The proctor of Hyderabad's English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) has finally been replaced, three weeks since students began protests, demanding justice for a fellow student who was sexually assaulted on campus. Proctor T. Samson was replaced by Professor T. Srivani, giving a glimpse of relief to the students who had even initiated a hunger strike a day ago.
In a statement released on Wednesday, November 8, the EFLU student body noted that the change of Proctor was “only a partial fulfilment of demands.”
A protest had first begun at EFLU on October 16, demanding the establishment of the SPARSH (Sensitisation, Prevention and Redressal of Sexual Harassment) Committee which had been defunct since June. The protests gained further momentum on October 18, when a female student was sexually assaulted by two unidentified men on campus.
The students released a statement on November 6, with a list of their demands and clarifications on some of the allegations made by the EFLU staff against the students.
Earlier this week, about 27 students from EFLU and the University of Hyderabad (UoH) were detained on November 6, under the Indian Penal Code's (IPC) Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), before being released at around 8:30 pm that day. The perpetrator(s) of the sexual assault are yet to be found and arrested.
This happened yesterday in EFLU when students went on a hunger strike seeking justice for a sexual assault survivor. It has been 20 days since the incident of sexual and physical assault on a female student in EFLU by two unidentified men. pic.twitter.com/x8J7WcnQSt— Harshal (@harshal_deshp) November 7, 2023
On November 4, four students were booked by a visually impaired professor, Y. Suresh Babu, for allegedly hindering him from leaving the administration block. The EFLU Students Committee denied these allegations in their statement.
Why did the students want the proctor replaced?
On October 18, a female student of EFLU was allegedly sexually assaulted by two unidentified men on campus. The survivor, who had also been taking part in the SPARSH protests, said that she was taking a walk on campus around 10 pm when two men pulled her hair from behind, threatened her for being a part of the demonstrations, and then sexually assaulted. She was discovered by two students lying unconscious and rushed to the University Health Centre.
“Despite the presence of around 130 security guards and over 50 CCTV cameras on the campus, the assault took place,” remarked a student. The University's Proctor, T. Samson had allegedly restricted the students from accessing CCTV footage, and the Vice-Chancellor was informed only the next morning.
Protests grew stronger, demanding the arrest of the perpetrators on October 19. On the same day, Proctor Samson filed an FIR against 11 students for allegedly gathering outside his university quarters, provoking other students, and restricting anyone from leaving the campus. The students were booked under IPC Sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) and 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), among others.
On 3 November, in a letter addressed to the students, the Vice Chancellor of EFLU, Prof E Suresh Kumar said, "As the Vice Chancellor of the University, I am vested with adequate academic, administrative, and disciplinary powers, which are only executed upon the investigation, recommendations, and findings by specific governing committees, University Officials, Statutory Officers, and designated officials. If the university is compelled to invoke these powers, it is purely in the larger interest of the University."
The students began an indefinite hunger strike on November 6, demanding the resignation of the proctorial board and Vice-Chancellor. They also demanded the establishment of an Internal Complaints Committee with elected student representatives, strictly in accordance with UGC regulations, and without administrative members.
The students are also demanding the dismissal of the FIRs against them.