On December 30, 2015 when five research scholars of Hyderabad University, expelled for their political activism, had exhausted all options of redressal, they reached out to former UGC chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat.
The five students handed over a 10-page memorandum, detailing the events leading to their expulsion on December 16.
‘Activism integral to student life’
Before Mr. Thorat, could hand over the memorandum of the expelled Dalit students to the authorities, one of them, Rohith Vemula, had taken his life. Vemula left behind a suicide note where he mentions his fellowship had been stopped, and says none should grieve for him after his death.
Mr. Thorat, who handed over the memorandum to Social Justice Minister Thavar Chand Gehlot on Monday, said activism, integral to student life, should not have been held against them. “When I met them, they talked about discrimination as a fact of life in campuses that governments find it difficult to admit. I did not for a moment think one of the students I had met would be forced to take his life,” recalled Mr. Thorat, who had submitted a report nearly seven years ago on the circumstances leading to the death of a medical student in the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. The administration did not accept the findings.
The memorandum sought his immediate intervention with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Ministry of Social Justice and the Ministry of Human Resources and Development and mentioned how the five students, who also belong to the Ambedkar Students Association, were restrained from entering the administrative building and other common areas.