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Lalita Iyer
Lalita Iyer


Dalit scholar refuses to accept degree from Hyderabad University VC

rohith-vemula-act (File) Velpula Sunkanna faced disciplinary action along with Rohith Vemula (pictured above) from the Hyderabad Central University, which had eventually led to the latter's suicide

One of the five Dalit students who had been expelled from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) decided to continue his agitation against what is now recognised as a discriminatory behaviour against Dalit students by the powers that be in the University.

The student Velpula Sunkanna, refused to accept his doctorate during the 18th convocation of the University simply because it was being given by the Vice Chancellor Appa Rao. He reasoned that while he had not pre-planned this simple protest, he was not ready to accept his degree from the VC either. Assuming that they would be given their degrees by a chief guest, he attended the ceremony only to realise that it was to be given by the VC himself. "I decided not to take it from him," he said. But he was willing to take it from anyone else. After a small confrontation on stage in front of the guests, and a two minute stunned silence, the VC succumbed and the PhD degree in philosophy was finally handed over to Sunkanna by Pro-VC Vipin Srivastava.

Five students had been expelled for a few months from the University of Hyderabad (UoH) and it was alleged that the reason was because they were dalits. Soon the issue escalated when their rooms were locked and they were forced to sleep in the open market area. A couple of days after this humiliation, Rohith Vemula, a PhD student committed suicide and though his suicide note did not accuse someone for the act, he did mention that he was frustrated and tired of all the discrimination.

While there is a semblence of peace in the university, the issue is still simmering. In the wake of Rohith's suicide, the VC had been sent on forced leave in January this year and had also been booked under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act. But amidst much protest, Appa Rao resumed charge in March, leaving many students frustrated.

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