BBAU: Will another ‘Rohith Vemula’ have to commit suicide to open the eyes of university officials?

On September 8, 2016, the administration of the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) Lucknow summarily rusticated 8 Dalit students, without serving the mandatory show cause notice. To add to their humiliation they were forced to vacate their hostel rooms and their entry into the BBAU campus was “banned”. One more Indian university campus has fallen prey to rigid and narrow authoritarianism. Among the students rusticated was one student who is under serious medication; his medicines and ultrasound reports were flung out by the administration.

Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University dalit students

It all started on September 7 (a Wednesday), when a group of Dalit students were waiting outside the administration building with a list of complaints regarding hostel facilities, access to libraries etc. Routine demands that students make to authorities. They were standing outside the office of the Registrar. All of a sudden, students allege, professor Kamal Jaiswal came out and started not just rebuking them but also hurled casteist abused. “ We are not here to listen to the complaints of —- (name of a particular caste), he is reported to have said. When one of the students present tried to remonstrate, he even started abusing them it is reported, threatening to destroy their academic careers. A criminal complaint (FIR) was lodged against six of the Dalit students. After several efforts that failed, the students have lodged a criminal complaint under the Atrocities Act against professor Jaiswal. This was possible only on September 23 after they approached the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh.

The students who have now approached even the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes (NCSCST) have a serious grudge against the Vice-Chancellor, professor, R.C. Solti who issued orders for rustication without even fairly examining the matter.

The conflict goes back several months and also involves lobbies who have been trying desperately to get the 50 per cent reservation for SCs/STs allowed in this institute of higher learning cancelled. Just a few months ago, an FIR was lodged against 19 Dalit students belonging to the Ambedkar University Dalit Students Union) which also included the eight students who have been rusticated. The FIR was withdrawn when it was found to have no substance. Allegations were of ‘anti-social activity.’

The past 36 months or so have seen a bitter struggle between students, mentally and physically tortured, it is alleged by Jaiswal. In 2015, there was a sustained agitation against him and his proctorship. There are serious and proven allegations of sexual harassment and gendered violence –upheld by a Committee headed by a retired Judge of the  –against him. For this he was removed from his post but has, since, been appointed on the Board of Management of the University. Jaiswal despite being on the appointed staff of the university has violated rules and approached the High Court for cancellation of the policy of 50 per cent reservations for Dalits students at BBAU.
Sabrangindia spoke to one of the rusticate students, Shreyat Bouddh in this interview.

What is at the root of the hostility of the administration against you and other rusticated students of BBAU?
A: The University has special university status where SC and ST have 50 per cent reservations in all courses. This has been the established policy of this university since 1994 when it was founded. This has been challenged several times by the upper caste – in the High Court in 2001, where the matter lay pending for several months, then lapsed. It was again challenged in 2004. In 2004, the Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha interpreted ‘adequate percentage’ for SCs and SRs as 50 per cent. Now again, professor Kamal Jaiswal—who is at the root of this aggression against Dalit students—has in the High Court, through a writ petition in 2015, through the Pichda Jan Kalyan Samiti challenged this policy. Judgement is presently pending.

Now who is this Kamal Jaiswal? He has an Atrocity Case pending against him when he had brutally beaten a Dalit boy in 2001. (Case No 280/2001 at the Ashiana Thana, Lucknow). Then on March 25, 2009 the university had suspended him for four years on cases where serious allegations of an attempt to rape were made and he was out till 2013. The Shailendra Saxena Committee on Sexual Harassment had found him guilty. Yet in 2013 the present Vice Chancellor revoked the suspension and re-instated him.

Q: What are the kind of humiliations that Dalit students have to endure?
A: It is humiliating. Money is demanded for completition of thesis. Students who are Dalit are not given fellowships/scholarships. One example is an outstanding Dalit scholar, Dr Bela who received her fellowship money severa years after completing her PHD(doctoral studies)

Q: How has the present conflict erupted?
A: Last year, on August 18, 2015 also two among the presently rusticated students were also previously acted upon again without being served a show cause notice when one boy from the general catehory complained of being beaten by Dalits. Without any inquiry, any attempt to listen to the other side, the rustication happened. This is how the administration behaves.’

Then on September 7, 2016 we had gone to complain to the hostel administration with a list of issues: not proper allotment of hostel rooms for Dalit students, discrimination in allotment rocedure against Dalits; shutting down hostel for maintenance during the academic session etc. That is when Jaiswal abused us, “I will not let ___ (Caste name) study.” There were witnesses to this casteist (racist) abuse. He tore his own shirt and then accused us of tearing it!

A false FIR was lodged against six students and four teachers (Dr Gajanand Pandey, Dr LC Mallalia, Dr Khushendra Mishra and Dr Gaurav Kaithwas for “beating” him. We have also filed an FIR that got lodged only on September 23 against him, under the Atrocities Act, after the state director general of police (DGP) intervened.

Shockingly at 9.30 p.m. the next day, September 9 without even being issued a show cause we were rusticated. Our belongings were thrown out of the hostel. One of us, a boy Sumeet Kumar suffers from Liver sirrosis was treated so badly, all his medicines and test papers were flung out.
Q:Who are the eight rusticated students?
A: There is Sandeep Shastri PHD Applicant (second rank)who has given his entrance examination there is Sandeep Gautam studying for B.ED and he is from Faizabad from a very deprived family. He was even rusticated earlier. Then there is, like him, Jay Singh, also a B.ED student from Jaunpur also from a very deprived family.

Ramendra Naresh is also studying in the B.EDd course from Sitapur; there is Ajay Kumar a PHD scholar in Chemistry from Jhansi; Sumeet Kumar, MSC in Forensic Sciences (he is with the acute liver problem) and hails from Muradabad. Then there is Ashwani Ranjan studying in the MSC course in Forensic Science from Mhow. Myself am Shyreyat Bouddh who got the first rank in PHD Applicant in Subaltern Studies and I am from Faizabad.

Q: How has the past one month been? What is the impact of the rustication?
A: It is humiliating and frustrating when basic norms are not followed. They are pushing us to the wall. Do they want another case of a Rohith Vemula here? Deliberately we are humiliated, given inferior facilities. It is as if we excelling in higher education is a threat.

Q:You have also mentioned that for the past three years specifically the University administration has taken a particularly vicious turn. What has changed in the past three years?
A: Ever since Jaiswal was brought back and under the current political dispensation at Delhi it appears that independent and thinking voices among Dalits are being deliberately silenced.

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