Rohith Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula and brother Raja extended their support towards the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad for their indefinite hunger strike which began on December 17. The students are protesting against the administration’s decision to discontinue the BA in Social Sciences course at the Hyderabad campus and make the campus non-residential.
The Telangana Save Education Committee also joined the students in the protests.
The administration’s decision came when the students were on their semester break and even though there has been no official notice yet the administration, allegedly, has confirmed that they will not budge from their decision.
“Two of our students met the administrative staff at the Mumbai campus and they were told that this decision was being taken due to the lack of infrastructure. While it’s true that the institute operates out of the Telangana State Institute of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development’s campus, it has been like this from the first day. There has been no change in the situation to prompt such a decision,”
said Bibin Sam Thomas, a final year BA Social Science student.
“We got to know about the issue when people tried to apply for the BA course and could not find a link on the website. Then came news reports saying that the course has been scrapped and they will also discontinue hostel facilities. Our first form of protest was to boycott fees. That’s all we could do from home.”
Students have boycotted their classes and are participating in the protest. The management committee met the student representatives on December 13 — but the protest intensified after the talks turned out to be futile.
“The Deputy Director along with the management committee members shrugged off all the responsibilities. He said that our demands venture into issues that the Hyderabad administration cannot decide. They said that they equivocally support the decision,” said Vaivab Das, MA in Women Studies. “They said that they empathise with us but they have to stand by the declaration, when we told them that making the campus non-residential will make the institute inaccessible to a large section who cannot afford private accommodation” He said.
At this backdrop is the deferment of BA courses at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad became a decision to worry for those who are critical of the future of public education in the country. Telangana would again become a state without a single course being offered in social sciences, according to sociologist Kalpana Kannabiran.
Joel Thomas Mathews, a student of MA Women’s Studies wrote in countercurrents. “The same institution witnessed huge protests this February due to the non-payment of scholarships to students from SC, ST and OBC (NC) categories. The reasons put up by the administration against the closure of course was also akin to the lame comments that a corporate company would raise for firing an employee for no good reason.” Joel criticised.
An emergency meeting was called on December 15 and the students decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike till their demands are met or the management is ready for some negotiation.