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Fact Finding Report on Mudasir Kamran Mallah's Death: Bahujan Intellectual's Collective

 

We Demand Proctor Harish Vijra Must Be Immediately Arrested and Prosecuted

A team of Bahujan Intellectual's Collective and other forums formed a Fact Finding Team and visited the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) campus on March 5, to enquire into the suicide of a Ph.D. scholar Mudasir Kamran on March 2. This is report of fact finding on behalf of Bahujan Intellectual's Collective.

The team members interacted with the student representatives, Vice Chancellor and members of the faculty, besides visiting the Osmania University Police Station. Given below are the versions as recorded by the team members, and conclusions arrived and the rationale behind the same.

Our Interaction with the Students

Students from EFLU informed the team members that Mudasir Kamran Mallah, who came from Kashmir for his doctoral studies was a very friendly person, and they have not heard him entering into a fight with anybody. He would mostly hang around with local Telugu students, except during Namaz hours. He was very outgoing, and loved to play the cricket commentator for matches among the students. According to Srikanth, a Ph.D. scholar, he would wish people every time he encountered them on the campus, even if it is a 24th time in the day.

Coming to the run-up to the incident, Mudasir was reportedly issued a notice by the Proctor Harish Vijra three months ago with reference to a complaint lodged by his then roommate Vasim, alleging harassment. Subsequently, Vasim was allowed to shift to another room. On March 1, the two approached Mr.Vijra again, with Vasim alleging that Mudasir beat him up once again. Scratch marks were visible on Vasim's throat, and Mudasir's collar was torn. Upon listening to both, Prof.Vijra reportedly said to Mudasir, "You are a mentally disordered rascal. You need police counselling."

Later on, Prof.Vijra went to the police station accompanied by Vasim and another professor Maya Pandit, and made Vasim lodge a complaint. (It is important to mention here that students who went to the Police Station to give statements after the suicide, noticed the Station House Officer speak to his higher-ups on phone and inform that the complaint had no signature on it.)

That night (on March 1), at around 11 p.m., a few students including Koteshwar, Seetharamulu and Sandeep Patil noticed a police vehicle inside the campus, when they were out for a stroll. The police personnel reportedly made enquiries as to any scuffle between students took place. The students assumed it could be drunken brawl between some students, and did not give it more thought. However, when they were returning, they could notice the police picking up Mudasir, and protested against it. Then the Sub-Inspector Madhusudan Reddy informed the students that the proctor had asked him to pick up Mudasir as he seemed to have some psychological problem. Protests by students were of no avail, as the SI spoke to the Proctor on phone, and the latter reiterated that the boy should be picked up at any cost.

The students then called, and asked the Campus Planning and Development Dean Vedasharan to come immediately. Meanwhile, two students Sandeep Patil and Koteshwar tried to reason with Prof. Vijra, who was then at the police station along with Vasim and Prof.Pandit, and asked him to bring Mudasir back to the campus to settle the issue amicably. Prof. Vijra reportedly shouted at the students, and asked them not to dictate terms for him.

After some time, the students saw Prof. Vijra and Maya Pandit return to the university, and went up to them to express their protests. Prof. Vijra reportedly reiterated his claim that Mudasir was mentally disordered, and needed police counselling. The students protested that mentally disordered persons needed counselling by medical professionals and not by the police. With Prof. Vijra paying no heed, the students asked Prof. Vedasharan to come to the Police Station and have Mudasir released. Upon reaching the police station, they found that no FIR was registered against Mudasir. The police did not treat him harshly and only offered verbal counselling. After a written undertaking was signed by Prof. Vedasharan, the boy was brought back to the campus.

Mudasir was weeping bitterly all the way, while coming back to the university. He accused the Proctor of being a 'rowdy', and a 'goonda', and vowed to kill him. He continued weeping till 1 p.m., while the students tried in vain to pacify him. Kotesh and a few other students took both Vasim and Mudasir to the Osmania University canteen, and tried to make things better between them. However, Mudasir was inconsolable, and distraught. The students left him around 3.30 p.m. and proceeded to their respective rooms. They kept one person to keep a watch on Mudasir. The night passed peacefully, and Mudasir seemed to have slept well. In the morning, some students went to bring Mudasir for breakfast. He appeared alright then too. At about 2 p.m., Mudasir went for namaz, and returned at 3.30 p.m. He called his classmate Narasimha Dokka and asked him to collect some syrup that was lying with him. He also called Sandeep Patil and sought to know if he signed the undertaking at the police station. When Mr.Patil tried to make light of the issue, he insisted on knowing. At around 4 p.m., another classmate Krishna went to his room, and found him lying. After Krishna visited his home outside the campus and returned to Mudasir's room, the door was locked from inside. Despite repeated tapping, Mudasir did not answer. Through the window, Krishna saw a rope hanging from the ceiling.

The door was forcibly opened by the students, and Mudasir was taken to the Durgabai Deshmukh hospital. After he was declared dead, the students brought his body back to the university, and began to demonstrate. Armed men from the police and Rapid Action Force were brought down to the campus to control the students.

The protest went on till 4 a.m., but the Vice-Chancellor did not arrive. Students demanded the suspension of the Proctor, and initiation of criminal proceedings against him, compensation to the family, and employment to one family member. The EFLU authorities did not agree, and offered mere flight charges to carry the dead body. The dialogue broke down, and the body was forcibly taken away from the students.

V-C came to the mortuary, only at 9 a.m., with many police officials including the Commissioner of Police and the ACP cadre officers. FIR was filed only at 3 a.m. the next day.

The night Mudasir died, many Kashmiri students from other universities arrived, and wept bitterly. The next day, police organised a meeting with all the Kashmiri students at the Gandhi Hospital, and did not allow even one EFLU student to enter the room. Threatened with lathi charge, the students returned to EFLU campus and continued with the protests. On Monday, four buses of police forces were brought into the campus.

Nobody from the university administration attended the candle light rally in memory of Mudasir, or the Condolence meeting organised on Monday. When the administration came down for a dialogue, the students refused to have any such thing before the police are evacuated from the campus. The V-C offered to constitute a committee to enquire into the allegations against Prof. Vijra, but the students demanded suspension and initiation of criminal proceedings first. They saw no meaning in constituting a committee even while continuing Prof.Vijra in his duties.

Meanwhile Harish Vijra as well as Vasim went absconding from the university. The students reported to have seen Vasim coming along with the Reader Venkat Reddy, when they went to the Police Station to record their statement in the intervening night between Sunday and Monday. They expressed their fears that Vasim might have been summoned to sign on the unsigned complaint.

Version of the Vice-Chancellor

Vice-Chancellor of the English and Foreign Languages University Sunaina Singh attributed Mudasir's suicide to "deeply personal" reasons. She said the youth was a homosexual, and had been harassing his erstwhile roommate Vasim for quite some time. She even used the word 'sodomy' while describing Mudasir's harassment of Vasim. Vasim reportedly complained to the Proctor Harish Vijra three months ago, when the latter issued a memo to Mudasir. Subsequently, Vasim was shifted to another room within the campus. Mudasir nevertheless continued with the harassment, and reportedly stalked and attacked Vasim on quite a few occasions in the campus.

Differing with the students' version, the V-C said it was not the Proctor, but 20 students who accompanied Vasim to the police station to lodge a complaint against Mudasir. The Proctor reportedly followed along with Prof. Maya Pandit, to stop the students from complaining, and bring Mudasir back to the campus. However, she failed to give the name of even one student among the 20 who reportedly accompanied Vasim to the police station. She also claimed that the police never entered the campus, but summoned Mudasir to the station.

The V-C also denied that the Proctor had ever called Mudasir a 'mentally disordered' person except when he "physically attacked" the former once. However, Prof. Maya Pandit, who was summoned by the V-C to substantiate her claim, said she had not directly witnessed the attack, but only heard some commotion in Mr.Vijra's house within the campus.

Further, Prof. Pandit said they were mobbed by the students once they are back in the campus, amid extremely abusive slogans and altercations. Due to the commotion, she said she had not heard the Proctor calling Mudasir a 'mentally disordered' person. It remains unexplained why they had not brought Mudasir back along with them, as was their proclaimed intention. Further, they did not care to meet or sit to console the student, even while he was weeping bitterly throughout the night. There was no evidence to suggest that they had tried to meet the student after the incident till the time he committed suicide.

At the police station

Two members of the Fact Finding team reached the Osmania University Police Station within 15 minutes after interacting with the V-C, but already found about four to five members from EFLU faculty closeted with the Station House Officer Mr.Ashok within his chambers. Team members tried to take the version of SI Madhusudan Reddy who was available at the PS at that moment. Mr.Reddy declined to speak and asked us to take the version of the SHO. However, he spoke enough for the team to know that it was not a group of students, but Vasim alone along with the Proctor who came to the Police Station on the night of March 1. As the team waited outside his chamber, SHO Mr.Ashok emerged alone, and asked all SIs, with special reference to Mr.Reddy, to immediately leave for some briefing. Despite waiting for substantial time, the team could not speak to the SHO.

However, the next day, a press communication issued by the DCP (East Zone) R.Jayalakshmi said two students came to the police station on March 1, along with Vasim, Prof. Vijra, Prof. Pandit and another faculty member Prof. Chanchala Naik whose name neither the V-C, nor the students had mentioned earlier. The press release also claimed that Mudasir had made physical advances towards Vasim, which prompted the latter to complain to the Proctor and two other deans.

Conclusion

The team has found enough reasons to believe that Mudasir's life could have been saved, had the Proctor acted with enough wisdom and reason befitting his position. While there is not enough corroboration from students about Mudasir's homosexuality, we seek to remind that being gay is perfectly normal and even recognised by the Supreme Court as regular sexual behaviour. Mudasir's behaviour was absolutely normal with other students in the campus, and there is no reason why he would stalk and attack Vasim alone unless they had a sexual relation of consent in the past. The V-C's mention of 'sodomy', and her description of Mudasir as 'having lost his partner', further corroborates this, because if the said sodomy was a one-time attack, it would have been reported immediately and a police case would have been filed then and there. Prof.Vijra's calling him 'mentally disordered' and handing him over to police for 'counselling' typically point to the Proctor's homophobic tendencies.

However, given Vasim's complaint to the Proctor, the team also recognises the need to pay enough heed towards his concerns. If Mudasir had stalked and attacked Vasim repeatedly, it is the duty of the Proctor, not only to protect Vasim, but also to counsel Mudasir, and if he does not fall in line, to take the matter to the Grievances Committee within the campus. Perhaps with some counselling by a clinical Psychologist, and a little support from the faculty and friends, Mudasir would have regained his senses, and pursued his research studies normally. Let alone a psychologist, not even his family or friends had been informed about his 'violent' behaviour. While Mudasir was most of the time in the company of his Telangana classmates, none of them had been taken into confidence about Mudasir's condition by the Proctor. According to Prof.Pandit's own admission, Mudasir was a very good student. There was no need to take the matter to the police, which precisely aggravated Mudasir's agony and drove him to suicide. Had it been 'deeply personal' reasons behind the suicide, it would have happened three months ago, when Vasim, once a close friend of Mudasir, deserted him. It is clear from the circumstances that the time spent at police station, and the helplessness he must have experienced after returning, acted as aggravating factors in Mudasir's case.

The team has enough reasons to also believe that it was not 20 students, but the Proctor Harish Vijra along with Vasim and another professor Maya Pandit, that visited the police station. There have been gross mismatches between the V-C's version and the version of the police as seen through the press release. The police claimed that only two students accompanied Vasim, but subsequently those two students too denied it categorically through a press release. Further, it defies reason, why the V-C could not produce even a single name out of the twenty students.

The attempt to side with the erring Proctor instead of the students, and her dispatching of a team of faculty to the police station soon after her interaction with the Fact Finding team, all point to the V-C's desperate effort to hide the facts with regard to Mudasir's suicide. We find this kind of dishonesty unbefitting of her eminent position as the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious university. Further, the team found that there are no special committees in the university's panel to listen to the grievances of the underprivileged groups, except for women. There are no committees to address the complaints from SCs, STs and Minorities. Even when committees are constituted with regard to issues such as the present one, no representative from students is invited to be a member. The student bodies are not even invited to audit the meetings, nor are minutes of the meeting provided to them, irrespective of the fact that it is mostly the students' complaints that the committees discuss.

Taking all the aforesaid factors into consideration, the Fact Finding team arrives at the following conclusions.

1. The Vice-Chancellor Sunaina Singh should be discharged of her position and responsibilities forthwith, as she has proven herself to be highly unreliable, and unsympathetic to the students.

2. The Proctor Harish Vijra should be suspended and arrested an enquiry should be initiated against him.

3. The Station House Officer of the OU police statin Ashok should be suspended for becoming a puppet in the EFLU authorities' hands

4. Deliberations should be held with the student bodies, and their demands for compensation to Mudasir's family, and education to his sisters should be given weight.

5. Committees should be immediately constituted within the campus to hear grievances of the students from underprivileged backgrounds such as SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities. The committee hearing gender-related grievances should be made to hear issues pertaining to gays and lesbians too, with members drawn from these particular communities.

6. All the committees deliberating on students' issues should regularly meet and student representatives should be allowed to audit the meetings. The committees should be autonomous and should have powers to take action and give punishment for the protection of the SC,ST,OBC and Minority students. Every committee should have members drawn from student organisations.

~ Sudhakar Aruri

Co-Ordinator,

Bahujan Intellectual's Collective

~~~

 

[Via The Struggle Committee for Justice for Mudasir Kamran]

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