Hyderabad: UHTA Statements on teachers’ strike and suspension of students

September 12, 2015

UHTA Press Note

University of Hyderabad’s Teachers’ Relay Hunger Strike, a protest against the racial and gender discrimination, has been temporarily called off from today, 12th September 2015. This prolonged protest of two months that UHTA sustained with the support of a large number of teachers was put on hold after the Vice-Chancellor came to site of protest and apologized for the unfortunate incident expressing regret for the same. The Vice-Chancellor’s written note admitted that there were procedural lapses in the whole incidence. A committee to look into the issue, constituted unilaterally by the administration with prejudicial terms of reference, against which UHTA had expressed strong objections, also stands dismantled. The protest was called off with the understanding that the admission regarding procedural lapses in searching Dr. Grace’s home and regret for the same from the University is sincere. UHTA demands the official circulation of the VC’s regret letter to the University Community. UHTA also insists that the University administration acts on rectifying such lapses that lead to violation of human rights, to say the least, at the earliest. Further, we hope that the University administration would initiate programs for sensitizing the campus community about various kinds of discrimininations, including class, caste, gender, religion, community, that we practice without even being aware of it. UHTA reiterates its stand against the use of coercive authority and the free and unwarranted entry of the police into campus. It is our deep conviction that critical thinking and democracy can only flourish in an atmosphere where the ‘mind is without fear’ and unconstrained by police norms and guidelines. We believe that internal mechanisms and dialogue are the best and most effective ways of resolving differences. UHTA appreciates all teachers and the University community at large that supported and stood by it through its ongoing struggle, a struggle that has simultaneously been one of resistance and an educative process for all of us.


UHTA Statement on recent suspension of students

UHTA takes strong objection to the recent suspension orders of 4 students, based on the Proctorial committee report. UHTA representatives were present at the Proctorial board meeting, as special non-signatory members, where everyone connected with the issue had deposed and evidences submitted. UHTA had written its response earlier (attached herewith), based on the proceedings of the Proctorial committee meeting. The following are our observations and concerns regarding the Proctorial committee report itself.

The report, to begin with, is full of contradictions. On the one hand, while in the main body of the report it is mentioned that there is no “hard evidence” or “witness” to establish the act of beating, including that the medical reports also do not prove anything conclusively, but in the official list of “The Proctorial Board’s Decisions” and on the “ORDER” sheet, it is mentioned that students should be suspended because they were involved in physical assault. Further, in the “Decisions” section of the main body of the report, the only actions that are suggested are “strong warnings”. This is again in direct contradiction with the decision of suspension in the “ORDER” sheet.

UHTA also takes strong objections to the “recommendations” by the Proctorial Board about student politics in the University. We strongly condemn the Board’s directions to the administration to impose ban on all political organisations, ban on use of graphics or pictures that “could hurt anyone’s sentiments”, to remove all banners and posters, to designate a place for all types of “political posters, dharnas, etc”. Such observations and recommendations by the Proctorial Board are extremely dangerous, undemocratic and uncalled for. The Proctorial Board is a judicial body, and it should confine itself to judging the particular case at hand, rather than taking unwanted moralistic stand about student politics. The recommendations above are nothing but a blatant attempt of clamping down upon the democratic right of students and other members of the University community to organise around issues of discrimination and attack by those in power, and as we all know, most often these attacks are perpetrated on the lines of caste, gender, class, region and other identities and positionalities. Such struggles, we believe, are integral parts of the process of education, particularly because “It would be extremely naive to expect the dominant classes to develop a type of education that would enable subordinate classes to perceive social injustices critically”, as expressed by Paulo Freire.

We reiterate our deep conviction that critical thinking and democracy can only flourish in an atmosphere where the ‘mind is without fear’ and unconstrained by such draconian norms and guidelines. It is also hard to ignore the resonance of the Proctorial Board recommendations with the threats handed out recently to our students through police pamphlets. We believe that this is reflective of the degree to which our internal disciplinary mechanisms have surrendered themselves to the police administration. These recommendations are also in line with the recently issued UGC guidelines on “Safety of Students On and Off Campuses of Higher Educational Institutions” (http://www.nmims.edu/docs/guidelines-on-safety-of-students–nmims.pdf), which has already come under strong criticism of teachers and students across the country. We want to reiterate our belief that democratic internal mechanisms and dialogue are the best and most effective ways of resolving differences.

While we welcome the decision of the administration to revoke the suspension orders on the students, we also want the administration to declare the recommendations of the Proctorial Board, as mentioned above, null and void. We are also concerned about the discrepancies and contradictions inherent in the report, which raise questions about the legitimacy of the Proctorial Board itself and in particular the Chief Proctor, who is a signatory to documents which are inherently contradictory to each other. We also demand that all such committee reports be made public by the administration, including the past reports, so that transparency can be maintained regarding the Committee/Board proceedings. We believe that since the main body of the report by the Proctorial Board already mentions the lack of conclusive evidence, the administration should close the case on the students immediately, and there is no real need to reconvene a fresh committee and a fresh inquiry. The suspension orders should stay revoked, and the case should be closed.


Faculties protest against illegal raid on a teacher’s residence in UoH and against increased police interference on campus

Today, August 31, 2015 (Monday), nearly 100 faculty members of University of Hyderabad went for a discussion with the Vice Chancellor, on the issue of theillegal raid of Dr. Gracious Temsen’s (Associate Professor, Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies, University of Hyderabad) residence on campus by a team of campus security personnel. The raid involved multiple illegalities, including the fact that there was no written order issued instructing the raid, that an all-male team of security officials raided her house knowing fully well that she is a single woman, clicked photos of her cupboard and other belongings and of her brother, her niece and few of her students who were then there at her quarters, in a blatant violation of privacy of individuals and especially inside a home. All of the people involved are from AFSPA-affected North-East and were terrorized by the intimidating presence and behaviour of the personnel. 

A signature campaign inside the campus has had a record number of faculty expressing their solidarity with Dr.Temsen. The faculty are aghast at the way a fellow faculty member has been treated. UHTA office bearers met the VC multiple times and twice also along with many other concerned faculty. However, the administration has disregarded the sentiments of the faculty with impunity. In response, the faculty decided to gather in large numbers at the VC’s office today, to impress upon the VC and the administration the widespread anger and anguish at the way a fellow faculty member has been treated and to demand that the VC accept the following UHTA GBM resolutions:
  1. A public apology to Dr. Temsen from the University Administration.
  2. Issue of show-cause notice to Deputy Registrar, Estate who ordered the action without following due procedure and without any regard for the constitutional rights and privacy of Dr. Temsen.
  3. Dismantling the enquiry committee which has been unilaterally formed by the VC, and reconstituting it with a woman faculty as the Chair, including external members from the North-East Cell and UHTA representatives. Also, the Terms of Reference of the committee are to be decided in discussion with the UHTA.
  4. Sensitization of officers and employees regarding rights of residents on campus as well as the campus community in general, including security personnel.
We believe that the incident that happened to Dr. Temsen is not an isolated incident, and is part of the larger process of increased police interference and security clamp down on UoH campus, that we have been observing and negotiating for the past few months. Today, teachers also brought up the issue of the Commissioner of Police being recently officially invited by the administration to address the University Freshers’ gathering, where the police distributed pamphlets threatening the students of expulsion, rustication, suspension and even imprisonment in case students publicly express opinions that the police does not approve of. The University administration was reminded today by the teachers that Universities are democratic spaces that promote critical thinking, discussions and debates, and should be free from the control of the State and the Market!

But our repeated attempts, including the one today, to resolve the issue within the university have been rebuffed by the administration. Today, even though around one hundred teachers gathered at the Vice-Chancellor’s office, one of the largest such gatherings in the history of UoH, the VC refused to speak to any of us, or comment on the issue and on the demands raised by the UHTA. We condemn the VC’s consistent and stubborn silence on this issue, although the teachers are still ready for a dialogue with the VC. In case there is no response from the VC’s office in the next few days, the teachers have decided to call for an Emergency General Body Meeting to decide on a more stringent course of action, such as stopping all committee work in which teachers are members, and boycott of classes.

Dr. K Laxminarayana
President, UHTA
Dr. Deepa Srinivas
General Secretary, UHTA