Allegations of sexual violence and threats by the police to women students must be investigated and those suspected of being responsible must be prosecuted—Aakar Patel, executive director, Amnesty International India
The Amnesty International India has demanded an independent investigation into allegations of police using excessive force during a recent crackdown on agitating students at the University of Hyderabad (UoH).
Condemning the police action on a “peacefully protesting group of students and faculty members” on March 22, the Amnesty called for the immediate release of detained students.
The students, and a section of the faculty members, were protesting against Vice-Chancellor P. Appa Rao, who resumed charge three days ago. He has been in the eye of the storm ever since the suicide of PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, who many believed killed himself due to caste discrimination by the university administration.
Appa Rao went on leave in January amid raging protest against him and the university administration. The Joint Action Committee of students holds hism responsible for creating circumstances that drove Rohith (26) to commit suicide by hanging in the hostel room. However, the VC returned to work on Tuesday, triggering widespread protests on the campus.
“Violence against protesting students in a university cannot be justified under any circumstances. Allegations of sexual violence and threats by the police to women students must be investigated and those suspected of being responsible must be prosecuted,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India.
As many as 25 students and two faculty members have been arrested for allegedly vandalising the vice-chancellor’s office and booked for rioting, criminal intimidation and damage to public property.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad MP and president of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Asaduddin Owaisi and party legislator Ahmad bin Abdullah visited the Cherlapally Jail in Hyderabad and met UoH students and faculty members lodged there.
They expressed their solidarity with the students. Owaisi said the controversial vice-chancellor must go to bring back normalcy to the campus. Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy and spokesperson D. Sravan Kumar also met students in jail.
The agitating students have been demanding to remove Appa Rao and prosecute him under SC and ST Act.
“One of our main demands is the sacking of Appa Rao. How can he come back to the campus? It has over two months since the tragedy happened and no action has been initiated,” a student leader said, demanding that the VC be arrested immediately.
Rao was forced to go on leave on January 24 and in his place Prof M. Periasamy was serving as the vice-chancellor in-charge.
Though Rohith did not blame anyone in his suicide note, his friends, student organisations and opposition parties have blamed the culture of caste discrimination practiced by university authorities for the tragedy. Rohith, who was an active member of Ambedkar Students Association, was suspended along with four other Dalit students following a scuffle with a rival student leader.
The agitating students also alleged that the suspension and sustained humiliation had forced Rohith to end his life. They also sought action against Union Ministers Smriti Irani and B. Dattatreya for recommending action against Dalit students based on a representation from ABVP, the student wing of the BJP.