Hyderabad: Appa Rao Podile, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad has gone on indefinite leave. Podile has been under fire for a while for his role in Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suspension and his subsequent suicide.
A note on their official website said: “The Vice-Chancellor will be on leave. In the absence of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Vipin Srivastava, the Seniormost Professor, shall perform the duties of the Vice-Chancellor w.e.f. 24-01-2016 (F.N.). Update: Interim VC Vipin Srivastava claimed that Prof Appa Rao Podile had gone on leave for personal reaons.
In an interview with The Hindu, Podile had said, “I am as shocked as anyone else by Rohith Vemula’s death. He was my student in a Master’s programme and was a gifted student. When I read what is being referred to as the suicide note or his last note, my question to everyone is: does he blame the university for taking his own life? Please read the note carefully and tell me if he mentions the university as the reason for taking his life.”
He also explained that he wasn’t the VC when the decision was taken to expel the five students for a semester and when he took over he had requested the Executive Council whether they could reconsider the expulsion.
Vemula’s family rejected the ex-gratia offered to them on Saturday, and criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, asking why it took them five days to respond. Vemula’s mother Radhika, sister Neelima and brother Raju, who visited the campus, demanded that “those responsible for his death” be brought to book. “Not Rs eight lakh, we don’t want even if you give Rs eight crore… from HCU where he died,” Neelima said.
Radhika who was speaking to a crowd of protestors said that the VC needs to explain why her son was expelled and “compelled to sleep in the open for two weeks”. She demanded the VC’s arrest. “I will fight till justice is done,” she said. She was also angry about the caste of her first born being the topic of discussion. She asked why such questions did not come up “when Nirbhaya died in Delhi after her rape”.
Earlier, Rohith’s mother refused to meet the VC when he went to her house. Podile had told PTI: “I went to meet Rohith’s mother… along with two professors who informed her that I had come and wanted to meet her. But she conveyed to them that she will meet me only on the campus along with four other students.”
“We (Radhika) have no objection to meeting him (the VC) anywhere in the campus along with the four students and not outside,” Podile quoted Rohit’s mother as telling Geeta.
The suspension of the four Dalit research scholars, against whom action was taken along with Rohith for allegedly assaulting a ABVP leader, was revoked yesterday by HCU authorities owing to intense pressure.
Rohith’s younger brother, Raja, said Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani assured his mother of “initiating necessary action based on the report of the two-member committee”. The team of Shakila T Shamsu, OSD in the Ministry, and Deputy Secretary-level officer Surat Singh came to Hyderabad to look into the entire matter and interacted with all the stakeholders.
Earlier, RPI leader Prakash Ambedkar has demanded that Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya, and Hyderabad Central University Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile should be booked for the abetment of suicide by Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula. “A central university is an autonomous body and the HRD Minister had no right to control it. By repeatedly writing letters to the Vice-Chancellor to initiate action against five Dalit scholars, Irani had clearly exceeded her brief,” he alleged. “So all those involved in the action against the students which led to Vemula’s suicide should face charges of abetment to suicide,” he demanded while talking to reporters here yesterday.
The Dalit leader also defended Vemula and the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) in the Hyderabad varsity for having protested against 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Menon’s hanging. “That Yakub was wrongly hanged can be a matter of a debate in a democracy. I personally feel that there was no need to hang him,” the RPI leader said. On the Pathankot airbase terror attack, he said the Narendra Modi government and his party were “not serious” about the handling of internal security or protecting the nation. “The attack on IAF base was a grave security breach and it definitely involved lots of insiders and Indians. But even after so many days, the government has failed to unravel the whole episode,” Ambedkar said.