Even as political leaders addressed an enthusiastic audience, active members of the Ambedkar Students Association were arguing among themselves.
The vast expanse of the University of Hyderabad campus on Wednesday experienced a charged atmosphere with voices against ‘social oppression.’ Senior leaders and people’s representatives of different political parties visited the venue of the protest to register their demands following the recent suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula, a research scholar.
General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sitaram Yechury, Leader of Opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, MPs from the Trinamool Congress including Pratibha Mondal and Derek O’Brien and Congress MP V. Hanumantha Rao among others, demanded a high-level enquiry into the circumstances leading to such instances on campus. In one voice, they said the law needed to look into the incidents as part of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated at the highest levels.
“What we are witnessing is a violation of the basic principles of the Indian Constitution,” they said, to applause and added that Union Ministers Smriti Irani (Human Resources Development) and Bandaru Dattatreya (Labour) and the Vice-Chancellor P. Appa Rao should be sacked from their positions, and criminal proceedings be launched against them under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
With top political leaders descending on the campus, the atmosphere reverberated with slogans of ‘Jai Bheem’, ‘Rohith Vemula Amar Hai’. Interestingly, there were divided opinions on the increased political presence with one side opposing the politicisation of the issue.
Even as leaders were addressing an enthusiastic audience comprising students, social activists and representatives of people’s organisations, active members of the Ambedkar Students Association who were organising the agitation were arguing among themselves. When a student leader welcomed Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy as ‘my beloved leader’, it was not well-received.
“We need to look at the larger social picture and realise that what happened was the complete opposite of what the country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said on universities to be considered as places of tolerance, humanism and an adventure of ideas/opinions. Higher education is being doctored to suit the idea of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in a ‘fascistic’ Hindu Raj where Indian history is being sought to be replaced by Hindu mythology,” Mr. Yechury remarked.
Earlier, being among the first to visit the campus on Wednesday, Mr. O’Brien said, “It is a clearly a fight between injustice and justice. The Parliament is currently not in session, but the Trinamool Congress is coordinating with other political parties. We will be here just to support you. It is the students who will lead the movement.” He added that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal would visit the campus on Thursday.