New Delhi: After the alleged harassment and suspension of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad University for taking on the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad before committing suicide and the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders on charges of sedition, it is the turn of Richa Singh – the first woman president of the Allahabad University Students’ Union – to come under pressure from the BJP’s student wing and university administration.
“They are trying to throw me out of the Ph.D. programme by saying my admission should be canceled,” she told The Wire by telephone from Allahabad. “I had been fighting a battle against the ABVP. I stopped the entry of Yogi Adityanath into the campus. I have raised questions on the wrong appointments made by the vice-chancellor. So for all this they are targeting me and trying to cancel my admission,” she said.
Stating that she was a Ph.D. scholar who was admitted in 2013-14 and was about to complete two years of study, Richa wondered what has gone wrong so suddenly. “Till now they did not find anything wrong with my admission. But now they claim it is not correct. What were they doing for these two years?” she asked.
Richa is doing her doctorate from the Globalisation and Development Studies Centre. “When my admission took place in 2013-14, there were two seats in this centre. They insist that of the two seats, one was a general seat and the other a reserved seat. And as per a roster or a schedule of rotation of seats for various categories, they are now claiming that the seat was meant for the reserved category. So they have raised this technical issue.”
Even now, she said, no question has been asked of her directly. “My department was asked by the dean for a comment and it has already clarified to the university that there was no discrepancy in my admission.”
Furthermore, Richa, who is an M.Phil gold medallist, said it is committee of the university which decides about the roster. It is a competent authority of the university comprising the VC, registrar and dean (research and development). Similarly, a committee headed by the VC selects the Ph.D. scholars. So if there is any anomaly, it is the university which should examine its competence, she said.
Richa, who won the post of president as an independent candidate after the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha supported her candidature when the nomination of its own candidate got rejected, sees politics behind the whole episode as the ABVP, which won all the remaining seats, wants her to go. “Now when I am questioning the functioning of the university as a president, they want to remove me and install the vice-president, who is from ABVP, as the president.“
The 27-year-old student leader also claimed that the VC is also opposed to her as she has been raising the issue of women’s safety and gender sensitisation on the campus and had opposed his move to appoint as his OSD a man accused of sexual harassment, despite there being 30-35 candidates for the post.
Richa sees a design behind the attack on elected student leaders. “First Hyderabad was a target, then JNU and now it is Allahabad University,” she said, equating her case with that of Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar. “The first woman president is being mentally harassed. Sometimes they put me on notice, sometimes they call me a Naxal,” she said.
Incidentally, Richa had opposed the invitation extended by the other four ABVP office-bearers in the students union to the BJP MP from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath, who is known for his anti-minority utterances. Thereafter, the ABVP had tried to stall her move to invite Siddharth Varadarajan, a founding editor of The Wire, for a lecture on the campus claiming that he was “anti-national”. However, Richa had stood her ground and shifted the programme to a different location.
The Wire sent a questionnaire to Allahabad University vice chancellor Rattan Lan Hangloo. At the time of publication, his answers were yet to be received.