The VC of Hyderabad University Has No Option But to Quit

UoH has now abrogated its right to be called an academic institution of a high level of excellence, by decimating – even criminalising – the space for reasoned dissent by its students and teachers

Security men taking away students agitating for justice for Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University on Saturday. Credit: PTI

Security men taking away students agitating for justice for Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University on Saturday. Credit: PTI

I have followed the recent happenings at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) closely, and I am shell-shocked at the behaviour of the police and the university administration.

I was a university student between 1942 and 1947 when we fought our battle for Independence.

The battle that UoH and JNU students are fighting today is no less grave and important: it is against casteism, religious imperialism, revivalism, denial of the right to dissent, and discrimination on the basis of circumstances of birth, all of which would be sorely detrimental to our country’s real progress.

The barbaric (uncivilized will be too mild a word) treatment of students and supportive teachers – by the police, the imposition of false and trumped-up charges on the students by the university authorities and the police, and the denial of basic facilities such as food, water and electricity to the students by the university management on March 22 for no justifiable reason, are matters of the greatest concern, for they are signs of major cracks in our fabric of democracy, and of their being filled up by the glue of autocracy.

I have been connected with UoH from the beginning – from the time Dr Gurbax Singh, its first Vice Chancellor, came to Hyderabad and looked for an appropriate piece of land for the University.

Its first courses were delivered in my lab of that time (now the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology), and I encouraged him to accept the present land. Dr Gurbax Singh, an outstanding organic chemist, respected dissent for, as a scientist, he knew very well that knowledge progresses through nurturing dissent. He would be turning in his grave, were he to know of the above happenings at UoH.

UoH has now abrogated its right to be called an academic institution of a high level of excellence, by decimating – even criminalising – the space for reasoned dissent by its students and teachers.

The role of the vice chancellor of UoH, Prof Appa Rao, in the above process and in the brutalisation of the students and teachers on March 22, makes his position in the university totally untenable. And I believe that he has no option but to quit – or be removed.

I am reminded, by contrast, of the vice chancellors of my time. My vice chancellor at Lucknow University was Acharya Narendra Dev; of Allahabad University, Amarnath Jha; of Benaras Hindu University, S Radhakrishnan; of Aligarh Muslim University, Zakir Hussain; of Andhra University, C R Reddy; of Madras University, Lakshmanswamy Mudaliar; of M S University of Baroda, Hansa Mehta; and of Calcutta University, N K Sidhanta (before him Ashutosh Mukherji). Two of the above became presidents of India. None of them would allow police to enter the university campus. And that was during British rule! They commanded – and not demanded – respect. If the students had a problem, none of them would have hidden in a room (as Prof. Appa Rao did) but would have faced the students squarely and confidently.

I congratulate the students and the supportive teachers of the UoH who are working towards ensuring that Rohith Vemula’s suicide was not in vain. I am 88-years-old and wheel-chair-bound, so I have limitations to what I can do.

I am in solidarity with the students and teachers who are fighting for truth, justice, human rights including right to dissent, and true progress of our beloved country

Dr Pushpa M Bhargava is a former Vice Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, a former member, National Security Advisory Board, and former and founder director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

  • veegee

    If the students of a University demands, that too in a violent way, the removal of the head of that Institution then that is rowdy behavior. Indiscipline should not be tolerated in educational institutions. Here ultra leftists and a few jihadists are creating deliberate trouble according to the central government. Tax payers money is spend liberally in Universities and the prime duty of students is to devote their time and hard work in pursuit of excellence in academic studies. It seems that the ultra leftists are targeting the educational institutions of India to foment trouble.

  • S.Thiyagarajan

    Why she is not condemning the thuggery commited by a section of the students and teachers in vandalising the VC’s residence? Will the students of her generation have done that? Thugs in the garb of students should be dealt as such. Rohit Vemula commited suicide sometime back and an enquiry is going on to find out the reason for that. For that matter students commiting suicide in campuses around the country has become a serious issue by itself. If every institution is shutdown and the VC has been ghaeroed for that purpose, there will be very few institutions in the country left functioning. To blame somebody for that without any solid proof and obstructing the VC from functioning is not the solution for that. Disgruntled politicians and opportunistic trouble makers has blown the incident out of proportion. They are doing vulture politics. Will the author condemn the section of unruly students and teachers for their objectionable behaviour?

  • Dr M M Tiwari,Raipur

    Situations in educational institutions have changed a lot from Dr Pushpa M Bhargav’s time.Now there is much anarchy and indiscipline in educational institutions .A handful of defiant students try to disrupt the peaceful academic atmosphere of institutions for their vested interests and play in the hands of politicians.Though no innocent student or teacher should be harassed by any means but those causing unnecessary nuisance and indiscipline should not be spared and be dealt very strongly,be it JNU,UOH or any other institution.

  • IAF101

    Police purview exists across the land – law and order and not void in a university campus and students are not exempt from following the rule of law whatever might be their high minded ideals. And vandalism, violence, disruption and general disobedience are not tolerated in places of learning. There is a difference between intellectual criticism and political rabble rousing.

    Rohit Vemula committed the crime of suicide as he was incompetent in handling his own affairs and intolerant of people in the ABVP who didn’t support his organization or his views and he confronted them. He was also unable and incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions or apologizing for accosting a rival student whose only crime was writing a Facebook Post against his own political ideologies. Yet apparently he is some great champion of tolerance, freedom of thought and other such naive sanctimonious rubbish.

    There may have been a time when age was equated with wisdom – and our culture teaches us to respect our elders – so I respectfully disagree with this article and this author and his views in toto but please don’t presume to compare 1947 with 2016 and the politics between the two eras and try to talk about “police brutality” and “Vice Chancellors duty” . Doing so insults our intelligence.