Posted by G Sreeja Vasthavi
‘Velivada’ in Telugu means “Dalit ghetto”, which exists in the margins of the villages, as the entry of Dalits into the mainstream or the ‘Brahminical agraharas’ were prohibited. On 4th January 2016, five Dalit research scholars – namely Rohith Vemula, Dontha Prashanth, Vijay Pedapudi, Seshu Chemudugunta and Velpula Sunkanna – were thrown out of the hostels and were restricted entry from their hostels and the administration building and were socially boycotted from public spaces in the campus by the Vice Chancellor Podile Apparao. After their rooms were locked on 4th January 2016, they all stayed in the open area at a shopping complex (North) which was called as ‘Velivada’, as the punishment given to them was nothing less than social boycott.
The rise of Velivada at the centre of the Brahmanical space of University of Hyderabad exposed the caste atrocities in higher educational institutions. The Velivada has also been a place where the five Dalit research scholars including Rohith Vemula took shelter under the shade of these prominent anti-caste heroes. Rohith Vemula spent his last days in this very same Velivada.
This Velivada stands as a testimony to the atrocities committed by the Apparao-led administration. It also stands as a symbol of self respect and struggle for the students coming from the marginalised sections. The Velivada here is the centre which represents the history of struggles. The struggle of Velivadas have always aimed at achieving universal principles of ‘Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’ as against the hatred, divisiveness, and inequality preached and practiced by Agraharas. Velivada provided a sense of belonging to the marginalised students which the University has utterly failed to provide.
On January 4th 2019, Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) in HCU stood in remembrance of the day that the Velivada was formed. The students gathered at Velivada to pay the homage to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Ramabai Ambedkar, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Gurram Jashuva, Komaram Bheem, Manyavar Kanshiram, Periyar EV Ramaswamy, and Ayyankali and also to share and hear testimonies of those who participated and involved in the anti-caste movement therein.
On 6th January 2019, Mr. Podile Apparao, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad destroyed the portraits of the highly respected and esteemed leaders for Dalits of this country displayed around Velivada. Further it was learnt that Mr. Podile Apparao made false allegations in his orders dated 05/01/2019 by alleging that we had dug the earth at Velivada to affix the portraits, which is absolutely false and fictitious and was only aimed at destroying our lives as we are all Dalits.
The portraits had been existing for the past three years and were standing loosely on ground. He also further alleged that we did not heed security objections, which also is absolutely false. Proof of the same can be obtained from CCTV footage around the shopping complex. All these horrors of lies have been designed with an intent to damage our careers and lives as we belong to the category of Scheduled Caste.
On top of the said atrocious order, a further atrocity was committed by Mr. Podile Apparao as he destroyed the portraits of social revolutionaries such as Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, Ramabai Ambedkar, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Gurram Jashuva, Komaram Bheem, Manyavar Kanshiram, Periyar EV Ramaswamy and Ayyankali who were held in high esteem by Dalits across the country.
This act caused insult, humiliation and disrespect to the great icons whom Dalits across the nation revere and respect and those who made a significant improvement in the lives of the Dalits and the marginalised. The destruction is a clear insult to their memory, leading to protests by scheduled caste and marginalised students.
Such atrocities continue unabated by Mr. Podile Apparao as he is allowed to continue as the Vice Chancellor and is thereby deliberately targeting Ambedkar Students Association and scheduled caste students.
We strongly feel that a sense of justice for Dalits on campus will prevail only when Mr. Podile Apparao is arrested and removed as the Vice Chancellor of University of Hyderabad, and the portraits of all great social revolutionaries which were destroyed by him are replaced.
Also read: In Photos: The Poetry of the Velivada
G Sreeja Vasthavi is currently pursuing her M.phil in CSSEIP in the University of Hyderabad.
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Photography Credits: ASA- HCU