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Dalit Students Outraged as Hyderabad University Removes ‘Velivada’

The temporary structure had portraits of anti-caste icons like Phule, Savitribai, Dr Ambedkar, Periyar, Ayyankali.

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Dalit students studying in University of Hyderabad (UoH) are outraged after authorities removed ‘fresh flexi material at Velivada’ (Dalit Ghetto), ahead of the third death anniversary of Rohith Vemula, which falls on 17 January.

The Velivada is a temporary structure that had portraits of anti-caste icons such as Jyotirao Phule, Savitribai, Dr BR Ambedkar and a bust of Vemula himself, that was erected after the latter’s death in 2016.

Speaking to The Quint, a student of UoH and part of Ambedkar Students’ Association, alleged that the Velivada structure was ‘destroyed’.

The university in a release, however, claimed that the fresh flexi material set up by the students was relocated for safekeeping, and therefore denied any destruction of the structure.

WHY ARE STUDENTS OUTRAGED?

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Following Rohith Vemula’s suicide on the campus in 2016, Velivada was erected and has been a symbol of resistance for Dalit and other marginalised community students on campus.

The portraits surrounding the structure, due to prolonged exposure to sunlight, withered and were replaced with new portraits by the students of the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) on 4 January.

“On the morning of 6 January, we noticed that the fresh portraits put up by us were gone. The authority had removed the structure early in the morning when no one was around the area.” 
Sannaki Munna, Student

Students part of ASA had also alleged that the portraits were ‘desecrated’ and ‘demolished’ by the authorities as part of the Vice Chancellor Dr Appa Rao Podile’s larger agenda to silence Dalit voices.

The temporary structure had portraits of anti-caste icons like Phule, Savitribai, Dr Ambedkar, Periyar, Ayyankali.
Portraits before its removal at Velivada.
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

Speaking to The Quint, another student who belongs to the ASA, Dontha Prashanth, and was also one of the students suspended along with Rohith said:

“The VC has demolished and destroyed the portrait of Dr Ambedkar and other dalit leaders. He has also filed false cases against the students who raise their voice against them.”
Dontha Prashanth, ASA
The temporary structure had portraits of anti-caste icons like Phule, Savitribai, Dr Ambedkar, Periyar, Ayyankali.

He further said that removing the Velivada amounted to SC/ST oppression. “The desecration of these portraits of Dr Ambedkar and others revered by Dalit Bahujans amounts to caste discrimination.”

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

Following the removal of Velivada, students from the university along with several activists and organisations on 14 January held a round-table meeting and demanded the Vice-Chancellor, Appa Rao Podile to be sacked.

The round-table meeting that was hosted by the Rohith Vemula Struggle and Solidarity Committee and professors also called for a 'Chalo HCU' event on 17 January to protest against the administration's decision, The News Minute reported.

The report further added that UoH registrar P Sardar Singh, lodged a complaint with the Gachibowli police, alleging students had damaged the university’s property by carrying out digging work.

Munna however has denied claims on digging when The Quint asked, adding that the police is denying to take the student’s complaint against VC Appa.

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WHAT IS THE UNIVERSITY CLAIMING?

“Prior to the removal of the flexi-material from the structure, UoH had issued several circulars informing students to not display any banners, posters, flexies, etc on the campus without prior permission,” Professor Vinod Pavarala, official spokesperson of Hyderabad University told The Quint.

Pavarala also stated that the university does not acknowledge the presence of a structure called the Velivada, as “the name is derogatory in nature which further demarcates students in terms of caste”.

The temporary structure had portraits of anti-caste icons like Phule, Savitribai, Dr Ambedkar, Periyar, Ayyankali.
“Last year, we did not allow the students to use North Shopping Complex (where Velivada is situated) for an event pertaining to someone’s death anniversary. We believe the area is an open-ground for everyone and should not become a space for any such events.”
Professor Vinod Pavarala, official spokesperson of UoH

The professor also added that students are given permission to hold any event in the Savitribai Phule auditorium. When asked about the police complaint against the students, Pavarala told The Quint that it’s not suitable to talk about ‘legal matters’ as police is looking into the matter.

(With inputs from The News Minute.)

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