mr.Naveen, then in presence of the two constables her son was beaten up & handed over to the attackers is not true. In fact, on receipt of information, the Sub-Inspector of Police Mr.Naveen informed to the night patrolling duty incharge Mr.S.Ramu (HC 1472) of Gachibowli Police Station. On the instructions of S.I. Naveen Kumar, the said HC 1472 along with two police constables immediately reached the spot and no such alleged incident occurred in their presence.”

Likewise, on behalf of the UoH (5th Respondent in the writ petition) a counter affidavit dated Nil filed by B.Pandu Reddy, the then Registrar incharge. With reference to their stand, it was stated as follows:-

As per the facts revealed to us pursuant to the inquiry, the petitioner’s ward Mr.N.Susheel Kumar, Ph.D student in the Centre for ALTS posted certain objectionable message on his Facebook page commenting on the protest undertaken by student members belonging to Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) pursuant to hanging of Mr.Yakub Memon. A group of the students intimidated by the said comments made by Mr.Susheel Kumar, went to his room and questioned him. In the process, there was a heated argument between students belonging to both the groups (ASA and ABVP) which led to a scuffle. The allegation that Mr.Susheel Kumar was attacked is a little overboard and the petitioner is only trying to generate sympathy of this Hon’ble Court. Nevertheless the University has viewed the incident very seriously and is taking every step to curtain any such in the near future. Since the scuffle was between two groups, it has become all the more difficult for the University authorities to initiate immediate action as there have been accusations and counter accusations and involvement of politicians / elected representatives supporting their respective groups.

It is submitted that the Dean, Students’ welfare (DSW), on receiving a telephone call from the students of Annexe Hostel, alerted the security personnel of the University and directed them to immediately go to the Annexe Hostel. By the time security personnel reached the Annexe Hostel, a scuffle had occurred between both the groups. Mr.Susheel Kumar was escorted to the main gate by the security personnel and he left the campus. The allegation that the security personal abated and aided the attack is denied and the petitioner is put to strict proof of the allegation. We were later informed that Mr.Susheel Kumar was admitted to Archana Hospital, Chanda Nagar. Dr.Anupama Row, Medical Officer of the University visited the Hospital and examined Mr.Susheel Kumar. The Medical Officer could not link or suggest that the procedure performed was direct result of the scuffle. The Medical Officer informed that she found some scratches on Mr.Kumar’s left shoulder. She also acknowledged that her findings were based on the conversation she had with the doctors treating Mr.Kumar at Archana Hospital and their pathological reports, since she was not allowed to checkup Mr.Susheel Kumar physically.

It is submitted that since there were counter complaints, the issue was referred to the Proctorial Board. The Proctorial Board after conducting a preliminary inquiry submitted its report stating that there was no hard evidence of Mr.Susheel Kumar being beaten up as nothing could be elicited in that regard from the deposition of Mr.Krishna Chaitanya, General Secretary, ABVP or from the report submitted by Dr.Anupama Row. Further, the committee informed that Mr.Kumar was not present for deposition nor could he submit any letter or a medical report indicating his condition”.

The Board after inquiry based on available material submitted its interim report and recommended the following:-

A strong warning to be issued to Mr.Susheel Kumar for posting such comments on Face book.

A strong warning to be issued to Mr.D.Prasanth, Mr.Vincent, Mr.Rohit Vemula, Mr.P.Vijay, Mr.Sunkanna, Mr.Seshu Chemudugunta for going to Mr.Kumar’s room and asking for apology in the midnight instead of complaining to appropriate authorities.

It is submitted that based on the interim report submitted by the Proctorial Board, the students mentioned above were issued strong warning for going to Mr.Susheel Kumar’s room in his hostel and asking him to apologize and delete his comments from the Facebook in the midnight, instead of complaining to appropriate authorities. Mr.Susheel Kumar was also administered a strong warning for posting objectionable comments on the Facebook.

It is submitted that thereafter the Proctorial Board submitted its final report recommending action against Mr.Dontha Prasanth, Ph.D Economics, Mr.Chakravarthi Rohit Vemula, Ph.D Sience, Technology & Society Studies, Mr.Pedapudi Vijay Kumar, Ph.D Political Science and Mr.Sheshaiah Chemudugunta, Ph.D Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and inclusive Policy. The said report was placed before the local Executive Council o 07.09.2015 and as per the resolution of the local Executive Council, Mr.Dontha Prasanth, Ph.D Economics, Mr.Chakravathi Rohit Vemula, Ph.D Science, Technology & Society Studies, Mr.Pedapudi Vijay Kumar, Ph.D Political Science and Mr.Sheshaiah Chemudugunta, Ph.D Centre for Study of social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy were suspended from the University.

It is submitted that, the University based on the representation of the students dated 10.09.2015 and considering the fact that the punishment would disentitle the students from receiving the scholarship and the fact that most of the suspended students are from an economically downtrodden background, at the request of the students revoked the suspension and has referred the matter to the Executive Council which is being convened on 27.11.2015 to take comprehensive action on the report of the Proctorial Board.”

Further on the allegation made against the university by the mother of Susheel Kumar it was stated by them as follows:-

a. The allegation against the Security Officer is also unwarranted and hence denied. In fact the security personnel escorted Mr.Susheel Kumar at his request to the campus gate from where he left the campus in a car. The situation in the University is very much under control and the petitioner is trying now to blow the incident out of proposition.

b. The allegation that the campus is being used for recruitment for various outlawed organizations is totally baseless and the petitioner is put to strict proof of the said allegation and the related allegations. The campus is very much safe and there have been no untoward incident in the University thereafter.

c. The Vice-Chancellor called a meeting of the Dean’s Committee and the available Executive Council members on 18.11.2015. The Committee after due deliberations resolved to constitute a sub-committee with Professor Vipin Srivatsava, Senior-most Professor on Executive Council as Chairman, with Professor Allam Appa Rao, External member Visitor’s Nominee; Professor Geeta K.Vemuganti, Dean, School of Medical Sciences ; Professor M.Durga Prasad, Dean, School of Chemistry and Shri Ananda V. Wazalwar, senior-most Associate Professor on Executive Council as members to have an in-depth / comprehensive view on the findings of the Proctorial Board and to submit the same to the Executive Council. The sub-committee was requested to submit its report by 25.11.2015. The Executive Council of the University has been convened and is meeting on 27.11.2015 on which date a comprehensive action would be taken”.

It needs to be noted that these affidavits dated 3-10-2015 and 30-10-2015 were filed by the Commissioner of Police and the Inspector General of Police much before Rohith Vemula had committed suicide. The police clearly stated that the injury suffered by Susheel Kumar was a simple one and that there was no assault against him by the other students. The said stand of the police was known to the University officials too as they were served with Counter Affidavits.

In these Counter Affidavits the allegations made by the mother of Susheel Kumar against the police and university were stoutly denied both by the Commissioner of Police and the Inspector General of Police. Therefore it is clear that the mother of Susheel Kumar as well as her son were attempting to make a big theory of conspiracy in the alleged attack by students who according to them were aided and abetted by the police.

Intervention by the Netas of Central Govt.

As noted already the UoH was established by Act 39/1974. Though the students are the central figures in any educational institution, the Act has very little provisions in dealing with students matters. It merely provides the authorities who are empowered to take action as well as the Appellate authorities to whom an appeal will lie against the orders of competent authorities. Sections 31 and 32 reads as follows:-

Procedure of appeal and arbitration in disciplinary cases against students.

31. (1) Any student or candidate for an examination whose name has been removed from the rolls of the University by the orders or resolution of the Vice-Chancellor, Discipline Committee or Examination Committee, as the case may be, and who has been debarred from appearing at the examinations of the University for more than one year, may, within ten days of the date of receipt of such orders or copy of such resolution by him, appeal to the Executive Council and the Executive Council may confirm, modify or reverse the decision of the Vice-Chancellor or the Committee as the case may be.

(2) Any dispute arising out of any disciplinary action taken by the University against a student shall, at the request of such student, be referred to a Tribunal of Arbitration and the provisions of sub-section (2) of section 30 shall, as far as may be, apply to a reference made under this sub-section.

Right to appeal

32. Every employee or student of the University shall, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, have a right to appeal, within such time as may be prescribed by the Statutes, to the Executive Council against the decision of any officer or authority of the University and thereupon the Executive Council may confirm, modify or reverse the decision appealed against.”

Under the corresponding statutes a Dean of Students Welfare has to be appointed by the Executive Council on the recommendations of the Vice Chancellor. He will be a teacher not below the rank of a Reader. His duties and powers are to be prescribed by ordinances. Under Section 18 of the UoH Act, a University court will have to be established. The constitution of the court was to be prescribed by statutes. Under statute No 10A apart from several university authorities and representatives of teachers and non-teaching staff, it provides for five representatives of the Parliament of which three will be nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and two by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Statute No. 11 provides for the procedure for conducting meetings.

However a local politician belonging to BJP party of Hyderabad who also happened to be Minister for Labour in the Central govt. suddenly wrote a D.O Letter to the Minister for Human Resource Development on 17.8.2015. The letter read as follows:-

Dear Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani Ji,

As you are aware, I represent Secunderabad in Parliament which constitutes major part of Hyderabad. Hyderabad University, a Central University located in Hyderabad has, in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics. This could be visualized from the fact that when Yakub Menon was hanged, a dominant students union, that is, Ambedkar Students’ Association has held protests against the execution. When Shri Shushil, President ABVP in the campus protested against this, he was manhandled and as a result he was admitted in the hospital. What is more tragic is that the University Administration has become a mute spectator to such events. I am also enclosing a few details to buttress my point.

The purpose of my writing this letter is only to highlight the affairs in Hyderabad University. I earnestly hope under your dynamic leadership things would change in this Campus for the better.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Bandaru Dattatraya)”

On the basis of this letter, an Under Secretary forwarded the same to the Registrar of the University and called for report by e-mail and that mail reads as follows:-

Dear Sir,

Please find attached herewith a copy letter dated 17.08.2015 of Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, MoS for Labour and Employment alongwith enclosures.

It 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.

With regards

Ramji Pandey

US”

This e-mail was followed up with a letter by the Deputy Secretary, MHRD, GOI vide letter dated 6.10.2015. Once again the Joint Secretary, MHRD wrote a D.O letter dated 20.10.2015 asking him to look into the matter personally and get the facts at the earliest to enable the ministry to reply to the local politician. It is not clear as to what reply was sent to the Ministry.

As to how the local BJP politician got involved in the university affairs was not clearly explained by anyone. However, in the affidavit filed by the mother of Susheel Kumar (Smt. Nandanam Vinaya Karnakar) before the High Court in W.P.No.28073 of 2015, some clues are available. In para 6 of the affidavit filed before the High Court, she had averred as follows:-

I came to know the security showed up after my son dialed 100. SI Naveen of Gachibowli was informed. In the presence of the two constables he was beaten up. He was bundled into vehicle provided by the security officer. The police handed my son to the attackers and left!! He was beaten in the jeep with the help and abetment of the security. While security is bringing him to main gate security office, he was pulled down from jeep and beaten up. I submit that we immediately informed the issue to the local SHO and we expected action. As Susheel is affiliated and office bearer of ABVP, the organization has taken up the issue. They went and met police officers and tried to meet the higher ups. As a mother, the activities of that organization are not immediate concern to me. “

While on the one hand denying the serious allegations made against them, but on the other hand the university was feverishly taking steps to send an “appropriate” report to the central govt. This will be seen from the kneejerk reactions from the university which will be dealt with later.

Findings

One thing became clear to us from the above narration of facts. Rohith’s suicide in UoH is not the first one. In less than ten years, three other students had committed suicide, primarily because of the failure of the university administration to deal with students’ grievances. Rohith’s unfortunate tragic demise raises several questions which need to be pondered over coolly for all who are concerned not only with higher education in the country but also nature of society that we dream to protect and construct.

The President of India being the visitor of the University has visitorial powers and he can make any inquiry on any matter connected with the administration or finances of the university. It becomes clear from the UoH Act, 1974 that other than the representations given to elected members of the Parliament, there is no provision either in the Act or in the Statutes for any interference in the activities by the Central government.

The University has done nothing to prevent recurrence of suicides of students in the past. This was despite the fact that the earlier committees had made recommendations to set right things regarding student issues. As noted already, neither the University Act contains any provision to remove discriminatory practices adopted by the University officials. This is in spite of the fact that in any University what is relevant is the student welfare and only then the question of welfare of others come in.

Even as early as the year 2013 the High Court of Andhra Pradesh (now renamed as High Court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) in PIL No.106/2013 had issued several directives to all the Universities in the state to prevent recurrence of suicides. However, neither the UGC Regulations of 2012, the Court directives nor UOH Committee recommendations have been implemented.

With respect to the composition of the Proctorial committees and also sub-committee of the EC, it is clear that it did not have any representative from Teachers as well as Students Union. Though in the first committee the representatives of the teachers union were invited, they had no right to participate and vote. Hence, they protested and wrote their objections on the report (see the evidence of Dr.Lakshminarayana, witness no. 4). The procedures followed by these committees were too narrow. Different voices of the University community had no forum to express their views. There were no larger deliberations involving various sections of the university on the issue affecting the career of the students and academic environment of the university. No effort was made to diffuse the crisis.

The issue raised by ASA was a larger political issue related to freedom of expression and idea of India. There was nothing ‘castesist’ in these issues, as MHRD alleged. Instead of looking at the issue in larger perspective, the adversary of ASA dubbed it ‘casteist, extremist and anti-national’. It implies that it was an attempt by the ruling party outfits to reduce any dissent idea/view as opposed to their notion to ‘anti-national’. The Proctorial Committee seems did not give importance to such a view. However, at the same time the manner in which it conducted the inquiry gives an impression of targetting the Dalit students for their political position. At least that is how the Dalit students and many perceived.

In addition to our Findings that we have detailed above, we may deliberate on the following questions in this report. They are caste question in functioning of our universities, importance and space for dissent in university campus; and autonomy of the higher education institutions, particularly public universities.

These questions are not merely academic for abstract theorization but they are concerned with evolving modus operandi to translate theory in action. They are geared around university authorities –their perspective and role in dealing with these issues. The authority is just not merely confined to the Vice Chancellor and Proctor but also the University Court, Executive Council, Academic Council, teachers’ as well as students’ union (s) and also the individual teacher who is responsible to teach and guide students.

Caste question:

It is a challenging task for the university administrators and the teachers of upper-caste upbringing particularly who joined the profession before the 1990s to understand and cope up with the changed demography of students in higher education. Many of them are disconnected from social changes taking place around them. In the last two decades, number of universities and colleges has increased in 2000 to more than six hundred universities and nearly 41 thousand colleges in 2014. Similarly, numerical strength of students increased three fold during the last one and half decades from 8 million to 26.5 million. Social composition has changed. Nearly 47% of the students are women. Of the total students in higher education 4 per cent are from STs, 13 % from SCs and 35% of Other Backward castes. Nearly 8% are Muslims.

In our education system, majority (45%) of the students are pushed out first at primary and upper primary and then at secondary level. Of those who passed higher secondary examination, majority have studied in non-elite private or public schools. More than one third of these schools do not have essential infrastructure like library and laboratory. The teacher-student ratio in secondary schools has increased in the last three decades. However, the teachers are overburdened and most of them have no commitment towards the profession. On an average they are mediocre. Very few successful students after finishing higher secondary examinations join college for higher education. Most of them join institutions which are closer to their residence, largely because of social and economic constraints. They do not afford to stay in hostel, not to speak of rented houses. The academic environment of most of the undergraduate colleges is no way better than the secondary schools. They lack infrastructure and prescribed qualified teachers. Nearly three fourth of the undergraduate students are the first generation college students in the family. It is more so for the students coming from rural background and from the marginalised social communities. Unlike the upper caste students they lack socio-cultural capital as supporting and/or catalyst resource equipping them in modern education. After completing graduation only one third of the college students pursue post graduate courses to improve qualification. Many opt for the institutions closer to their residence and fewer succeed in getting admission in the institutes of excellence. University of Hyderabad is one of them.

The UoH has 12 schools with 46 departments and centres in sciences, social sciences and humanities. It has over 400 faculty members. Of them, -an insignificant percentage belonged to SCs & STs. Total strength of the students of the university is around five thousand. It gives admission to around two thousand students every year in post graduate courses including M.Phil., Ph.D. M. Tech. Since its inception in 1974, the university has implemented reservation policy for SCs and STs in admission. Following the 93rd Constitutional Amendment, 2006 providing reservation to OBCs in admission in Central educational institutions, UoH also introduced reservation for the OBC.

At present, of the total seats in the university 59% are reserved: 15% for SC, 8% for ST, 27% for OBC and 4% for PH and 5% for DP. Though a large number of students are from southern and eastern states of India, it has students from all parts of the country and also from abroad. The students with diverse social backgrounds bring plural culture in the campus. Each community has socio-religious traditions reflecting their belief system towards religious world view, way of worship, societal life, dietary preferences etc. They slowly get adjusted with each other in the corporate life of the campus and expected to develop secular culture respecting diversity. However, sometimes there is a resistance when one’s cultural way of life is denigrated and/or superimposed by hegemonic culture of dominant elite class. Such effort leads to tension. In this situation, the university authority requires to handle the tension in such a way to protect plurality and desist from superimposition by the vocal and powerful.

Except a small section, majority of the students belonged to middle class. The proportion of lower middle class and poor is higher in all the marginalised communities than that of the upper castes. Besides economic resources, the upper caste students have advantage of social and cultural capital over the latter. Due to socialisation in family and social network they have imbibed hierarchical values of caste system. They suffer from superiority complex of being ‘modern’, ‘meritorious’, ‘free from caste’ vis- a-vis persons from traditionally lower caste in social order. With this mindset, they oppose reservation. They believe that the students from marginalised communities are incompetent if not by birth, by family environment – their upbringing – to take higher education in the elite institutions. Hence, it is prerogative of the upper castes to get well paid jobs and positions. Their predilection gets hardened and takes ugly shape in a competitive situation when opportunities are limited. They become more hostile when they encounter the students of the marginalised communities who perform as well as they do. While confronting such reality, they imagine that such development would eventually affect their opportunities in the market. This situation has no longer remained hypothetical as 15% of the students of the SC/ST/OBC secured admission on non-reserved seats in UoH in 2014-15.

The students of the marginalised communities are generally of the first generation college educated in their families. Their secondary education has been in government non-elite institutions in regional language. They find difficult to speak, read or write in English. Due to the neighbourhood where they have been brought up and the milieu of the primary and secondary schools where they studied, their social network is limited to their caste. The students from rural background in general and more so from marginalised communities often experience cultural lag in adjusting with urban modern institutions dominated by urban anglicized upper castes (see the evidence of Dr.Velpula Sunkanna (Witness no.1), Seshaiah Chemudugunta (Witness no.2) and Radhika Vemula (Witness no.3) )

Among all the marginalised communities SCs i.e. Dalits and STs known as Adivasis are stigmatised in India in general and the Hindu social order in particular. They experience discrimination not only by upper castes but also from the OBCs and non-Hindus. In rural areas the practice of untouchability in several spheres continues. Many SC as well as ST students faced negative comments denigrating their dignity; reminding their social status. At the school level though some did get encouragement from school teachers, some others were told to follow their caste occupation and study is beyond their capacity. (see : Subrahmanian, R. (2005) Education Exclusion and the Development State. In Chopra, R., and Jeffery, P. (eds.), Educational Regimes in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Sage Publications.)

Of course, the practice of untouchability is not always visible in the crude form in the university campus. But, body language and gestures of non-SC-ST students often display their prejudices to the students of marginalised communities. Dalit students feel that upper caste students “carry an impression that Dalits have come here stepping on the rights of general students as they get admission despite scoring less marks (Singh 190).” A former student of the UoH Dr. Velpula Sunkanna (witness No.1) observed that unlike in villages, “here in the university they (Non-SC) will be with us, they will sit with us, drink with us, eat with us, go for movies with us. Here the untouchability and discrimination works in different forms. It is invisible”. Humiliation of one sort or another is woven into the academic experiences of several Dalit students in the elite professional institutions where competition is cutthroat. One of the “successful” professional former student recollects his college days: “I suppose the situation was not as bad in my college and university as it is in professional colleges like Engineering and Medical. But it was always interesting to watch how ‘meritorous’ students used to speak ill about SCs and STs and reservation policy with the assumption that no one around them would be from these communities (cited in AK Singh: 2013:185)”.

Thorat Committee constituted to enquire into the practices of caste discrimination prevalent in a premier institute like AIIMS reports about discrimination in allotment of hostel rooms and mess to Dalit students. Sukumar (2013) an alumni of UoH records his experience of discrimination in getting hostel room in the 1990s. One also comes across instances in which the authority maintained silence when Dalit students were intimidated/humiliated by the upper caste students. For instance, in 1998, the administration ignored the complaint of Dalit students when eight upper caste MCS students ‘were caught red-handed in ragging their dalit junior’. Such helplessness often pushes out a few SC students from the studies. However, such every day struggle forces some dalit students to be vocal and articulate their grievance rather than suffer silently.

Students and teachers :

UoH has evolved a system where the students are subject to ‘continuous evaluation’ by teachers in class, laboratory and field work. ‘Students are given periodical tests, short quizzes, home assignments, seminars, tutorials, term papers in addition to the examination at the end of each semester. The final result in each course is calculated on the basis of this continuous assessment and performance in the end semester examination’. Very few percentage of the faculty belong to SC/ST/OBC and majority faculty members have upper caste background. Besides upper caste mindset, their notion of meritocracy is decontextualized and one dimensional. Many, though not all, have prejudice towards the students of the reserved category. They believe that they are very weak and not capable to be ‘scientist’, engineer or doctor. Moreover, in the race for promotion/advancement in career to score API (Academic Performance Indicator) and to get reorganization in their discipline, they prefer to spend time for those students with whom they could have socio-cultural wavelength, and for whom they need not have to spend more time and labour. A teacher of IIT narrates his experience which is closer to the practice in UoF:

During the project work, a student is assigned a faculty supervisor. In this the teachers consider the caste background of students when they accept some and reject others. The best teachers take students who they consider as the best, say above 8 CGPA in the class. The next best teachers take the ones who are mediocre or average. In the end the ones who are left out with the below average teachers or new teachers are those SC/ST. That means SC/ST students are made to work with the teachers who are not so good or the new recruit (Cited in Srinivasa Rao 2013:214)”.

The administrative mechanism of reservation system as implemented by the university since its inception, the students of the ‘reserved’ category in the process becomes a marker of ‘different’ and ‘inferior’ student. In the past there was a rule that the first page of the entrance exams should carry one’s name, mother’s name, caste and religion. Then second page onwards the answer is written. As a result, Dr. Velpula Sunkanna (witness no.1) believes, “during evaluation, the moment the teacher saw the first page, the marking was affected. The evaluator generally doesn’t want to give seats to Dalits, tribes and OBCs in the general quota. So less marks were given to Dalits and tribes”. After several protests from Dalit students against this system, in 2008 the university changed the rule. The administration introduced the star system: for SC 1 star, for ST 2 stars, for OBC hash, and for physically challenged 3 stars. The first page remains with the administration and not given to the evaluator as it was done in the past. But, “when the results are announced, the stars are added beside the name. There is public information about which student is a dalit. We cannot escape this identification”. A symbol is placed against the names of all the students from the reserved category, even those who qualify in the general list. Since the attendance list is prepared according to the admission list, it is easy for the faculty, office staff and students of the general category to identify Dalit students”.

Though we are unable to conduct a larger study of the UoH students to understand their everyday experiences with their teachers, a study of IIT students throws some light on average teacher’s interaction with the students of the deprived communities in institutions of excellence. Some teachers used to remind their caste to the students of the deprived communities that ‘You are from weaker sections and your level of understanding is very low and you must work hard’. Such remark hurts the students reminding them of their social background. A Dalit student of IIT reports his personal experiences regarding his first class in the institute:

It was our Physics class and we were meeting the teacher for the first time. After the lecture, the teacher called for clarification of doubts, if any, and I asked a question. Then the teacher instead of answering it straight, he asked me another question in return, ‘You don’t know even this? Are you a PC (Preparatory Course) student? (The students of SC/ST who could not make selection through JEE (joint Entrance examination) require to undergo the preparatory course for one year). I felt humiliated and insulted. Imagine that was my first class and what kind of image would I have before my fellow classmates. That time onwards, I started hating his class and even physics. Now I don’t want to be an engineer. I will go into some other programme ( Cited in Srinivasa Rao 2013: 210).”

A study of the institution of IIT shows that generally teachers form upper castes believe that engineering is not a cup of tea of SC/ST students. The teachers often make comments to SC/ST students such as; “it is not for you”, “you cannot solve this problem”, ‘you cannot understand this concept”, “it is beyond your understanding” etc. Such remarks not only discourage and humiliate the poor students of marginalised communities but also vitiate university environment.

While enquiring into the death of Senthil Kumar at UoH, in one of the recommendations, the Pavarala Committee rightly emphasizes:

Overall, there is a need for all faculty members to internalize greater sensitivity about students belonging to reserved categories, including those from other socially and educationally backward classes. Rather than being impervious to caste and other markers of inequality in our society, it is important to be pro-active in mentoring and advising students who come from less privileged backgrounds, both in the class room and outside, At a time when ‘access and equity’ in higher education are the watchwords of the government and the UGC, it is imperative that a top-ranking central institution such as ours takes a lead in nurturing and promoting a crops of scientists from among the marginalized sections of our society.

The subsequent committees reiterate this point. The Krishna Committee in December 2013 concluded the report by stating,

...it goes without saying that faculty at all levels –in leadership position or otherwise –must be more responsive to the needs of students and must show greater sensitivity to the claims of access and inclusion. The institutional responsibility cannot end merely with ensuring diversity and social heterogeneity on campus; the university and its community must seriously deliberate active ways of building student capabilities and research capacity.

What is disturbing is that UoH has not yet taken these suggestions made by their own colleagues seriously. A member in both the Committees Prof. Sasheej Hegde (witness no.10) noted, ”Sadly, yet, the university has faltered and the diligence necessary for letting the institution live on its own has not been forthcoming…”

Efficient and affable counseling system, close student-teacher relationship, redressal mechanism and transparent decision making process could have reduced the possibilities of the unfortunate loss of these precious lives.

Rustication of students:

We do not have data regarding number of students rusticated and for what reason by UoH since its establishment in 1974. However, in the context with the present case of rustication of Rohith and four other students, the rustication of ten Dalit students affiliated with the ASA in 2002 is relevant to understand nature of victimisation of Dalit students by UoH authority. It might be coincident but the fact remains that the present Vice Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile was party to that episode also. It involved two issues. One, Dr. K.Y.Ratnam (witness no.7) belonging to SC caste was a warden of one of the hostels. Besides looking after the overall functioning of the hostel he was looking after banking and accounts; and also sanitation and hygiene. When one more warden was appointed, Dr.Ratnam’s duties relating to banking and account was shifted to the new appointee. He was left with sanitation and hygiene. SC students and teachers perceived the division of work was on caste line. The ASA students raised this issue.

The second issue was related to management of the students’ mess. During that time students were involved in the management of the hostel mess. Two students living in hostels were in charge of maintaining the mess. They were responsible for buying monthly groceries and provisions for the hostel mess. The students in charge were used to change every month. As an incentive towards their work the mess in charge students were exempted from paying the monthly mess fees. “At that time, the monthly mess fee was around 900 rupees,” one of the students involved in the work said. He added, “Most of the students who offered to do the job of ‘student maintenance’ were Dalits. We were all poor and it was a good way to save some money on mess fees for a month. The government gave us a scholarship which included Rs.550 per month toward mess fees. How could we make up the remaining Rs.350? Most of us never got money from home.” In 2001, this system was changed by the Chief Warden, Prof. Appa Rao Podile. A ‘Centralised Purchasing Committee’ was formed to buy provisions. And the poor dalit students were deprived from the benefit of the mess-fee waiver. It was alleged that with the Centralised Purchasing Committee was involved in corruption (Ravishankar 21/1/2016).

About 80 students submitted a memorandum protesting against the centralised purchasing system and demanding restoring the previous system. The students met the Chief Warden on January 10, 2002. The Chief Warden conceded the first demand and agreed to restore back bank and account instead of sanitation responsibility to Dr.Ratnam. But it is alleged that “he refused to listen the students, saying that it is an internal matter of administration and he need not answer to the students”. This agitated the students resulting to scuffle. It was alleged that the students had broken furniture. Subsequently 10 students were rusticated and criminal cases were filed against them (Sukumar 2013) All of them were from SCs.

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) circulated an article written by Late. Dr.Balagopal published by the WIRE dated 15.4.2016 with reference to this incident. In that article he had observed as follows:

Up until now, the Dalit students may indeed be on a week footing. But let us look at what precipitated the altercation – the chief warden’s humiliation of K.Y.Ratnam, a dalit warden who got embroiled in this. Ratnam opposed the chief warden’s proposal. There is no evidence to who that Ratnam had any personal interest in this. But taking umbrage at Ratnam’s audacity, the chief warden divested him of his financial authority in hostel mess management and asked him instead to look after sanitation work. He handed over financial authority to a Brahmin.

In effect, he said ‘you the untouchable do the scavenging and our Brahmin will do the patwari work’. This may seem like a surprisingly disgusting division of labour to people who are not familiar with how instutions of higher learning in this country work. This was the proverbial last straw for the dalit students. They, having themselves been subjected to a thousand cuts everyday, could easily recognize the insult and humiliation and injured people who do not belong to the privileged castes and classes. It is an uphill struggle even for non-dalit students from Telugu medium colleges to protect themselves from daily loss of face on campus. For first generation dalit scholars this is virtual hell. They are marked and hunted down as people who came in because of reservations – into places where they do not deserve to be. They are insulted and ridiculed on a daily basis. (This is harsher in departments where most of the faculty and students believe that they are there because of their own merit. A majority of the students rusticated recently were students in science departments.) (see for full text: The Unspeakable violence of Caste : Lessons from 2002 for Hyderabad University- THE WIRE dt.15.4.2016)

The students alleged that the action was taken without preliminary inquiry. And they were not given ‘reasonable opportunity’ to explain their case. Later the students went to the Court and legal battle continued for number of years (see for full text of the judgment of the A.P.High Court R.Seshagiri Rao and Others Vs. University of Hyderabad, reported in 2002(6) ALD 720).

We had also elsewhere quoted from the deposition of Prof Amita Dhanda (witness no.8), a professor from NALSAR University of Law in this regard and we reproduce it here. We agree with the suggestions made by her.

In the first instance, the University administration, irrespective of political affiliation, censured each group for what it did wrong. This even handed treatment restored peace on campus. Subsequently, however with political pressure mounting, all principles of natural justice were given a go by and decisions having such wide ramifications as rustication, social excommunication were reached by executive fiat, abandoning even the pretence of reasoned decision-making. An administration cannot punish the breach of rule of law, after infringing the rule in both form and substance.”

Suicide :

Tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula in the campus of UoH is in a way a continuity of similar incidents in institutions of higher education in the 21st century. Anoop Kumar Singh, an academic listed 18 cases of SC/ST student suicides between 2007 and 2011 from the elite institutions of professional learning. He presents three case studies of the students who committed suicide. The victims felt that they were failed or not allowed to pursue the course of their choice because of their teachers/supervisors’ bias and partiality. “What these cases show is that elite professional institutions are places where caste prejudices is so firmly entrenched that it has become normal. Because the stakes involved here are very high, there is lot of unthinking resentment against SC and ST students regardless of the academic standing of these students. Teachers, students and administration are all usually biased against them, though the intensity and manner in which it is expressed may differ (2013: 202)”. Thorat committee in the case of IIMS reveals the same.

Rohith was the fourth student in the span of less than ten years who ended his life. Senthil Kumar, a Ph.D. student in the school of Physics committed suicide in 2008, presumably out of frustration because of the uncertainty in getting a supervisor to guide him. He perhaps had “some tension about the Supervisor with whom he would have to eventually work for his Ph.D.” Moreover, he might have a fear that his Ph. D. Fellowship would be terminated because of his ‘backlog’ in completing course work. Coming from a poor Dalit background from Tamil Nadu, he joined UoH for Ph.D. in Physics in 2007. He had no external financial support in the form of scholarship, though he received the University Fellowship as all Ph.D. students were getting.

The university appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Vinod Pavarala to ‘examine the circumstances leading to the unfortunate incident involving Ph. D. Student of the school of physics. After examining the process of course work, allotment of supervisors and communication between students and authority, the Committee notes lack of transparency in the administration of the Ph.D. course work. This had ‘created unacceptable uncertainty in the minds of the students’. It also noted “inconsistency and subjectivity in the standards applied for course work and for allocation of supervisors in the 2006 batch led to understandable perception that has gained among SC/ST students in the School of Physics that they are being discriminated against on the basis of caste”. The committee however could not find any evidence ‘for systematic or deliberate discrimination against the students on the basis of caste’. The committee observed:

An overall conclusion one is compelled to draw …there is a lack of proper communication between the School and students, leading to mistrust and misunderstanding. Although the Committee has not found any deliberate and systematic discrimination practiced by the school against reserved category students, it is a fact that most of the students affected by the inconsistencies and ambiguities in the procedures were SC/ST students, leading to building up of a perception of discrimination among students belonging to these communities. All the Physics students that this committee could meet have reported their sense that the School was acting against the interests of the SC/ST students. While the Dean and other faculty members of the School have unequivocally denied any discriminatory practices in the school, many of the dalit students who have come from backgrounds where such discrimination was not uncommon, tended to attribute the problems they were facing in the school to caste based discrimination.”

The university witnessed two more cases of students’ suicide in 2013. One was Mr. P. Raju, a student of IMA (Integrated Master) programme in April; and the second was Mr. Venkatesh Ph.D. scholar, ACRHEM (2013) [Advanced Centre of Research in High Energy Materials] in December. The possible reasons for Raju’s suicide could be, according to his teacher and some friends, his ‘deep-rooted psychological problem’, perhaps suicide tendency; and his anxiety regarding his semester registration in English (Applied linguistics) and his academic performance. The university inquiry Committee chaired by Prof. Krishna observed, “ it must be noted that a large number of students from marginalised sections (Including Mr.P.Raju) show academic performances ranging from ‘bad’ to ‘below average’ in the overall result as declared by CALTS (Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies) (Dr.K.Lakshminarayana who was a member in both committees was examined as witness no. 4).

This latter point need not be limited to CALTS however, because (in the Committee’s opinion) we cannot discount the palpable sense of estrangement and disaffection that students from marginalised sections feel in the portals of our institution”. There was no institutional mechanism to provide counselling which can mitigate his anxiety and boost up his moral.

The possible cause for Mr. Venkatesh’s ending his life could be unusual delay in allocating ‘supervisor’ to guide him. The inquiry committee critically analysed various procedures and process of allocating guide to the students. It concludes that it was institutional failure that attended to the case of Mr. M. Venkatesh. It alerts us to the fact that research is not only about timely registration and student fellowships; it is more importantly, about the quality of guidance and supervision that our research students have every right to demand and expect. It is particularly galling that Mr. M. Venkatesh should have gone without a clear and determine ‘supervisor’ against his name all through his years at the University. The fact remains that neither the ‘authorities’ at ACRHEM nor the University as a whole were able to command the ‘diligence’ that was due in attending to the case of Mr. M. Venkatesh. The ‘system’ certainly has failed Mr. M. Venkatesh.

Recommendations

On the basis of various depositions before the Tribunal and the earlier three reports on students’ suicide it seems that the university’s notion, approach and method of so-called disciplining ‘errant/deviant’ students are mechanical and lack imagination. Rustication/suspension is not a remedy to solve institutional problems or improve the ‘offenders’. Disciplining (if the authority feels its necessity) mechanism and process need to evolve the process of negotiations involving all the stakeholders including victims and offenders. It has to be transparent and accountable to the teachers and students. Towards this objective, we make the following recommendations.

  1. The University should immediately implement the AP High Court Order Interim Measure No 3 that calls upon the University for instituting a Special Commission to review disciplinary orders imposing major penalties such as rustication, expulsion from hostels and stoppage of fellowships in the case of all students and especially those from SC/ST/OBC and other marginalised backgrounds.

  1. Although at the University level, there are entities such as Office of the Dean, Students’ Welfare, the Central Grievance Committee, and SC/ST cell to address any problems faced by the students, there is no formal, institutional mechanism in any of the Schools for redressal of grievances of students, especially those who belong to the marginalized categories. The existence of such agencies even at the University level and the procedures to be followed are not widely known to the student community. The doctoral committees, which may be expected to take up this role, exist more on paper than in practice in all the schools.

  2. The University should institute as early as possible the Grievance Redressal Committee headed by the Ombudsman as per UGC (Grievance Redressal) Regulation 2012. And, on the priority basis it must implement all the Directives in the Order passed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in W.P (PIL) No. 106/2013.

  1. It appears that UoH has not yet set up the Equal Opportunity Cell headed by the Anti-discrimination Officer as per the UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations 2012. That has to be done urgently. Simultaneously, SC/ST cell to safeguard the interests of SC/ST students; and remedial coaching in English language programme to improve their academic performance require review and to be made more effective.

  2. The university requires the formation of a broad-based “Students Counselling System”. Such system needs to be interactive involving students, teachers and parents to address common student concerns ranging from anxiety, stress, fear of change and failure to homesickness and a slew of academic worries.

  3. The University should on priority basis appoint anti-discriminatory faculty advisors for SC/ST students. It is a responsibility of the advisors to work as watchdogs to protect the students against discrimination. Moreover they should also look into the problems –personal and academic- faced by the students and advise them accordingly. They should work as counsellors.

  4. The University does not have effective system encouraging one-to-one student teacher relationship at all levels. The students in general and those belong to the marginalised communities feel alienated in the university system. Besides class room and laboratory teaching the teachers need to make special effort to cultivate one-to-one relationship with all the students so that when a student needs guidance/advice s/he can contact a teacher without fear. This responsibility needs to be interwoven with teaching and guidance. If needed teacher-student ratio need to be reduced so that all the teachers get opportunities to spend time with the students.

  1. The teachers need to be more sensitive towards the students coming from rural background and of the marginalised communities. They need to self-introspect critically regarding their bias and approach towards the students belonging to different social background than theirs. All the three committees appointed by the university have emphasised this.

  2. Universities in general and the elite universities in particular should not only be the centre for disseminate knowledge but they should also disseminate knowledge in such a way that it provides space to the subaltern and empower them by enhancing their capacity and self-confidence. It is dangerous if the dissemination of knowledge reinforces and legitimizes inequality in society. The task of university needs to inculcate values among students of mutual respect, equality and fraternity.

  3. University has an important role in creating and disseminating knowledge in society. In order to facilitate the task it needs to provide congenial space for critical inquiry without fear. Within the university boundaries no concept/idea/symbol is sacrosanct. Academic community enjoys freedom to express their views and debate on all issues under the sky without fear. Dissent is a core of critical thinking which needs to be allowed and protected within the university campus. University is not a factory to manufacture robots. It is place to develop critical mind. Everyone has a right to dissent, including dissent against capital punishment. University of Hyderabad needs to protect such freedom. Dialogue and debate have to be integral part of academic life. Without that the university would be dead.

We hope that the concerned authorities will take note of our recommendations and make appropriate amends.

We record our appreciation to Ms Vasudha Nagaraj, Advocate, Hyderabad and her team of teachers and activists in bringing the relevant materials and depositions before us and had rendered valuable assistance without which we would have been greatly handicapped.

Dated on this 25th day of August 2016

Justice K Chandru

Retd. Judge, High Court : Madras

Prof. Ghanshyam Shah Prof Govardhan. Wankhede

Formerly Professor, Formerly Professor & Dean

Jawaharlal Nehru University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,

New Delhi Mumbai