University of Hyderabad: The Not So Eminent Institute of Eminence

At most social gatherings over the last two years, as soon as I mention that I’m a student at the University of Hyderabad, the very first reaction has always been, “Oh! That’s Rohith Vemula’s university, right?”

This reaction gives me a feeling that I can’t quite name. Vemula’s message in his suicide note was loud enough to make even the the apathetic hear. The students’ movement on campus and off campus across the nation was at least successful in etching Vemula’s name in the rather short memory of the masses.

But how far have we really come?

When I came to the university in 2018, I saw Rashmi Ranjan Suna, a fourth-year PhD scholar at the School of Physics, succumb to dengue due to the alleged medical negligence of Himagri Hospital in Gachibowli and the University Health Centre.

Suna, a first-generation Dalit scholar, was referred to a blacklisted money-mongering hospital that declared him dengue free even as his platelet count kept on decreasing. Ultimately, Suna, the only support for his family and the first person to reach this far in higher education in his entire village in Western Odisha’s Kalahandi district – crossing all the socio-economic barriers of this hierarchy and privilege driven society – died.

Now, almost two years later, on August 21, after suffering an acute ischemic stroke, PhD scholar Surya Pratap Bharati died due to the alleged medical negligence of the University Health Centre and the Citizens Specialty Hospital.

A first-generation scholar belonging to the SC community, and hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Surya was admitted to the Citizens Specialty Hospital, Nallagandla, on August 17 on the recommendation of the University Health Centre. The doctor at the hospital suggested an immediate cerebral surgery after diagnosis and tests.

But the hospital refused to operate without running a full COVID-19 RTCPR test despite the Rapid Antigen Test being negative. He was kept in the isolation ward, and none of his attendants were either informed about the treatment and prognosis, or allowed to visit him.

The next day, he was declared Covid positive and was denied treatment. The hospital gave a hefty bill, and the university administration failed to help him with his insurance. However, arrangements were made by the students, and he was shifted to the Continental Hospital on August 20, where the doctors told his friends and family that Surya’s chances of survival were pretty slim. Within the next few hours, he was declared brain dead, and he finally succumbed to ischemic clots on August 21 at 4:10 pm.

Meanwhile, an RTCPR test was run by the Continental Hospital twice, which came out to be negative; another antibody (IgA, IgG, IgM) test detected him non-reactive – proving that he had not contracted COVID-19.

These tests establish the criminal medical negligence of Citizens Specialty Hospital, which cost Surya his life. Surya was a sixth-year student who was about to submit his thesis. His death is a repeat incident of criminal medical negligence and the result of a nexus between the university administration and private healthcare centres.

So the point under consideration again is: how far have we come? From January 2016 to August 2020, what policy level changes have we had in our, “Oh, but we are way more caste sensitive than other university campuses” campus, in our NIRF ranking of 4, India Today ranking of 2, Institution of Eminence status?

When these rankings of various universities come out, I find very few students at the University of Hyderabad celebrating and owning them – at one point or the other during our stay on campus, our ordeals with university administration make us see through the facade, resulting in the realisation that these rankings are nothing but a sham.

Most of us keep raising our voices against the systemic injustices on campus. The campus has witnessed massive protests seeking justice for Rohith Vemula and Rashmi Ranjan Suna and many others who have been “institutionally murdered” over the years. Still, the university, so far, has been exceptionally successful at either throttling our voices or exhausting us to silence.

Divya Rai is an M.Phil Scholar at the University of Hyderabad.

Featured image credit: UoH’s official website