Hyderabad: EFLU students call off hunger strike; 17 booked in new FIR

Hyderabad: After more than a week on an indefinite hunger strike, the students of English and Foreign Language University (EFLU) ended their strike on Tuesday, November 14.

A student clarified that the protest was mainly ended due to health-related risk factors that could arise if they continued the strike.

Another student added that Vice Chancellor Prof E Suresh Kumar has asked the Proctor and other EFLU administration to end all communication with protesting students amid their demands for transparency in reaching a truce.

The students have been demanding that the proctorial board be removed while expressing no faith in its investigation into the sexual assault of a fellow student.

Following the protests, the university’s administration removed Proctor T Samson and appointed him Dean of Planning. They have also reportedly called for applications to take the place of Vice Chancellor Prof E Suresh Kumar, whose one-year extension ended in June.

Third FIR booked against EFLU students

Speaking to Siasat.com, a protesting student said that a fresh FIR was booked against 17 students after the strike was called off.

This is the third FIR booked against students by the EFLU Registrar, Prof Narasimha Rao Kedari.

In the fresh complaint, Kedari raised concern over the written and vocal slogans by the students including, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ (long live revolution) on the main entrance of the campus. Claiming that the slogans were objectionable, the EFLU Registrar feared that “this may lead to violence and unrest in the University.”

He also alleged that they were blocking the main entrance of the university which has been prohibited and the faculty was being forced to use “other smaller entry/exit points because of their misconduct.”

Other written and pictorial slogans on the floor at the university’s main entrance include, “Azadi”, “Sab Yadh Rakha Jayega” and “Tum Zameen pe Zulm likho, hum wahi pe Inquilab Likha Jayega.”

Citing several causes of concern alongside the slogans, the registrar alleged that the group of protesting students were “obstructing the classwork and resorting to “acts of intimidation” with intent on “disrupting the academic and administrative functioning of the university.”

He also cited the Delhi High Court’s objection to the slogan of Inquilab Zindabad, he alleged that there was a bigger conspiracy to create violence and unrest in the university. “The protest planned was “not a typical protest” normal in political culture or democracy but one far more destructive and injurious geared towards extremely grave consequences,” said the Registrar in his complaint.

The Delhi High Court had objected to the use of the word ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ while hearing cases in relation to the 2020 Delhi Riots.

The students have been booked under sections 342 (wrongful confinement), 506 (Punishment for wrongful confinement) and disfigurement of university property under the Telangana Prevention of Disfigurement of Open Places and Prohibition of Obscene and Objectionable Posters and Advertisements Act, 1997.

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Future plan of action

The students have temporarily suspended the protests amid growing health concerns and upcoming exams. However, they stand firm in their battle and have stated that they would return after constituting a fresh joint action committee and with a further course of action.

The parents of a few students have also taken the legal course in the matter and have submitted a writ petition to the High Court of Telangana.

EFLU protests so far

On October 16, about 300 students held a protest for over 24 hours, demanding the reconstitution of the university’s Sensitisation, Prevention and Redressal of Sexual Harassment (SPARSH) committee.

Students said that the previous SPARSH committee, which was constituted under an EFLU ordinance based on the Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013, had been defunct since June 2023.

Just a day after the protest, a female student was sexually assaulted on the night of October 18 at around 10 pm, which led to further protests against the administration by students the following night, October 19.

The police then booked 11 students of the university, based on the proctor’s complaint, after the protests on October 19 over the administration’s disregard for the students’ issues, as they demanded that the victim’s name be revealed in public.

The second FIR was registered against four students on November 3, for allegedly harassing and humiliating a visually impaired faculty member on campus.

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On November 6, at least 7 students were detained by the police when they began their indefinite hunger strike which was called off on November 14.