Rohith Vemula death anniversary: Protesters clash with police outside Hyderabad University

Hyderabad University was witness to a silent face-off between the college administration and protesting students who tried to stage a protest marking the first death anniversary of Dalit student Rohith Vemula, who committed suicide, allegedly due to the varsity's disciplinary action initiated against him.

A mass gathering was organised at the varsity campus to observe 'Shahadat Din' on Tuesday in memory of Vemula, whose death had raised a political firestorm last year.

The situation, one that was largely peaceful since the morning, saw signs of strain around 4:30 pm, when a crowd swelled at the campus gates. Not only students from the central university, but also from neighbouring colleges amassed outside campus gates and started raising slogans.

Following this, security personnel deployed as a preemptive measure in view of the sensitive occasion, chained the gates and refused to let out any students from inside, and prevented outsiders from entering the varsity campus.

 Rohith Vemula death anniversary: Protesters clash with police outside Hyderabad University

A file photo of Rohith Vemula. Twitter @akslal

The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, an umbrella grouping of students' bodies demanding justice for Vemula that had organised the 'martyrdom day' had also invited Rohith's mother Radhika Vemula, but CNN-News18 said she was not present at the event.

However, the family of Najeeb Ahmed, the JNU student who has been missing, Jaan Mohammed, brother of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched in September 2015 on suspicions that his family stored and ate beef at their house, and a few Dalit leaders from Gujarat who had raised their voices against the 'cow vigilantes' of Una last year, when a few Dalit men were thrashed, were all present amid the crowd protesting outside the Hyderabad University gates, according to Times Now.

Even as the student groups claimed that the movement, that sought to cover a larger issue of atrocities committed on minority communities, did not have political backing, an IANS report stated that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers staged a sit-in at the main gate, demanding that they be allowed to join the meeting.

Varsity administration had earlier enforced restrictions on the movement of outsiders on campus, and urged students to refrain from rallying or disrupting the schedule of the classes.

The students, who first requested the police to allow the protest party outside the gate to come inside and join the programme, started raising slogans and forced open the gates.

The huge crowd also pulled down barricades, following which the police took several students outside the campus into preventive detention, to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.

Since morning, students and employees were allowed only after they produced their identity cards. The registrar had issued a circular stating that outsiders, including media persons, politicians and activists, cannot enter the campus. "The university cannot be used as a platform for outsiders to participate in activities called by insiders or by outsiders when there was no permission," stated a circular issued by UoH Registrar PS Singh.

It warned of appropriate disciplinary action against those who violate the directions. The authorities also made it clear that there was no permission for holding any programme on the campus.

"Announcements were made through media and wall posters that some activities are being taken up on 17 January at the University of Hyderabad campus. But the university has not issued any permission to such activities," it said.

However, defying the orders, a group of students gathered at 'Velivada' (Dalit ghetto) on the campus. Holding pictures of Vemula and placards, they raised slogans demanding the arrest of vice-chancellor P Appa Rao and justice for Rohith.

Vemula was found hanging in a hostel room on the UoH campus on 17 January, 2016, after alleged caste-based discrimination, sparking a huge controversy and political tug-of-war.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 17, 2017 18:37:59 IST