Hyderabad: In protest against the detention of six students (they were later released) of Hyderabad Central University (HCU) after the police entered the campus to stop them from screening Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Ram ke Naam at the sociology department’s lecture hall on August 20, a ‘Save Campus Democracy’ march was held in the campus on Thursday.
The march by students was held in reaction to the Telangana Police’s continuous intervention in the campus in support of the university administration, as also against the silence of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad-led Students’ Union on the threat to the debate and discussion culture of the university.
The march was held by various student organisations under the banner of ‘Students for Campus Democracy’. According to the students, since August 5 (when the abrogation of Article and bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir was announced by the Centre), the Telangana Police has been continuously intervening in campus activities related to solidarity gatherings and academic discussions.
“If democratic spaces like these are tampered with, then who will produce ideas? Whatever is happening in this campus is a direct implication and reflection of what is happening in our country today,” said Abhishek Nandan, Unit Secretary of Students Federation of India HCU.
When asked about the silence of the students’ union to the threats to debates and discussions, ABVP’s Aarti Nagpal, who is the union president, said: “We are not stopping anybody from holding any talk or event..”
Incidentally, on August 18, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated ABVP conducted a talk on the Kashmir issue without any intervention from the administration and police. When asked, she said “for the ABVPs’ talk, all the required permissions were obtained..”
On August 5, all student organisations of HCU, except ABVP, OBC Federation and Sevalal Vidyarthi Dal, jointly called for a protest gathering at 6.30 p.m in the south campus of the university in solidarity with the people of J&K, who were under lockdown. More than 150 students had gathered for the even within a short time. While the students belonging to SFI, Ambedkar Students’ Association, Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Association and four other organisations were preparing posters and placards for the peaceful gathering, the Cyberabad Police intervened as also the Rapid Action Force (RAF), which was deployed inside the campus. The police asked the students not to gather, as they had declared Section 144. Apparently, immediately after the gathering the university administration had released a circular stating that all forms of protests and agitations, and assembly of five or more persons at one place is prohibited until further orders. However, the same night, the Cyberabad Police Commissionerate published a statement saying “Section 144 is not imposed anywhere in Hyderabad.”
When asked, the Assistant Commissioner of Hyderabad, declined to reply in the matter.
Also read: SFI Protest in HCU Enters Third Day
On August 7, in solidarity with the national protest day called by Left parties against the Centres’ decision on scrapping Article 370, the SFI and other Left student organisations in the campus organised a solidarity meeting in the north campus. During that gathering, too, the police intervened along with RAF and tried to stop the meeting..
In the gathering, Arman Kazmi, a Kashmiri student of MA Philosophy, who is part of JKSA said, "it has been more than 70 hours, I haven't spoken to my family, my friends no one of them. I don't know what is happening there right now. I can't explain to you, Since last Sunday, after every call my mom used to tell me, ‘Don't worry if you don't get a call from us. I can't explain how painful it is right now, how devastated we all Kashmiris in different parts of the country right now... "
On August 13, the Social Sciences Forum and Abhiyaan (the student collectives of School of Social Sciences and the School of Humanities, respectively) jointly organised a panel discussion titled “Kashmir 370 and Beyond”. The panel consisted of Prof. Kham Khan Suan Hausing from the Department of Political Science, Dr. G. Vijay, from Department of Economics and Dr. Masrook Ahmed Dar as well as Dr. Shefali Jha from the Centre for Comparative Literature. But at the last moment, the Dean of School of Humanities cancelled the permission to conduct the panel discussion in Humanities Auditorium without assigning any reason. She said: “You can conduct the talk outside the university, if you want to conduct a discussion here it should be something fruitful..”
Later, a statement by Abhiyaan said “It was decided that the programme would be conducted at the Humanities Auditorium and we had obtained permission from the Dean of School of Humanities for the same. However, at the last moment, we were informed by the Dean that the permission was revoked, without citing any particular reason.” However, the programme was conducted with over 300 students gathering in the open space outside the School of Humanities. When the panel discussion going on the police once again tried to deter the professors on the panel.
Professor Masrook said, "I hope these debates will continue in the future without interferences from the administration and from other sources and I would also like to tell something to the police department, that these are academic institutions, Sir please don't suppress the right of dissent…”
On August 16, the SFI organised a public talk by Prof. G. Haragopal, the human rights activist (who has served more than 20 years on the campus as a Professor and in the position of Dean and other administrative positions), in the north campus on the topic “Democracy: Present and Future” at 5.30 p.m. At 2 p.m, the administration gave orders to close all the shops on the campus and security was beefed up in both gates of the campus.
When Prof. Haragopal started his talk, the university registrar, along with a group of campus security guards, intervened and try to stop the programme by showing the circular stating a ban on conducting talks and gathering in public spaces. When the students’ started raising questions about freedom in the university, Prof. Hargopal asked the registrar, "this is one of the excellent universities in the country, how do you think it achieved the excellence if there is no freedom? "
The registrar gave his word to Prof Hargopal that the programme would be allowed to be conducted in an auditorium. The next day SFI conducted the programme in Ambedkar auditorium of the university. In his talk, Prof. Hargopal said, "If the government enjoys legitimacy then no need to use the force, if you are using the force, if the Vice Chancellor is bringing the police that means your legitimacy is lost.., your credibility is lost.. you are not able to manage the students... "
Also read: Prof. Haragopal and Several Teachers Detained for Attending Indoor Meeting in Hyderabad
On August 20, the All India Students Association (AISA), organised the screening of Anand Patwardhan’s National award winning documentary "Ram Ke Naam" when the police came and detained activists of AISA and SFI, with the silent support from the university administration. AISA said it had taken formal permission to conduct the screening inside the new seminar hall of the School of Social Sciences but at the last moment, the permission was denied.
With permission from the Sociology Department, they tried to screen the documentary film in a classroom. When the screening was about to begin, the police entered the block. AISA said it agreed to cancel the screening, but the police took away the laptop of one of them, and in the scuffle that followed, six students were detained by the police, including former students’ union general secretary and SFI activist Arif Ahmed. More than 200 students then blocked the university main gate, demanding immediate release of the activists.
And around 8 p.m all six were released, after which students, led by SFI, burnt the effigy of Vice Chancellor Appa Rao inside the campus.
Sachin CS is a student in Hyderabad Central University.