HYDERABAD: The man directly in the firing line of students and teachers protesting Rohith Vemula’s suicide at the Hyderabad Central University has stepped aside. But in what could invite more protests, he has been replaced by the professor who led the panel to decide on the punishment for the Dalit research scholar and his fellow students.
Citing “personal” reasons, Professor Appa Rao Podile, who has been named in a police complaint into the suicide and blamed by students for the action against Rohith, has gone on leave and Professor Vipin Srivastava has been made the interim vice chancellor of the university.
The removal means yet another demand has been met of those who have said they will not allow normal functioning of the varsity till they get what they call “justice for Rohith Vemula”. On Thursday, the University had “terminated the punishment” on Rohith’s four friends.
The 26-year-old PhD scholar had hanged himself last Sunday after living 13 days in what students had dubbed ‘velivada’ or an ostracised area meant for Dalits. This after Rohith and his four friends were expelled from their college hostel and administrative block, and disallowed from participating in student activities. They were however allowed to attend classes and access the library.
Week-long protests after Rohith’s death have demanded the vice-chancellor’s replacement and action against Union ministers Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani, who are believed to have written letters to pressurise the varsity authorities to act against the students to act.
But will the move to replace Mr Rao with Mr Srivastava douse the fires raging on the campus? An attempt to call a General Body meeting of the Hyderabad University Teachers Association on Friday, to try and restore normalcy, after the suspension of the students was revoked, had failed.
Even a Rs. 8 lakh compensation announced by the university for Rohith’s family has been short of the 50 lakh rupees demanded by the protestors as compensation.
A march has been called tomorrow to drum up support from different parts of the country for the week-long protest.