Monday, February 1, 2016

Make harassment and discrimination crimes under the law: Prakash Ambedkar


Make harassment and discrimination crimes under the law: Prakash Ambedkar

Amendments in the Central University law as well as all the statutue(s) under which Central Universities have been established, to ensure that discrimination and harassment are defined crimes punishable under the Indian Penal Code are urgently required, says Prakash Amdedkar, in an interview to Teesta Setalvad.

Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, formerly a Member of Parliament, heads the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and is leading a protest march of student and mass organizations, in Mumbai on February 1, 2016. He says that Rohith Vemula's suicide –defined by the student movement across India as an institutional murder – has fired the imagination of youth all over India. The march in Mumbai will be from Rani Bagh, Byculla to Vidhan Bhavan.

Q. What are the main demands that you are making tomorrow?
A. We are demanding the immediate suspension of the Vice Chancellor, Appa Rao for his actions that amount to culpability especially if you see both letters written by Rohoth Vemula to him, one dated December 18. 2016 and the other the day he died, January 17, 2016. Prima facie this is evident, he needs to be suspended. Second, we are demanding a free and fair criminal investigation especially looking into the aspect of whether the actions of two ministers of the central government amount to abetment to suicide.
Thirdly, we are demanding substantive amendments to the laws governing Universities, the general Central University Act and the various University Act(s) under which these Central Universities have been constituted (for example the University of Hyderabad Act-HCU, 1974, the Jawaharlal Nehru Act, 1966, the North-Eastern Hill University Act, 1973 etc) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The former laws need to be amended to actually reflect the offences that constitute discrimination, harassment and unprofessional conduct. For this, a detailed and extensive survey that jots down the forms and kinds of discriminatory conduct needs to be undertaken before they are defined in the newly amended law.......

The Mumbai Students Solidarity Front (MSS) first organised the student protest in Mumbai University on January 19, 2016 demanding justice for Rohith and the other four students who were thrown out of their hostels on false allegations made by the ABVP president of HCU, Susheel Kumar. After the protest a need for a broader alliance was felt. Various Ambedkarite, progressive and democratic organisations from Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai came together and formed a front on called "Justice for Rohith - Joint Action Committee, Mumbai" under the guidance of  Prakash Ambedkar (January 22, 2016).

Students from IIT-Bombay, Mumbai University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Nirmala Niketan, Siddharth College, Govt Law College, Ruparel College, St. Xavier's college, International Institute of Population Sciences, Vivekananda College, Ambedkar College, and many others are part of the front. Several progressive political forces, cultural groups and local organisations have also joined in.

It is this front that, in order to take the movement of Justice for Rohith forward and build support for the demands raised by the JAC for Social Justice, HCU, the JAC Mumbai is organizing a protest rally from Byculla to Vidhan Bhavan onFebruary 1, 2016 starting at 11 am. JAC members have campaigned across educational institutions and bastis in the city and suburbs to speak to people of the age-old and recent battles that Rohit was fighting and to call upon them to join the protest rally.  

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