People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 31, 2006
Police Brutality on Students Condemned
SFI Holds Rally On Hostel Students' Issues
M Venugopala Rao
Andhra Pradesh state unit of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) has been campaigning on the problems faced by the hostel students in the state. SFI conducted an extensive survey on the plight of the miserable conditions prevailing in the hostels all over the state (People’s Democracy: September 24, 2006). After bringing the problems to the notice of the government and finding no favourable response from it, SFI started an indefinite hunger strike on the December 10 at Sundarayya Park in Hyderabad. They demanded the state government to enhance the amount of scholarships, hostel mess charges, cosmetic charges and solve all the other problems of the students in the hostels. 28 leaders of the SFI, including its state President K Mallesam, Vice-President K Bhaskar and Joint-Secretary P Appalanarsaiah and leaders from all the districts sat on indefinite hunger strike. Inaugurating the indefinite hunger strike and an exhibition of photographs depicting the conditions prevailing in the hostels, Paturu Ramayya, CPI(M) MLA and President of All India Agricultural Workers’ Union lashed out at the Congress government for neglecting welfare of different sections of the people and throwing the hostels into an abyss of unbearable conditions without releasing funds to them regularly and without enhancing the mess charges and cosmetic charges to the students therein. He warned the government that if it did not solve the problems, the Agricultural Workers’ Union and the Forum Against Caste Discrimination (KVPS) would immobilise the government along with the students. P Madhu, CPI(M) member of Rajya Sabha and the founder secretary of the state SFI, demanded the government to enhance the amount of scholarships and mess charges as promised earlier by the present chief minister, Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, before the Congress had come to power in the state. Pointing out that 1573 hostels all over the state were housed in rented buildings, he found fault with the government for not releasing the required amounts for rents and power bills in time as a result of which the students were facing a number of problems even during the time of examinations. K Hari Kishore, state secretary of the SFI pointed out that as per the orders issued by the government, 26 types of articles had to be supplied to the students in the SC, ST and BC hostels but adequate funds were not being allocated for the same. ‘If the amounts of scholarships were not enhanced by the 13 December, SFI would take out a massive rally to the legislative Assembly with students’, he announced.
With no positive response coming from the government on the genuine demands of the hostel students, the SFI took out a massive rally with thousands of students coming from all over the state on the 13 December from Sundarayya Park to reach the legislative assembly. All-India president of SFI, R Arun Kumar and Hari Kishore led the rally. When the rally reached Himayathnagar, the police forces, which were deployed in large numbers, obstructed the rally by laying an iron mesh on the road. The students sat on the road, raising slogans against the Chief Minister and made it clear that the rasta roko would continue till the minister for social welfare, D S Redya Nayak, comes and responds to their demands. CPI(M) MLA Thammineni Veerabhadram, Polit Bureau member of the Telugu Desam Party, T Devender Goud, and the former all-India president of the SFI, Y Venkateswara Rao, met the agitating students and expressed their solidarity. With no response coming from the government even after conducting the rasta roko for two and a half hours and when the police tried to arrest the leaders of SFI, the agitating students resisted. The police resorted to indiscriminate lathi charge and dragged the SFI leaders and students over the iron mesh. More than one hundred leaders and students, including girls, were injured, some severely with head and eye injuries, in the lathi charge and a police constable continued to beat up Harikishore, who became unconscious as a result of the lathi charge. The enraged police chased away the students and bet up the students black and blue. The police dragged the SFI leaders and students into their vans and took them away to Bollaram police station. The police arrested all together 92 leaders and students.
The students later conducted rasta roko at Narayanaguda cross roads and dharna at Sundarayya park. B V Raghavulu, state secretary of the CPI(M) and its Polit Bureau member, visited the dharna and consoled the injured students. When the police exhibited their highhandedness there again, the students again resisted. Raghavulu citicised the Congress government for emulating the former British rulers in India in suppressing people’s movements. In the past, the Chandrababu Naidu government, having resorted to such lathi charge and firing on the people agitating against hike in power tariff, was defeated in the elections, he reminded. Raghavulu warned the Rajasekhara Reddy government that a similar fate would befall on it for shedding the blood of the students. He also reminded that Rajasekhara Reddy, when he was the leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly, had criticised the Chandrababu Naidu government for trampling the agitating anganwadi workers with mounted horses and exhibited videotapes of the same in his campaign in the state. Now, under the regime of the same Rajasekhara Reddy, the government had not responded to the demands of the students, though the SFI had brought the problems of substandard food, diseases and lack of necessary facilities in the hostels in the state, and the police resorted to lathi charge on dalit and tribal students, Raghavulu criticised. He demanded the government to make necessary budgetary allocations for improving the conditions in the hostels and providing adequate facilities to the students. Raghavulu gave a call to the students to continue their struggle till their demands were solved and asked all the student unions to participate in the struggle. Promising that the TDP also would participate in the struggle of the students, Devender Goud accused the government of neglecting the welfare of the weaker sections. Thammineni Veerabhadram announced that a notice of adjournment motion on the issue would be given in the legislative assembly and that the CPI(M) would join hands with the students in their struggle. Y Venkateswara Rao lashed out at the chief minister for not paying heed even to the words of the Congress MLAs belonging to the SCs and STs that the conditions in the SC and ST hostels in the state were bad compared to those in the neighbouring states.
The police filed non-bailable cases against 80 students. Out of them 73 students were remanded to custody for 14 days and they were sent to Chanchalguda jail.
The police lathi charge on the students received all-round condemnation from the opposition parties and several mass organisations. They expressed their solidarity and support to the struggle of the students. The state committee of the CPI(M) condemned the atrocious lathi charge on the students demonstrating peacefully and demanded immediate release of the leaders and students who were arrested by the police. The CPI(M) asked the government to announce a specific programme of action for solving the problems relating to welfare hostels in the legislative assembly whose winter sessions is going on. It was unfair not to tolerate even bringing the problems to the notice of the government, the committee said. The CPI(M) termed the actions of the government in not giving permission for rally and meeting and in beating up the students black and blue under the pretext of violating prohibitory orders undemocratic. The incidents were examples of the increasing tyranny and intolerance of the ruling party towards the people, the CPI(M) said in a statement. Terming the police lathi charge on the students demonstrating peacefully as an irresponsible and inhuman act of the government, the CPI expressed full support to the struggle of the SFI. N Chandrababu Naidu, president of the TDP, condemned the brutal lathi charge on the agitating students and criticised the government for its negligent attitude towards welfare of the people and students. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi termed the lathi charge on the students agitating for their just demands as most inhuman. CPI(ML) New Democracy, CPI(ML) Liberation, A P Agricultural Workers’ Union, A P Rythu Sangham, BC Welfare Association, PDSU, Contract Lecturers’ Association, Affiliated College Teachers’ Association, All India Lawyers’ Union, BDSF, KVPS, Praja Natya Mandali, SFI, DYFI, AIDWA, CITU, APUTF and Coordination Committee of Artisans were among the political parties and mass organisations that condemned the police lathi charge on the students and expressed their support to their struggle.
Protesting the lathi charge, students conducted rasta roko at several places in Khammam and Warangal districts.
On the call given by the SFI, rasta rokos were organised on the 14 December all over the state, protesting the lathi charge on students and the approach of the government. Under the banner of the SFI, students organised protests at 230 centres in the state, conducting rasta rokos and burning the effigies of the government and the chief minister. Mock funeral processions of the chief minister were taken out in Mahabubnagar and Ramannapet in Nalgonda district. Students of Andhra University and Sri Krishnadevraya University boycotted classes. Wall posters against the government were pasted in the University of Hyderabad. The police arrested students protesting in Vijayawada, Peddapalli in Karimnagar district and at three centres in Medak district. On the call given by the SFI, educational institutions in all the districts observed bandh on the 15 December.
Protesting the atrocious lathi charge on the students, legislature party of the CPI(M) organised a demonstration on the 14 December. MLAs and staff of the office of the CPI(M) legislature party, wearing black shirts and holding placards with the slogan of “protesting the police atrocity on hostel students - CPM legislature party” inscribed on them, took out a procession from the old MLA quarters to the legislative assembly.
The issue of brutal lathi charge on the students figured in the legislative assembly on the 15 December. Demanding discussion on the issue, the CPI(M) and TDP gave notices of adjournment motions which were rejected by the speaker, K R Suresh Reddy. The CPI(M) members rushed to the podium of the speaker, demanding discussion on the issue and the members of the TDP supported them. With the minister for legislative affairs, K Rosaiah, giving an assurance that the minister for home would make a statement on the police lathi charge, the members of both the parties came back to their seats.
With the assurance given by the government to discuss the issues of hostel students in the assembly, the SFI leaders gave up their indefinite hunger strike. MLAs belonging to the CPI(M), CPI, TDP, TRS and MIM visited the camp of hunger strike and conveyed the assurance given by the government to the leaders of the SFI. Congratulating the SFI for the struggle, Thammineni Veerabhadram told the student leaders that they would try to get the problems of the students solved by taking them up for discussion in the assembly. The 74 leaders and students of the SFI, remanded to jail, were released on conditional bail. All of them were welcomed by Y Venkateswara Rao, who said struggles would not be stopped simply on account of the repression let loose by the government.
The state Human Rights Commission suo motu issued a show cause notice , taking cognisance of the reports in the media, to the Hyderabad city Commissioner of Police on the lathicharge of the students.