The Hyderabad Central University is again witnessing a pitched confrontation between students seeking justice for Rohith Vemula and the administration that they blame for the Dalit scholar's suicide in January.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the students had no food, electricity or water on campus as the non-teaching staff struck work. Many students were assaulted by the police on campus, and at least 30 of them were arrested for allegedly vandalising the vice chancellor’s office.
The students say the varsity’s administration has turned the campus into a “concentration camp”, but few people are coming out in their support. On social media, they pointed out the contrast between the heavy news coverage received by the Jawaharlal Nehru University after its students were charged with sedition and the scanty reportage about Hyderabad University.
“Rape threats are issued at female students and Muslim students are called terrorists,” wrote Vaikhari Aryat, a student of Hyderabad Central University. “Nobody bothers to report even. Around 36 people including 3 faculties are missing after police detained them. Do you care? Students are denied food, water, electricity, internet, movement and ATM facilities for more than 24 hrs. This university has turned into a concentration camp where they imprison its own students. Are you even listening?”
“I see nobody standing up for UoH,” Aryat added. “I see no ‘idea of UoH’ being celebrated. I’m not worried and nor am I surprised. I know you will wake up when one of us just dies. You need victims to celebrate, not warriors.”
The students’ agitation intensified this week when Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile resumed duties after a two-month-long period of leave. Podile had gone on “indefinite leave” on January 24, as protests erupted following Vemula’s suicide, with a number of students blaming the administrator for the death. Agitating students him to resign and for Parliament to pass the Rohith Act, a law to prevent caste-based prejudice in educational institutions.
The fresh campaign has received support from JNU as well as other institutions such as Osmania University and Hyderabad’s English and Foreign Languages University. On Wednesday Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the JNU students’ union, arrived at Hyderabad Central University to speak to the students, but was denied entry, along with other outsiders, by the administration.
On Thursday, according to NDTV, a shoe was hurled at Kumar as he prepared to address a conference in Hyderabad. “The offender, a cow protection activist named Naresh Kumar, was removed by the police,” the news channel’s website said.
Kumar’s visit to Hyderabad received some attention in the national print media on Thursday, but the students’ agitation went largely overlooked.
Here’s a look at the coverage in some major papers:
The Indian Express
The Delhi edition of the Indian Express didn’t put Hyderabad University on the front page.
Instead, it carried two stories on it on page 9 with the focus being Kanhaiya Kumar’s visit.
The Times of India
The largest-selling English daily’s Delhi edition gave Hyderabad University two-column space at the bottom of the page, with the headline “Hyd univ locked down: water, power supply cut”. The four-column lead of the day was India’s victory over Bangladesh in the T20 World Cup.
The newspaper that front-paged banner headlines during the JNU row mentioned Hyderabad University in a snippet on page 1. The story, on the water and food shortage on the campus, appeared on page 3.
The Delhi edition of the Hindustan Times did a two-column story on its front page that was focused on Kanhaiya Kumar’s press address.
The Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle carried three stories on Hyderabad University, one of which was on Kumar and the others on the students’ agitation.
Hindi newspapers followed the same news palette as the English papers. Navbharat Times, one of the dailies published by BCCL, the parent company of The Times of India, carried a frontpage story on how Kumar was denied permission to address students on the campus.
In its Delhi edition, Punjab Kesri had a story about Kumar’s visit.