University of Hyderabad (UoH) Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile was honored by no less an authority than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Indian Science Congress in Tirupati on Tuesday.
Rao was awarded the ‘Millenium Plaque of Honour‘ at the Science Congress, “given to two eminent personalities for their contribution in science each year.”
The news of the award has garnered a strong reaction from a section of students at UoH, who accuse Appa Rao of having a role in the death of suspended Dalit PhD scholar, Rohith Vemula.
Appa Rao was the VC of the University in January last year, when large-scale protests broke out following Rohith’s death. He has also been named in an FIR under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, filed after Rohith’s death on a complaint by four other scholars who were suspended with Vemula.
Alleging that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Union Minister YS Chowdary, who were present on stage, were “strong lobbyists for Podile”, these UoH students released a long statement condemning the award.
“Podile is a stooge who is now being rewarded for the services to his masters in the BJP. Let’s not forget that this man was chosen out of turn and by overlooking several eminent scholars. This was clearly done by the government to suppress assertions made by Dalit students on the campus,” the statement issued by Dontha Prashanth, Seshu Chemudugunta and Vijay Pedapudi, read.
The statement also read, “The greatest tragedy about conferring a scientific award on Appa Rao is that he is a disgrace to the spirit of scientific temper.”
“He is not only a believer in the unscientific caste system but also is a proven plagiarist and a sub-standard scholar. Apparao Podile has been a disgrace to the scientific community,” the students also alleged in the statement.
“He is also a poor administrator, as a fact-finding report by a team of scientists clearly revealed,” the statement added. The students were referring to an Independent fact-finding report by a team of researchers on the incidents leading up to Vemula’s death, which was published on Tuesday.
The report claimed that “although the University of Hyderabad is a diverse institution, discrimination on the campus continues.”
“It is clear that the University’s administration failed to discharge its responsibilities in a non-partisan manner, and failed to protect academic freedom on campus. Instead of amicably resolving the dispute between the ASA and the ABVP students, the administration succumbed to pressure from the BJP and the central government and took ill-advised and one-sided decisions that led to prolonged agitations and disquiet among a large section of students,” the students alleged in their statement.
“The struggle against Podile Appa Rao, seeking his removal as Vice-Chancellor, and his arrest under the SC/ST Act will continue till justice is rendered,” the statement concluded.