Velpula Sunkanna, a research scholar who was expelled along with Rohith Vemula by University of Hyderabad (UoH), refused to receive his Doctoral Degree from Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile at the 18th Convocation of the University held on Saturday.
In an act of protest, Sunkanna refused to take the certificate from Appa Rao during the convocation ceremony, when his name was called to the dais to receive PhD degree.
Appa Rao, miffed over the student’s bold response requested him to receive the degree. However, he finally gave in to his demand and invited Pro Vice- Chancellor Vipin Srivastava to award Sunkanna his degree. Sunkanna received his PhD degree in Philosophy, amid a thunderous applause from other students and faculty.
“Appa Rao is accused of suspending five Dalit students in the campus that later led to the tragic demise of our friend Rohith Vemula. There is a police case filed against Appa Rao under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act, and I didn’t want to receive my degree from such a person ”, said Sunkanna later to media.
He added, it was spontaneous protest and he hadn’t plan in advance.
“I hadn’t planned it in advance because I thought that a chief guest would be giving out the degrees. However, when I went to the function and saw that Appa Rao was giving them out, I decided not to take it from him.”
Sunkanna is currently pursuing his post-doctoral degree in Philosophy from IIT Bombay.
Following the incident, several supporters of the justice for Rohith Vemula movement, took to social media congratulating Sunkanna’s mode of protest.
In November last year, the University of Hyderabad expelled five Dalit students from the hostel and barred them from accessing public places on campus, for allegedly assaulting an ABVP student leader. Rohit Vemula, one of the students expelled, later committed suicide in hostel room citing discrimination from University officials.