Human Rights Groups Investigate Indian University Crackdown

This article is part of Feministing’s continued reporting on the current Indian student movements for the rights of minority students and the right to dissent. You can find a complete report from the initial days of the movement, including context, here, and subsequent reporting on the movement here. This is Feministing’s coverage on the situation in Hyderabad.

Indian social media was abuzz last week with reports of police brutality at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU), a central government university that has seen student protests since January.

In late January, Rohith Vemula, a Dalit — or oppressed-caste — research scholar, committed suicide following his suspension, along side four other students, for an alleged altercation with members of a right-wing group. Documents later revealed that the punishment of the Dalit students was encouraged by high-level government officials in the Ministry of Human Resource Management (MHRM), which manages public universities. (The right-wing students were not punished.) In response to his suicide, students began a nation-wide movement against caste oppression. The Vice Chancellor of HCU, Appa Rao, was charged with abetment to suicide and suspended.

Following protests of Rao’s reinstatement on March 22, during which Rao’s office was vandalised, 27 students and 2 professors were arrested and beaten by police. They continue to be held in judicial custody. No non-university members, including journalist, have been allowed onto campus, leading to substantial underreporting of the events. From the 22 to the 24, students at HCU had no water, electricity, internet, or food in the dining halls. Many students were injured to the point of hospitalization, and women and minority students reported particular harassment, including Islamophobic slurs and rape threats.

While the admin says that internet and food were cut off due to a worker’s strike against the protesting students, state and independent human rights probes are investigating the closings as a possible human rights violation. Two reports have come out.

First, this fact-finding report, put together by a team of independent fact-finders, has come out at Round Table India. The fact-finding report recommended that Vice Chancellor Appa Rao be suspended pending the outcome of the abetment of suicide charges; that police pursue both the cases against Rao and the students in a speedy manner in order to ensure their rights are respected; and that the police ought be criminally investigated for violence and for refusing to bring the arrested students before the court within 24 hours, as required by law.

A separate report, issued by the Telangana State Human Rights Committee (SHRC), closed their investigation as food and water had been restored Student activists, however, continue to push for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) action.

Meanwhile, statements of support for the students of HCU have been coming in from academics, intellectuals, and activists from across India and the world.

Students across the country continue to protest.


Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing her masters.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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