Statement by concerned Academics and Public Intellectuals following the Court Sentence on the EFLU Defamation case

 

[via Susie Tharu]

We the undersigned wish to express our grave concern over the fact that five senior students of the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), who were raising the issue of discrimination against SC and ST students in the EFLU's Department of German, have on 13/12/2016 been charged with defamation of a professor and sentenced to six months' imprisonment. Their protests concerned Sreeramulu M, a ST student enrolled in the BA programme of EFLU's German Department. Sreermulu had not been allowed to continue in the programme ostensibly for his failure to maintain grades. The others who have been sentenced are office bearers of associations representing such marginalized students; they were speaking at a Press Meet held on 24/12/2012 after Sreeramulu, who had been trying for several months to be allowed to continue his course and avail remedial classes, went on fast. The defamation case was filed in March 2013. Two SC/ST atrocities complaints filed by Sreeramulu M and again by another student, Ranjan Kumar, in January 2013 are pending with the Police and are yet to be investigated.

munavath sriramulu

Munavath Sriramulu

The countrywide discussion raised through the struggles following Rohith Vemula's death in January 2016 drew public attention to the extent of caste discrimination in our universities. SC, ST, OBC and minority students figure disproportionately in the statistics for failure, drop out, expulsion, rustication and even suicide. Educational institutions and those who run them (teachers and administrators) have been forced to acknowledge that they are implicated in this terrible attrition of young citizens and know they must initiate reforms. Yet, far too little is being done to discuss this evidence, rethink rules, temper teachers' attitudes, reform syllabi or challenge ideas of merit that discriminate against the marginalized. A teacher's job is to help the actual students in the classroom to learn; not to uphold abstract standards of merit. From the courts, the underprivileged expect humane recognition of the inequities of their predicament and wise support for their cause. But what they have received is a demoralizing and intimidating signal.

In EFLU reservations have been implemented in admissions since 1998. These five students were admitted to the university through reservations. When they began articulating their grievances and raising their voices against instances of caste discrimination, instead of addressing their concerns both the University and the Court penalised the SC/ST students. With this judgement, even the right to raise issues of caste discrimination appears to be taken away from these SC/ST students.

The judgment is particularly harsh and disturbing because all the five now facing imprisonment are from SC, ST and OBC castes. They are first generation learners and have fought against stacked odds—financial, social and cultural—to make it into the university. Two of the five have now been awarded the Ph.D degree and are just setting out on what could be promising and socially meaningful careers; two others are doctoral students. One has now been expelled from the university. In addition to this sentence, he and his family are facing the loss of two decades of struggle to move out of their poverty.

The case against these students was filed by the senior-most Professor in the Department, who was for many years Head of the Department and also a Dean of the University. The Judge notes that she is the daughter of a former Chief Justice of the AP High Court, comes from a reputed family and is a recognized scholar.

What about the students?

Accused No 1, Sreeramulu M, on whose behalf the others were protesting, is from a tribal thanda in a remote area of Telangana. Until Class 9, he studied in what he calls "thanda medium." Being an exceptional student, he was encouraged to leave home, which he did on his own to pursue his studies in a small town. He then sought out various available opportunities, finally enrolling in the BA programme of the German Department hoping that knowledge of the German language would open a gate for him. He already holds a diploma in Russian and in German from EFLU. Sreeramulu failed in some courses in each of his initial semesters, and was subsequently not promoted and asked to leave. He protested this decision in various ways and complained about discrimination in the department ("not welcomed or encouraged"; "our answer sheets came back covered in red marks"; "it was never clear what exactly the rules were"; "others received preferential treatment"; "UGC mandated remedial classes were not seriously taught"; "there are seven teachers in the department but no SC, ST or OBC among them; there is no one to understand my pain"). Following an investigative report filed with the NHRC, a committee consisting of external members and EFLU faculty was constituted by the University to examine the issue. Even before the committee finalized its report, the University unilaterally prepared its own version of minutes which rejected Sreeramulu's case. In protest, the two SC/ST faculty members resigned from the committee and expressed their dissent in writing. In despair, Sreeramulu resorted to a fast.

This was the point at which the organizations came in. Sreeramulu fought hard to stay in the course, but did not succeed. After he was evicted from the university, despite being disturbed and fighting a tension-related flare-up of his vitiligo, he has worked as a tourist guide, a German and English tutor for foreign students and passed the UGC JRF examination in German. Dalit Camera, a popular You-tube channel, interviewed with him at the time when he was protesting against his failure and subsequent expulsion from the German Department. The interview provides us, among other things, a sense of his hold over spoken English. This is an intelligent and capable student, with a flair for language, it might seem.

Three others among the accused: Mohan D, Satish N and Upender R, all first generation learners, were members of student organizations that have emerged in EFLU to serve the interests of SC, ST, and minority students. The basis of the charge against them is statements that they made at a Press Conference held when Sreeramulu undertook a fast that lasted several days. The fifth, Ravi C is a founder of the now widely recognized Dalit Camera, an online medium for bringing "the voice of the people" whose "words are not covered in the other media and are therefore not available for public discussion." This student journalist is charged with having recorded and uploaded statements by Sreeramulu and others.

We also deeply regret that the interviews and documentation developed by Dalit Camera have been used as the basis for the sentences. This original and courageous journalistic initiative has received worldwide recognition for its bold and altogether original use of the social media. By making available voices and perspectives that have hitherto been obscured or overlooked in public discussion, Dalit Camera has on many occasions transformed the understanding of key events. Forums such as Dalit Camera are invaluable because they confront us with the injustice and indignity Dalits face today and, importantly, the insight they have into their predicament. In its light conventional media houses often lose their aura and established authorities show up as limited and unjust. But that is a part of the ethical and epistemological value of the initiative. The Honourable Court, it would seem, has sadly failed to appreciate this.

The students were convicted in the Magistrate's court. They are now out on bail and have filed an Appeal in the Sessions court.

1. Abhijit Roy, Professor and Head,Department of Film Studies, Jadavpur University.
2. Aditya Nigam, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi.
3. Amlan Dasgupta, Professor, Department of English,Jadavpur University,Kolkata.
4. Amitava Chakraborty,Visiting Associate Professor,Tokyo University of Foreign Studies,Tokyo, Japan.
5. Anand Tentumble, Writer, Political Analyst, CPDR, Mumbai.
6. Anant Maringanti, Director, Hyderabad Urban Lab.
7. U. K. Anandavardhanan, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, IIT Bombay.
8. Anirban Kar, Associate Professor, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
9. Anitha T. C., School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad.
10. Anjali Ralhan, University of Delhi.
11. MT Ansari, Professor, CALTS, University of Hyderabad.
12. Anupama Potluri, Assistant Professor, School of computer and Information sciences, University of Hyderabad.
13. G. Arunima, Professor,Centre for Women's Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
14. Asma Rasheed, Assistant Professor, EFL University,Hyderabad.
15. Azhagarasan R., Associate Professor, Dept of English, University of Madras.
16. Baidik Bhattacharya, Assistant Professor,Department of English,University of Delhi.
17. Bhangya Bhukya, Professor, Department of History,University of Hyderabad.
18. Biju Mathew, Associate Professor of Information Systems and American Studies, Rider University, NJ.
19. Bindu K. C., Assistant Professor, Gender Studies, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
20. Brinda Bose, Associate Professor, Centre for English, Jawaharlal Nehru University,Delhi.
21. Carmel Christy K. J., Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University.
22. Chukka Ramaiah, Renowned Educationist and Former MLC.
23. A. Q. Contractor, Professor and Dean, College of Engineering, Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman.
24. Deepa Dhanraj, Film maker, Sama, Bangalore.
25. Deepa Sreenivas, Associate Professor, Centre for Women's Studies,University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad.
26. Deepta Achar, Professor, Department of English, MS University of Baroda.
27. Dilip C Mandal, Former Managing Editor, India Today.
28. Duggirala Vasanta, Professor Emerita, Osmania University, Hyderabad.
29. S. Durga Bhavani, Professor, School of Computer and Information Sciences,University of Hyderabad.
30. Gautam Gupta, Professor, Department of Economics, Jadavpur University.
31. Gummadi Sridevi, Assistant Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad.
32. Hany Babu MT, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Delhi.
33. G. Haragopal, Professor [Retd.], Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad.
34. Ira Raja, Assistant Professor, Department of English,University of Delhi.
35. Jacob Tharu, Professor [Retd.], Department of Evaluation, EFL University, Hyderabad.
36. Janaki Nair, Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
37. Jenny Rowena, Assistant Professor, Miranda House, University of Delhi.
38. Jobin M. Kanjirakkat, King's College and Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada.
39. Joby Joseph, Associate Professor, School of Cognitive Studies, University of Hyderabad.
40. Kaki Madhava Rao, IAS, Retd. Chief Secretary, Andhra Pradesh.
41. Kancha Ilaiah, Director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University,Hyderabad.
42. Kalpana Kannabiran, Professor & Director,Council for Social Development, Hyderabad.
43. Kaveri Indira, Formerly Faculty, School of Neural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Hyderabad.
44. Kavita Punjabi, Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University.
45. Korvi Vinayakala, I/c Principal, TSWRS Jr.College (Boys), Manakondur, Karimnagar.
46. Krishnan Unni P., Assistant Professor in English, Deshbandhu College, Delhi University.
47. Krishnavei P., Assistant Professor, Deshbandu College, Delhi University.
48. Dr. C. Lakshmanan, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai.
49. Lalita K, Independent Scholar, Hyderabad.
50. K Laxminarayana, Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad.
51. Madhava Prasad, Professor, Department of Cultural studies, EFL University, Hyderabad.
52. Madhumeeta Sinha, Assistant Professor, Department of Training & Development,EFL University, Hyderabad.
53. Manish Jain, Assistant Professor, School of Education Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
54. Mary E. John, Senior Fellow, Centre for Women's Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi.
55. Meena Pillai, Director, Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Kerala.
56. M. Murali Krishna, Assistant Professor, TISS, Hyderabad.
57. Nandita Narain, Associate Professor in Mathematics, St. Stephen's College, Delhi University. President, Federation of Central University Teachers' Association (FEDCUTA).
58. Navdeep Mathur, Assistant Professor, Public Systems Group, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
59. Naveen Gaur, Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi.
60. Navaneetha Mokkil, Assistant Professor, Center for Women's Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
61. Nivedita Menon, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
62. Parthasarathi Muthukkaruppan, Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University, Hyderabad.
63. Paulomi Chakraborty, Assistant Professor, IIT Bombay.
64. Prathama Banerjee, Associate Professor, Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi.
65. Probal Dasgupta, Professor, Linguistic Research Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.
66. Rajan J. Barrett, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
67. Rama Melkote, Professor [Retd.], Department of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad.
68. Ratheesh Kumar, Assistant Professor, CSSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
69. Ratheesh Radhakrishnan, Associate Professor, Department of HSS, IIT Bombay.
70. K. Y. Ratnam, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad.
71. Dr Rina Ramdev, Associate Professor, Department of English,Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University.
72. R. Srivatsan, Senior Fellow, Anveshi Research Centre for Women's Studies, Hyderabad.
73. Sachin N., Assistant Professor, Department of English, Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi.
74. Sajaya Kakarala, Independent Researcher, Hyderabad
75. P. Sanal Mohan,Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, and Hon. Director, IUCSSRE, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam.
76. Sangeeta Kamat, Professor, College of Education, UMASS Amherst.
77. Santosh S, Assistant Professor, School of Culture and Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
78. Sasheej Hegde, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad.
79. Satish Deshpande, Professor, Department of Sociology, Delhi University.
80. Satish Poduval, Professor, Dept. of Cultural Studies, English and Foreign Languages University,
81. K. Satyanarayana, Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University, Hyderabad.
82. Y. B. Satyanarayana, Writer. Principal [Retd.] and Secretary, Centre for Dalit Studies.
83. Shad Naved, Department of English, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
84. Sherin B.S., Assistant Professor,EFL University, Hyderabad.
85. Sharmila Sreekumar, Associate Professor, Department of HSS, IIT Bombay.
86. Sheela Prasad, Professor, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad.
87. Shivarama Padikkal, CALTS, School of Humanities, University of Hyderabad.
88. Simona Sawhney, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi.
89. Sobha Rani, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad.
90. Sowmya Dechamma, Professor, CALTS, University of Hyderabad.
91. Srilata K., Professor, Dept of H&SS, IIT Madras.
92. K. Srinivasulu, Professor, Department of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad.
93. Subarno Chattarji, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Delhi.
94. Raj Kumar, Professor, Department of English,Delhi University.
95. Sucheta Bhattacharya, Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University.
96. Sukanta Chaudhuri, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, Jadavpur University. Founder-Director, School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University.
97. Sumeet Agarwal, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Delhi.
98. Sundar Sarukkai. Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.
99. Supriya Chaudari, Professor Emerita, Department of English, Jadavpur University.
100. Suresh BV, Professor, Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU Baroda.
101. Susie Tharu, Professor [Retd.], Department of Literature, EFL University, Hyderabad.
102. Svati Joshi, Professor [Retd.], Delhi University.
103. Swathy Margaret, Independent Researcher, Hyderabad.
104. Tanmoy Bhattacharya, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Delhi.
105. Tathagata Sengupta, Assistant Professor, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Hyderabad.
106. Tejaswini Niranjana, Senior Fellow,CSCS, Bangalore.
107. Dr Tenepalli Hari,Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Assam University, Silchar.
108. Thirumal P.,Professor, Sarojini Naidu School, University of Hyderabad.
109. Udaya Kumar, Professor, Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
110. Uma Maheswari Bhrugubanda, Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University, Hyderabad.
111. Vasanth Kannabiran, Writer,Asmita Resource Centre for Women.
112. Veena Shatruguna, Deputy Director [Retd.],National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
113. Vijay Guduvarthy, Assistant Professor,School of Economics, University of Hyderabad.
114. TM Yesudasan, Professor [Retd.], Department of English, CMS College, Kottayam.
115. Priyabrata, Software Professional
116.  Rakesh Ram S, Software Engineer, Bangalore 

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