We, the students of The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, seek your support and solidarity in our struggle for justice for Mudasir Kamran, a PhD scholar, who died on March 02, 2013. We are dismayed at the insensitivity with which the University administration has handled the situations that led up to Mudasir’s tragic death, labeled as suicide, and the events that unfolded in its aftermath.
It is deplorable that our Vice Chancellor, instead of acknowledging the failure of the system and addressing the apprehensions of the students by taking corrective steps that ensure justice, has been resorting to coercive tactics and trying to threaten the students with police action if they do not call off their strike.
Mudasir Kamran, a Kashmiri Muslim PhD student in EFL University, Hyderabad, hanged himself on the night of 2nd March in his room. The night before, he had been detained at the Osmania Police station under the explicit directives of the university Proctor, who was responding to an altercation between Mudasir and his friend. We urge you to take note of the serious humiliation inflicted on Mudasir by the Proctor’s decision to invite police intervention and by his derogatory comments on Mudasir’s mental health.
The Proctor’s inability to deal with a conflict between two students—a matter that should have been limited to the aegis of the University, a University that is determined by its own set and sequence of protocols in addition to the guidelines of the UGC—and his active role in allowing the said conflict to escalate to the level of a police complaint and detention of Mudasir at the police station cannot be overlooked. The University administration seems to be trying to cover up the questionable statements made by the Proctor and his insensitive conduct.
The University’s malicious attempt to conceal facts and spread canards about Mudasir has been exposed by the newspapers. In a report on March 14, 2013 in Times of India, it is claimed that Mudasir Kamran wrote three complaints to the Proctor between February 4 and 15, 2013, where he even makes reference to explicit threats to his life from some other students. This shows that there is more than mere negligence on the part of the University administration. By willfully suppressing this fact, the University administration seems to be actively engaged in distortion and character assassination of Mudasir. We also call into question the role of the Hostel authorities in not ensuring Mudasir’s care after he was brought back from the Police Station.
Although an FIR u/S. 306 of IPC is registered against the Proctor (for abetment of suicide) at the Osmania University Police Station, no action has been taken by the police. We believe the administration in collusion with the police has vested interests in concealing structural lapses. The Vice-Chancellor’s statement to the press as well as the Police press release implicates Mudasir’s sexual orientation as the basis for his violent behavior and his alleged delinquency. However, the Vice-Chancellor, as the head of the university administration has consistently refused to take responsibility for structural shortcomings.
Despite such intimidation and other strategies adopted by the administration that aim at dissociating from and concealing structural inadequacies, we the students have united to form a “Struggle Committee for Justice for Mudasir Kamran”. A group of progressive teachers of EFLU too have come forward (in the name of “Teachers’ Front for Justice and Democracy”) opposing the authoritarian ways of handling the situation. We have been perseverant in our struggle for justice and we have involved ourselves in different modes of protest – from general strikes in the university to silent protests, dharnas and peace rallies. Our demands have been, and continue to be:
An impartial judicial probe may be initiated:
We believe that under the circumstances, any committee endorsed by the Vice-Chancellor cannot ensure neutrality. Therefore, we demand the institution of an impartial judicial probe. A plea by the Struggle Committee has already been addressed to The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
Suspension of the Proctor and the Vice-Chancellor, pending enquiry:
We fear that as Proctor, the concerned person is invested with great authority and power that could influence the neutrality of the proceedings. Given that no such inquiry can be successfully conducted while the Proctor holds his office, we demand that the Proctor is suspended till the completion of the said inquiry.
Also, we take note of the fact that the Vice Chancellor at no point has mentioned the contents of Mudasir’s letter and has in fact at no point mentioned to the Press or in any public statement that the administration was in possession of letters, where Mudasir had attempted to clarify and defend his own position. Instead, she, as the representative of the university authorities has continued to criminalize Mudasir in the name of homosexuality and uphold the notion that the violence was ensuing from one party. The Vice Chancellor has not at any point acknowledged that this was a serious problem between two students and that they had failed to accord equal attention and seriousness to both parties.
We fear that the Vice Chancellor in collusion with sections of the faculty and the administration have vested interest in affecting the neutrality of any form of inquiry. It is in view of this that we demand the suspension of the Vice Chancellor, pending inquiry.
A written apology from the University administration to the members of the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad:
We would like the University administration to issue an apology to all members of the University for failing to resolve a crisis that was avoidable in the first place. We believe such an apology would be a gesture, not only indicating the administration‘s desire to receive the crisis in the seriousness that it warrants, but also of faith and reassurance to the EFLU community.
Regarding the compensation, the administration must look into legal precedence set by other universities; for example, the case of Senthil Kumar in the University of Hyderabad:
We would also want the university administration to provide compensation for Mudasir‘s family, a demand that has been turned down citing GOI limitations. The conventional discourses of heteronormativity, majoritarianism, casteism and elitism that govern institutional spaces and public spheres have come in to full view. We as students, teachers or administrators cannot continue to disregard the new languages and identities that are beginning to occupy our university spaces. We believe that our institutional and societal structures have failed to take in to account the various identities—regional, religious and sexual—that converged in the person of Mudasir. We need to understand the conventional ways in which universities are administered and the trauma this may result in for some students–especially those who do not “fit” the university‘s idea of the “normal” student.
Our demand for compensation comes out of engaging with the experience of fellow students from marginalized communities who have consistently raised the issue of difficult costs—monetary, emotional, and labored—to their families, to their villages and their communities in sending a young person to an urban university. The pressure to monetarily contribute to the family, the education of younger siblings, etc. continues to concern students from such marginalized backgrounds. We understand that institutional spaces such as universities are yet to appreciate the immense amount of pressure on such students. When they fail to cope with indifferent structures, some prefer to take their own lives, rather than having to return as a failure. With this understanding, we refer to the precedents set by the University of Hyderabad in providing compensation to the family of Senthil Kumar.
Structural changes must be implemented to ensure that relationships between teachers, students and the administration are not ridden with discrimination, prejudice and domination; a structure that encourages a more sensitive attitude towards all members of the University; a structure that does not resort to law in the first instance.
We would also like to bring to your attention the adequacy and capacity of institutional arrangements in dealing with the emotional and psychological needs of students, especially those who come from minority or backward communities or conflict regions. We insist that GS CASH should be formally instituted as a full-fledged functioning body in our University. There is also a need for other cells/bodies need to be put in place for redressing grievances of specific groups of students. For instance, Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) has a special cell for Kashmiri students to look after their specific problems and issues.
Our struggle has drawn support from various student organizations in different state and central universities, for instance, AISA, AISF, DSU, BSF, TVV, ASA. A section of academicians in Jamia Millia and Delhi University have also expressed their solidarity with the Struggle Committee.
Mudasir’s suicide takes up greater significance in the light of it being the fourth death in our five-year old University. To add to this, there have been multiple suicide attempts by students of the university, following casteist oppression within the German Department. Another student, Munavath Sriramulu, an Adivasi student, had gone on a hunger strike as well as filed a case with the Osmania University Police Station against the casteist attitude of the HOD of the German Department, Prof. Meenakshi Reddy. He was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of a private hospital following the distress caused by the death of Mudasir, his friend. We take into consideration the high tally of student deaths–two Dalit and one Muslim minority— in this campus and recognize that these are not individual cases, but rather a symptom of a deep structural malignancy.
We continue to face an adamant administration and a large section of hostile teachers who insist on exercising their powers to intimidate the protesters At this juncture it is crucial that we are supported by all who occupy our position and hope for a university structure that is humane and democratic, and be able to fight alongside.