Ten students have been suspended from the University of Hyderabad and banned from staying in hostels inside the campus. In an order issued on 8 November by the varsity administration, three students were suspended for “preventing officials from delivering their duties” for two years and the remaining seven for a period of six months with “immediate effect”.
This came after students protested against a female student being allegedly abused by a warden and campus security guards who found her in Men’s hostel ‘J’ on 26 October. The guards reportedly took photos of the girl student on their personal mobile phones. Hundreds of students collected outside the hostel after the incident, including office bearers of Students Federation of India (SFI) unit and a GSCASH representative. The administration selectively took action against only the SFI leaders and GSCASH representative.
The University has seen an ongoing debate on whether girl students can enter men’s hostels or not. Two years earlier, when a circular was issued by University authorities banning girl students from entering men’s hostel, the then Student’s Union called for a University General Body Meeting in which the concerned circular was unanimously rejected by the student community. But the restrictions still exist in the hostel rulebooks. It is ironical that in the same campus, the Tagore International Hostel meant for foreign students is allotted for students without any gender specifications, perhaps because the administration’s patriarchal concerns are only for Indian students.
Sai Kumar Yamarthi, secretary of SFI’s varsity unit, who was one of those suspended, said that the punishment meted out to them was a targeted and vindictive one. Speaking to Newsclick, he questioned the arbitrary way in which the enquiry was conducted. “While about two hundred students were present at the place of the incident who were questioning the behavior of warden for abusing the female student and the behavior of a security official for capturing her photos in his personal mobile phone, why were only ten students identified and suspended?”
“The University administration has been on a spree of issuing notices intending to suppress student activism inside the campus,” he said and added that the student community will launch a collective struggle until the punishment is taken back.
The Student’s Union has condemned the suspension, calling it as an authoritative move. Earlier, in a statement released, it said “the abuse and humiliations against students, favored in the name of 'hostel visit', is a clear instance of a personal target and administrative high handedness” and “the selective cherry picking of the authorities in following the rulebook is incredulous and shows a transparent picture of the sexism and patriarchy that forms the basis of such a policy.”
The University administration has a well-known history of bias in the way enquiries are conducted in dealing sensitive cases. In 2015, when five Dalit research scholars were suspended, one of them was Rohith Vemula. Protesting against the biased punishment meted out to them under the influence of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, and with no sign of justice, Rohith Vemula committed suicide on 17 January 2016, which had sparked country wide protests. The SC-ST Atrocities Act case filed against Vice-Chancellor Apparao, and BJP Ministers Smriti Irani and B.Dattatreya accused of Rohith’s suicide has been put on the back burner by the police even as the Roopanwala Committee which looked into the matter declared Rohith Vemula as a non-Dalit.