In the eye of a raging storm over suicide by a dalit research scholar, Hyderabad Central University (HCU) Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile today criticised attempts to "politicise" the issue and trashed talks about his being a "BJP man".
Rao also said disciplinary action against Rohith Vemula and four other dalit students was not taken under any pressure from the HRD Ministry or Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya. Podile also refused to step down owing to mounting protests.
"Unfortunately it has turned into a political game. Every politician is visiting the campus. I don't know why they are politicising the campus which is known for its academic activities and research. I am really disappointed and disturbed," the VC told PTI.
Describing Rohith's suicide as an unfortunate incident, he said the university followed certain regulations and procedures based on the recommendations made by statutory body (executive council). The university operated on a standard disciplinary mechanism while taking action against them.
He also sought to distance the HRD Ministry and Union ministers Smriti Irani and Bandaru Dattatreya from the decisions taken by the University which allegedly forced Rohith Vemula to commit suicide.
"There was no pressure. We took the letters received as routine letters," he said, adding "there was no phone call from either of the ministers or any ministry official".
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 the ABVP leader Susheel Kumar.
The Ministry has maintained it was standard procedure on such "VIP references". He said initially these students were suspended for six months but the punishment was reduced as it would have adversely affected their getting scholarship.
"So, there was hostel expulsion of these students to help them because they hail from marginalised sections."
The matter reached the Hyderabad High Court when the mother of the ABVP leader was allegedly assaulted by Rohith and four others. The High Court had sought an action taken report from the university, he said.
"During all this, unexpectedly this boy committed suicide. There is no mention of this punishment in the suicide note," he said.
On allegations about his being a "BJP man", Rao said: "I cannot agree to any such branding either by students or politicians or anybody else. I am not any party person. I have been appointed through a due selection process. I am not affiliated to any party. First they want to brand me as a BJP person because I was appointed by NDA government. It is only a coincidence that the VC's selection happened during NDA tenure," he said.
He also rejected the students' demand for his resignation. "In that situation many people will have anger and as a head of an institution people think that I am responsible. I am not planning to step down...even before I took charge the case was there," he said.