Delhi Media, Why The Silence On UoH?
By Preeti Raghunath
25 March, 2016
I am only voicing the concerns of many students at the University of Hyderabad (UoH/HCU). This is a delayed reaction since I did feel that perhaps we would eventually get media coverage that is worthy of the kind of situation that HCU is in. I did feel that this was a momentary lapse on the part of the otherwise Breaking-News-hungry news channels. I understand that orders prohibiting media entry into the university premises (or ‘campus’ as we so fondly call it) have been put up. However, we fail to understand what stops the media from covering/engaging with civil liberties groups and following up on developments on the legal recourse front, even as faculty, lawyers and others concerned are battling it out on our behalf?In fact, students and friends in the city of Hyderabad and other parts of the country are having to field questions about the authenticity of attacks on so many students! They do not believe it is for real! If people have to only go by the 11 words that Facebook puts up as trending news and the slant that it gives, I feel sorry for them.
This is when we look to the media in Delhi to dispel myths, rumours and provide balanced coverage for the country to read/watch, taking into account all sides of the story. We do not even expect them to approach the story in a proactive manner on behalf of unarmed students having to deal with CRPF and Rapid Action Forces on campus. To bring to your notice, the students have had to contend with at least the following:
(a) The shock of the sudden return of an unsympathetic VC and relapse of an administrative culture that chooses to terrorise than talk,
(b) The horror of being held near-hostage in hostels with absolutely no food/water/electricity/internet/provisions/access to toiletries that female students may need/some sympathy, with even food delivery vendors being sent back from the campus gate,
(c) Worries about being at the frail end of a semester that has been extremely disturbing and on-the-edge on account of having lost one of us to administrative apathy,
(d) Living in a city that is currently showing all signs of a water crisis during the upcoming summer season, with the university administration admitting that a 6-day week was followed due to shortage of water in the university area.
After the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the subsequent turn of events, it has been a continuous effort on the part of students to half-settle into a routine and study even as they deal with sorrow and anger that has seen no redressal yet. I would leave it to your better judgement to understand why it took time for students caught in the throes of a bad situation like this, to digest and even comprehend undisclosed political developments that are beyond their daily scheme of things. In such a situation, we look to you in the media to convey to the rest of world things that we ourselves cannot. As young idealists looking to enter the “real world”, which I’m sure as aspiring young journalists you too were at some point, we expect to be given fair treatment in terms of being represented in your daily work, viz, reporting “newsworthy” occurrences in the country. I'm sorry, but if this horrific clampdown on students and the sheer unleashing of violence by university authorities in collusion with the State is not newsworthy enough for media in Delhi, what is?
Our classmates and colleagues, room-mates and hostel-mates are languishing in the Cherlapally jail (last heard), after being carried from one police station to another as if to suggest that all of this is being staged by authorities just before a series of public holidays. The students have tried to capture and upload photos and videos for public viewing, even as they were lathi-charged, stomped upon, thrashed and abused with the choicest of words. Women students were grabbed and molested, and have had to brave filthy language and racist comments --- all of this highly unbecoming of a university campus like ours. Even if you feel the need to draw on popular caricatures that all of us indeed are either “children” or “hooligans/gundas/student politicians who do not study”, it shouldn’t stop the fourth estate in the National Capital Region from engaging with us and taking voxpopulithat represent diverse views. It also shouldn't stop the civil society in general from picking it up and talking to us about things that are assumed to be beyond our understanding or experience yet. If not now, when?
All of us here are students pursuing degrees in higher education at a prestigious central university, and most of us have had to brave difficult circumstances to reach this level of education at a public university --- a fact that the current circumstances and public judgement certainly do not allow us to take lightly. We do have opinions and world-views that result from our diverse backgrounds, experiences and understanding of the social, economic and political structures that we are all unwittingly a part of. I’m sure as citizens of a democracy and educated practitioners of a job that requires responsible and ethical functioning, you do too. Why would you hold this against us? Majority of the students in hostels hail from outside the city of Hyderabad, and have parents and family members who are extremely concerned for their safety. A lot of times, it becomes difficult for them to explain why university authorities have resorted to such measures --- something that even they await to understand. I don't think they deserve this. No student does. At least not from the vanguard of democracy.
Preeti Raghunath is a PhD Researcher in University of Hyderabad, India