Hyderabad University: Students Enter 5th Day of Hunger Strike, Demand Action Amid Allegations of Bias

HCU students are currently staging a hunger strike, urging the established committee to address the individuals responsible for the violence on April 17th.
HCU Students Protesting Outside the Administration
HCU Students Protesting Outside the AdministrationSFI Instagram page

New Delhi-Members of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) student union, along with other organizations, continued their relay hunger strike on April 26th. Before initiating the protest fast, they conducted a three-day sit-in protest to demand a thorough investigation into the campus violence on April 17th.

Friday marks the 5th day of the relay hunger strike and the 8th day of the overall protest against the violence.

The student union has called on the university's six-member committee to suspend repeat offenders and expedite the resolution of pending complaints and cases.

Despite the University of Hyderabad (UoH) forming a committee to probe the incident and submit a report, protesting students are demanding action against the ABVP. In a collective statement by all student groups, including the SFI, they accused the UoH administration, including the vice-chancellor (VC), of shielding the assailants.

They pledged to continue their protest until their demands are addressed. In response to students' claims of bias among faculty members favoring the ABVP, the UoH administration enlarged the committee by appointing two additional members to investigate the incident.

The Mooknayak talked to Kripa Maria George, Secretary of Hyderabad University’s SFI chapter, who has been participating in the strike about the demonstration and the student’s aspirations.

The student leader asserted that the strike is taking place as the university administration has refused to take “proper action on the people who are responsible for the attack that happened on 17th.”

She continued, “even when students have complained that there are people who are no longer registered students on the campus and have perpetrated the violence, the university has refused to throw them out immediately.”

Kripa emphasized that the university requested time to take action against two of the perpetrators who are not from the campus.

“Our primary demand, supported by the students' union and progressive groups, is swift action against all wrongdoers, particularly those with a history of sexual harassment and physical violence on campus,” added the SFI leader.

The protest is centered around the administration office, where multiple students are staging a hunger strike as a form of resistance. Each day, a rotating group of five to six individuals, comprised of union members and some of the victims from the recent attacks, take shifts in sitting at the administration site.

While some of the students have to handle tasks like liaising with the police and engaging with the university administration, those at the administration site are visibly involved in the hunger strike.

Additionally, others show their solidarity by abstaining from food in their own spaces on the same day, amplifying the impact of our collective action.

According to her, the administration has not said or done anything other than increasing security measures in the campus, which often acts as a “method for moral policing within the campus,” which they strongly oppose.

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Kripa expressed that University students shouldn't feel safe only when surrounded by security forces. The campus should foster an environment of free debate and discussion, without the fear that expressing opinions today could lead to serious consequences tomorrow, such as being charged under UAPA.

“This is an educational institution, not a military barrack.” She continued, “Punishing the entire campus community for the actions of a few is unjust.”

The students feel that the university's blanket decisions, like banning access to the library for those quietly studying for exams or temporarily staying over, are excessive. It's unfair to treat peaceful students and violent outsiders/alumni preparing for exams in the same manner.

On being asked if the university has responded in any manner, she stated that there has been no positive response.

Activists from various organizations have also faced fines for previous protests or events they organized. For instance, both NSUI and SSI activists were fined for organizing a screening for the documentary ‘Ram ke Naam’, while activists from MSF, fraternity, and SFI were also fined for organizing a march in support of the Palestinian cause.

The fine amount was 1000 rupees per person. These fines were issued recently, with orders received just yesterday.

This delay in issuing fines for the pro-Palestine march emphasizes a clear bias in enforcement practices.

What Happened on 17th April?

On April 17th, the confrontation at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) reached a critical juncture when a group of students allegedly initiated violence within the campus hostel area.

Reports indicated that these students employed weapons such as sticks and blades during the altercation. This resulted in injuries to four individuals, who were swiftly taken to the university hospital before being transferred to a private facility for further medical attention.

In response to the escalating situation, the Gachibowli police intervened to disperse the crowd and initiated an investigation into the incident.

The clashes on the day were primarily between student activists affiliated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Students' Federation of India (SFI).

Tensions had been simmering between these groups for some time, but they reached a boiling point at a farewell event. Disagreements arose initially over the playing of communal songs during the farewell celebrations of the Economics department, which sparked unrest among the attendees.

Matters quickly escalated into physical altercations, further exacerbated when armed individuals reportedly launched indiscriminate attacks on hostel residents.

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