A national-level Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Social Justice, protesting the suicide of dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad, has demanded for the enactment of a ‘Rohith Act’, a la ‘Nirbhaya Act’.
“We demand that a Rohith Act be introduced and implemented which will ensure legislative protection for students from marginalised communities in higher educational institutions,” said members of the JAC for Social Justice.
The JAC also demanded that Union Human Resource Minister Smriti Irani be sacked.
These demands have come even as students from all parts of the country are converging in Hyderabad to join hands with students who are protesting following the suicide by Rohith on 17 January.
Apart from that, academics, intellectuals and activists have landed in Hyderabad to participate in the ‘Chalo HCU’ programme. They have announced solidarity with the ongoing protests by the students of the university.
The national-level JAC was constituted with a call to observe nation-wide protests until the students’ demands were met. The JAC also called for an all-India universities’ strike on January 27, a day after the Republic Day, as also a march to the Ministry of Human Resource in New Delhi. Smriti Irani is HRD Minister.
Meanwhile, Seyed Ehtesham Hasnain, who was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad from 2005-2011, has asked current V-C Appa Rao Podle to resign for failing to reach out to his students. “You must own up your responsibility, Appa Rao,” Hasnain told The Hindu.
Incidentally, during Hasnain’s tenure, too, a dalit Ph.D scholar, Senthil Kumar, had committed suicide after he was denied a research supervisor.
Appa Rao Podle has since gone on leave, about a week after Rohith committed suicide. Vipin Srivastava has been appointment temporarily in place of Rao.
However, students say even Srivastava is under a cloud, for his alleged role in Senthil Kumar’s suicide. Hasnain described Srivastava as a first-rate academic but whose thinking was a little flawed. “He expects all his students to do brilliantly in their examinations and research but forgets that not all students live a life of privileges,” said Hasnain.
“Hyderabad is not as cold as Delhi, but it gets quite chilly. What kind of V-C would decide to send his own children to the footpath,” Hasnain said, referring to the makeshift tent under which the protesting students are living 24×7.