On 14th April 2016, Koonal Duggal, a Dalit PhD scholar was harassed and manhandled by security guards on orders from the Proctor Prakash Kona during Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations, organized by EFLU students and SC/ST non-teaching employees’ association. Security guards grabbed Koonal after he completed his speech and attempted to remove him from the premises, claiming that the Proctor had given specific orders to ‘restrict’ Koonal’s entry to the campus. Koonal and the students who intervened in the matter were not given any reason as to why he was being evicted. The Chief Security Officer claimed that he had a copy of the order signed by the Proctor but refused to produce a copy of the same.
Today, on 15th April 2016, Koonal, along with fellow Ambedkarite students, belonging to Dalit Adivasi Bahujan Minority Students’ Association (DABMSA), Students’ Islamic Organisation (SIO), Muslim Students Federation (MSF), Telangana Students’ Association (TSA) and Students Alliance for Justice and Democracy-EFLU (SAJD-E) and a member of the Sudents’ Union. approached the Proctor with a letter demanding the specific reason for why such a disciplinary action was taken against Koonal, and why he was not intimated personally or given an opportunity to defend himself. While the proctor initially granted admission to his room, he refused to accept Koonal’s letter, seeking redressal to the harassment and disciplinary action initiated against him. Instead the proctor refused to talk to the students and resorted to threatening those present instead. He accused students of instigating unrest and called the security staff to remove them. The students insisted that he was duty-bound to respond to a Dalit students’ allegation of casteism, he refused to enter in to further discussion, compelling the students to leave his office.
Later in the day, the security staff approached Koonal and attempted to give him a copy of the circular, dated March 29th, 2016, signed by the Proctor Prakash Kona. According to the letter, “Mr. Koonal Duggal, registered in the PhD program at the Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University has submitted his thesis in September 2015. However, he continues to trespass on this campus, indulging in anti-university activities. Therefore, his entry in to the EFL University campus, which includes the hostels is strictly prohibited, except with the permission of the Proctor.”
Students strongly condemn such a circular that does not specify in any way what exactly the Proctor means by anti-university activities. Koonal is an extremely bright and talented research scholar and artist. He is known as a quiet individual, who has responded in the most sensitive manner on ongoing issues of caste discrimination in universities. He has recently published an article on Round Table India on his experiences of casteism in Centre for Study of Social Sciences, Kolkata. We strongly feel that Koonal is being particularly targeted and profiled for his Dalit identity, and because he has spoken up about casteism in institutional spaces. We also feel that such disciplinary punishment is equivalent to the kind of social boycott that University of Hyderabad Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao subjected the five Dalit scholars to, leading to Rohith Vemula’s suicide.