The HRD ministry had written as many as five letters to Hyderabad University on Labour Minister Bandaru Dattareya’s complaint regarding “anti national activities” on the campus and the “violent attack” on an ABVP leader but maintained it was standard procedure on such “VIP references”.
Questions have been raised about the HRD ministry’s five letters, which have been blamed as one of the major reasons for the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student, which has snowballed into a massive political row.
HRD officials however claimed that after Dattatreya, MP from Secunderabad, wrote the letter on August 17 last year, the ministry only followed the standard practice by writing to the University on September 3, seeking the “issues raised by the MoS may be examined and facts intimated.”
“It would be wrong to say that the Ministry has put any pressure on the Hyderabad University. The Ministry had only followed the procedure as per the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure.
“According to the procedure, if there is a VIP reference, it has to be acknowledged in 15 days and another 15 days may be taken to reply to it. Since no response was coming from the University, the Ministry had to send reminders,” HRD Ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel said.
After its first letter, the ministry sent four reminders on – September 24, October 6, October 20 and November 19 last year, to the University seeking facts expeditiously so that it could respond to the Minister of State Dattatreya.
HRD officials said the University finally provided a reply only on January 7, this year.
An official said not only are the ministries supposed to reply in a time bound manner to VIP reference, but even in Cabinet meetings, the number of pending references, greivances, assurances etc has to be shared which makes it important that these are pursued.
HRD minister Smriti Irani, who today visited Assam and accompanied the Prime Minister to IIIT Guwahati, had yesterday said the government neither intervenes in functioning of the university nor does it have administrative control over it.
Three of the HRD ministry’s letters were written to the University VC, while two were addressed to the Registrar. In the letter written on October 20, the VC was asked to look into the “facts personally and get the facts provided at the earliest”.
HRD officials also said the two-member fact-finding panel comprising its officers Shakila T Shamsu and Surat Singh, is expected to be back tomorrow and that they are waiting for it to file its report.
Insisting that the ministry had given no directions to the University, HRD officials said on the night of August 3 last year, a group of students suspected to be belonging to Ambedkar Students Association allegedly attacked Susheel Kumar, the then President of ABVP on the campus and the Proctorial Board of the University enquired into the matter.
It was the Executive council of the University that then approved the expulsion of five students including Rohith, they said.
An Executive Sub-Committee, which included a senior Dalit faculty member and was headed by the senior-most professor, was subsequently constituted to go into the matter and it upheld the recommendation.
However, later at a meeting of the Executive council, a lenient view was taken as expulsion would have deprived the students of the chance to continue pursuing their doctorate and it was decided to permit them into their departments, library and academic meetings but not in hostel, administration and other public places.
The decision was challenged by the students in the court. Three of the students also started protest by sleeping in the open, the sources added.
They also said the Dean Students Welfare had regularly counselled the students to have patience to wait for the court’s verdict, while the Vice Chancellor had also discussed the issue with them.