Facing protest, Vice-Chancellor goes on leave

524894_thumpHyderabad (PTI) : Rao was under fire for his handling of the issue relating to the suspension of five Dalit students, one of whom, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide on January 17. pti file photo
Facing students’ protest over the death of Dalit research scholar Rohit Vemula, Hyderabad Central University Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile today proceeded on leave, saying he was “advised to be little away from campus” to break the current “impasse”.

“The Vice-Chancellor will be on leave. In the absence of the Vice-Chancellor, Vipin Srivastava, the senior most Professor, shall perform the duties of the Vice-Chancellor wef 24-01-2016,” the HCU said on its website.

However, it did not mention the period of leave. The development came a day before the ‘Chalo HCU’ protest march called by agitating students to press for their demands, which included removal of the VC from his post, in the wake of suicide by Rohit.

When contacted, Podile confirmed the development and said there was no pressure on him to go on leave.

“There is no pressure from anybody. It is my concern for my University. We want to resolve the issue now. There is an impasse now and to break that impasse we need to have some mechanism where I am advised to be little away from campus and somebody has to be there to be in command. We have a provision to ask a senior Professor to be In-charge and that’s what we have done,” he told PTI.

Asked whether he would take charge once normalcy returns in the university, he replied in positive.

Meanwhile, a section of the university administration opposed the decision to appoint Srivastava as officiating Vice -Chancellor and expressed “shock” over the move. It also expressed disappointment over Podile not being dismissed.

The SC/ST Faculty Forum and SC/ST Officers Forum alleged that Srivastava was one of the “accused” in the suicide of another Dalit student, Senthil, in 2008.

“We are shocked and dismayed at Dr Vipin Srivastava, assuming the office of Vice-Chancellor of Hyderabad Central University. Prof Srivastava has been accused in the suicide of a Dalit student, Senthil, in 2008.

“More recently he headed the Executive Council Sub- Committee which has been responsible for the death of Rohit Vemula Chakravarti,” the Forums said in a joint statement.

The Sub-Committee had recommended disciplinary action against Rohit and four other scholars in connection with an assault case.

In the light of his “deep involvement” in both suicide cases, he may be asked to immediately step down from the Vice-Chancellor’s office, the release said.

The Forums condemned the decision of HCU Executive Council to appoint Srivastava as interim Vice-Chancellor.

“We also express our disappointment with the decision of the authorities not to dismiss Prof Appa Rao Podile,” it said.

Earlier, Podile had criticised attempts to “politicise” the issue of Rohit’s suicide and trashed talks about being a “BJP man”. He had also refused to step down.

The Dalit scholar’s body was found hanging in a hostel room on HCU campus on January 17. On January 18, Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Podile, BJP MLC Ramachandra Rao and two others were named in an FIR on charges of abetment of suicide and and under relevant sections of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Rohit was among the five research scholars suspended by HCU in September last year for allegedly attacking an ABVP leader. He also one of the accused in the case of alleged assault on ABVP leader Susheel Kumar.

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