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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

HYD DALIT’S SUICIDE FINDS AN ECHO IN KALINA CAMPUS - Mumbai Mirror


By Ankita Bhatkhande, Mumbai Mirror | Jan 20, 2016, 04.02 AM IST


The protesters, including students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and IIT-Bombay, joined hands under the banner of Mumbai Student Solidarity Forum.

Simmering tension on University of Hyderabad campus sparked by the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohit Vemula threatened to spread across the country on Tuesday. Mumbai saw a demonstration by nearly 200 students outside the Kalina campus of University of Mumbai. 

The protesters, including students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and IIT-Bombay, joined hands under the banner of Mumbai Student Solidarity Forum. They demanded strict action against those responsible for pushing the PhD student to take the extreme step. 

Vemula, who had been living in a tent after being expelled from hostel, killed himself on Sunday evening in Hyderabad. Though the student, who was affiliated to the Ambedkar Students Association, blamed no one for his death, his friends accused Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya of pressing university officials to take action against him. 

The minister had alleged that Vemula and four other ASA members had assaulted a leader of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad during an agitation on the campus. 

Carrying banners and placards that showed their resentment against politicisation of education, the group also urged Kalina authorities to convey their demands to the Union HRD ministry, apparently in their bid to put pressure on the Union government for prompt action. 

"What has happened to Rohit can happen with anyone. Communal and right-wing forces are entering campuses with a political motive. Instead of resolving the issues of students, the college administration is trying to silence voices of protest," said Ajmal Khan, a research scholar from TISS. 

To reinforce their stand, the students pointed out to a Satyanarayan pooja organised on the campus. "This is an academic space where rituals like these should not be entertained. Instead of celebrating these rituals, we should improve the academic environment," said an IIT-B student requesting not to be named. 

The university security didn't initially allow the demonstrators to enter the campus, but the students stayed put till the administration relented. "The university has given the ABVP permission to hold a candlelight march on the campus. But when students like us from different universities have gathered here, why are they denying our rights to a peaceful protest," said All India Forum for Right to Education member Ghanshyam Sonar at the scene. 

The students insisted that the vice chancellor speak to them and address their issues. "We want the VC to write to the ministry on our behalf as a mark of dissent for this institutional murder of Vemula," said one of them. 

Nearly four hours after the protest began, Vice Chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh met the students and assured them to do his bit. He said, "Mumbai university is a secular space. No discrimination would be entertained and tolerated on the basis of caste, class or gender".