“Student Union President's suspension is unprecedented”: Protests erupt at HCU against suspension, fines, FIR

These orders were issued after the HCUSU and other student leaders protested at the guest house of Vice-Chancellor Prof BJ Rao in response to the cancellation of the varsity’s annual festival Sukoon
The protest, led by HCUSU.
The protest, led by HCUSU.Express

The Student Union (SU) of the University of Hyderabad (UoH), commonly called Hyderabad Central University (HCU) issued a protest call yesterday, June 23, condemning the suspension orders against the HCUSU President, Ateeq Ahmed and four other student activists. 


The order, which reads “Say no to turning out university into Hyderabad Central Jail”, called for students to protest on the varsity’s campus at 2.30 pm today, June 24. 

HCUSU calls the protest.
HCUSU calls the protest.Sources

The administration of Hyderabad Central University on May 31 issued suspension orders to Ateeq Ahmed, G Mohith, Kripa Maria George, Sohal Ahamed and Asika VM – all leaders from the left-wing Students’ Federation of India (SFI) – for the semester of July-December 2024. 


The admin also expelled these students from the campus on July 1 and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000, as part of the disciplinary action.


These orders were issued after the HCUSU and other student leaders staged a protest at the guest house of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof BJ Rao, in response to the cancellation of the varsity’s annual festival, Sukoon, and allegedly gheraoed him and his family on May 18. 


Further, a First Investigation Report (FIR) was also filed on the students based on police complaints filed by the administration. 

“Admin refusing to revoke suspension”

According to Ateeq, despite efforts by the students to speak to the administration and have their suspensions revoked, the students are yet to receive a response from them. 


“We had been trying to speak to the university's vice-chancellor for the past 15 days to revoke our suspensions, but he didn’t give us a chance,” he said. He added that the Dean of Student Welfare, Prof Vasantha Srinivasa Rao, assured to take their case to the administration, and told them not to worry, but that never happened.


Even when the VC finally agreed to a meeting with the students last week, Ateeq alleges that the meeting was not productive or conclusive. “The VC heard everything we had to say. However, he didn’t say a word in response, and there has been no update to date,” he adds. 


The administration did not budge from its decision when the students appealed to them on humanitarian grounds, says G Mohith. 


He adds, “Three of the students who were suspended are beneficiaries of the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF), and would be ineligible for it upon suspension. These students come from marginalised communities, and the fellowship is their only source of livelihood.” 


“Suspended students cannot appear for any other entrance exams, and the FIRs also have an impact on our careers. The administration is playing with the future of its students, for no fault of theirs,” Ateeq adds. 


“We are compelled to protest”

Ateeq says that the HCU Student Union resorts to protests only if there is no action by the admin. 

“Despite security clearances from the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Gachibowli Police Station, the administration cancelled Sukoon arbitrarily,” he claims and adds that no reason was given to them either. 


“Several students already bought passes, and arrangements for the fest were already underway. We even made advance payments to artists slated to perform.,” he says, and reveals that these arrangements had to be made from the organisers’ own pockets. 


“The administration was not releasing funds for the festival unless we present bills, but that renders it impossible to be prepared for emergency spending,” he alleges and claims that they had to use money from their fellowships. 

He adds that despite asking several times about the fest, the VC refused to give them an answer. 


“It was because of this that we had to protest on May 18. The Student Union was also under pressure from the students,” Ateeq says. 


According to him, the administration repeats this pattern of not engaging in dialogue with the students to resolve issues until they protest, for every issue faced by the student community. 


“Unprecedented attack on students’ democratic rights”

Moreover, the students allege that not only does the administration not resolve their issues, but also imposes disciplinary, and even police action on the students every time they stage a protest. 

“Protests are a common aspect of the everyday life of HCU. Neither the students nor the faculty and staff are happy with police presence in an academic institution like HCU every time there is a protest,” says Ateeq. 


“By autocratically cancelling Sukoon and by calling the police on us when we protest, the administration is attacking our right to union. The college festival is a festival of the union, and the VC and registrar are undermining that,” he adds. 


He questions why the administration, particularly the VC, allows for issues to fester and remain unresolved to the point where the students have to protest. 

“Does the VC not know the history of this campus? Does he not know why Rohith Vemula died?” asks G Mohith, comparing these suspension orders to those issued against the late Dalit PhD scholar and student activist Rohith Vemula and his comrades from the Ambedkar Students’ Association. 


To recall, Rohith Vemula died by suicide in 2015, after his monthly stipend was cancelled by the university, and eventually, he was suspended as an alleged attempt to target him for raising issues on campus. 


“Protests are an expression of the university’s democratic character. If students of HCU cannot protest on campus, there is no point of this university existing,” Mohith says. He adds that this was also the first time in the history of the university that a sitting, elected Student Union President is being suspended. 


Further expanding on the comparison with the case of Rohith Vemula, Kripa Maria George says that such “mass suspension orders” were last issued to Rohith Vemula and his comrades from ASA. 


“It is quite evident that the administration is trying to curb dissenting voices, and make an example out of us,” she says, adding that only students from progressive student organisations are being targeted. 


“Even when we staged a rally in solidarity with Palestine, or organised a screening of the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several students were fined up to Rs 1,000,” she claims. 


Ateeq also alleges that he is being targeted, despite being the President of the HCUSU for being a Muslim. 


Further, Kripa alleges that the VC was given a position in the Central Government committee formed to investigate the transparency of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test - Undergraduate (NEET-UG) and the University Grants Commission - National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) exams, right after he refused to revoke the suspension orders and fines on them. 

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