High on science, low on morals
The University Of Hyderabad (UOH) must indeed be great or so thought of. It has produced Dalit geniuses like Rajashekhar Vundru, of the IAS and the first Collector to get his entire District in Haryana online. He also happens to be the first Dalit-guest-editor of the supplement of a national daily. Rajashekhar had done his PG in Sciences from UOH. The university has also produced Dalit Scholar D Shyambabu, who turned down a UPSC IRS job in favour of academics. Incidentally, these two hidden hands formed mind and body of the now much discussed Bhopal Document. The University has also had on its faculty leading Dalit economist Prof KS Chalam.
According to the Department of Science and Industrial Research, UOH stands at number one when it comes to science education in India. The National Information System for Science and Technology has placed UOH in the High Input-High OutPut category, in terms of a citation index. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council has accredited it with a five star rating.
But how well does UOH do when it comes to morals? To begin with, it has a Shudra VC. The problem begins right here. We recently came across a shocking incident when, on January 11, 2002, 10 Dalit students, of whom nine were research scholars, were rusticated from UOH. To make the matter even more bizarre, an FIR was lodged against them.
Now look at the case diary. On November 19, 2001, a General Body Meeting was held in the New Research Scholars Hostel, where students from the poorer sections, mostly Dalits, expressed their concern over the rising mess bills. On November 20, two posters were put up on the walls of the university by non Dalit students. These were abusive about Dalits. On November 26, the BR Ambedkar Students Association submitted a memorandum to the VC, demanding action be taken against the people launching the hate-campaign - so far nothing has happened.
On January 9, 2002, Dalit students met the chief warden and again discussed the rising mess charges. Reports allege that the warden then began to segregate vegetarian and non-vegetarian eaters. This was a clear ploy to divide Dalits and non-Dalits in the dining hall, as non-Dalits find it "polluting" to eat with Dalits. Those aware of Dalit food culture may recollect that, apart for health reasons, most Dalits are non-vegetarian. Finding no satisfactory response, the Dalit students, with prior appointment, approached the chief warden again on January 10. During the discussion, the chief warden is said to have lost his cool, abused the students and held one of them by the collar. The students also got agitated and in the ensuing commotion, a minor scuffle broke out. A few staff members, who had no business being there, and a warden received minor injuries. While trying to protect the chief warden from any possible threat, one Dalit teacher also got injured.
How did the UOH administration react? On January 12, within 48 hours, the University Executive Committee took the extreme step of rusticating 10 Dalit students and an FIR was filed against them. UOH issued no notices, no explanations were given and no court of enquiry held. I can recount my own experience of student movements in JNU and the administration's response.
In May 1983, JNU witnessed one of the most popular student movements in post-Independence India. The entire student body was involved and about 600 of us, along with over 200 women students, were put in Tihar Jail for a fortnight. Violence broke out on campus and a number of university officials were injured. The university was closed sine die and an entire academic session, 1983-84, was suspended. Such was the magnitude of the movement that many university teachers, who were assigned administrative duties, began to wear helmets even while visiting marketplaces, lest some student throw stones at them.
The university wanted to punish us. They issued showcause notices to some 300 of us. The people who, in their replies, disassociated themselves from the events which took place, were let off. Some 45 of us, however, admitted having been a part of it. On that basis, we were suspended but allowed to keep our hostel rooms, eat our food etc. A court of enquiry was set up with Justice Prithviraj as its chairperson. The hearings went on for months and the people who still insisted that they had led the movement were rusticated for one to three years. We were, however, given the option to "regret" what we had done and those who did so, were let off with a warning. I was one of the some one dozen adamant about upholding the sprit of the movement and was rusticated from JNU for three years. In 1987, we were honourably invited by JNU to come back. This is how justice was meted out in JNU.
But did UOH deliver "justice" within 48 hours? It is alleged that Justice PN Bhagwati is Chancellor of UOH. If that be the truth, shouldn't he intervene and stop this madness of rusticating 10 young Dalit minds immediately, lest scholars like Vundru and Shyam feel ashamed of being UOH alumni?