University of Hyderabad teachers Dr K. Y. Ratnam, Head, Centre for Ambedkar Studies and faculty member, Department of Political Science and Dr Tathagata Sengupta, faculty member, Department of Mathematics, today began indefinite relay hunger strike in protest against their “unjust and casteist” suspension.
They said, “In a fit of vindictiveness, the University of Hyderabad issued notices of suspension on June 13, several months after they were targeted for arrest simply for the noble act of requesting the police to desist from beating the students during lathi-charge on March 22. It is also extremely opportunistic for the University to pass these orders, after using their services for the entire duration of the semester until May, retroactively deeming them suspended starting March 22 until further orders”.
“This act amounts to continuation of caste atrocities against Dalits. Prof. Ratnam has been targeted in a casteist manner by Prof. Appa Rao repeatedly since 2002, starting from when Appa Rao shifted him from his position as a warden to specifically tend to sanitation in hostels. Appa Rao’s presence as Vice-Chancellor of the University and his continued actions of socially boycotting Dalit students, being responsible for Rohith’s death, then again creating a social boycott and cutting off access to food and water on campus, arresting students, who were peacefully protesting, brutalising Dalit students who were cooking food, tearing apart the tent and banners bearing Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s image and quotes, and now suspending Dalit faculty creating an extremely intimidating atmosphere for Dalits on the campus.
“The guidelines on suspension warn that “Suspension, though not a penalty, is to be resorted to sparingly. Whenever a Govt. Servant is placed under suspension not only does the Govt. lose his services but also pays him for doing no work. It also has a stigma attached to it” The guidelines clearly stipulate that the only purpose of suspension serves is to stigmatise professors. This in the context of the caste discrimination faced by Prof. Ratnam over the years can be construed as a stigmatization that is casteist in intent, implemented by the same upper caste dominated Executive Council that subjected Rohith and four other Dalit students to a social boycott, an act punishable under the SC/ST Atrocity Act.
“We demand that the suspension be revoked, and that Prof.Appa Rao be immediately suspended from duty and prevented from committing any further atrocity against Dalits on campus. We demand justice for Rohith Vemula and his family, and an end to caste atrocities and discrimination on university campuses”. (NSS)