In A Victory For Student Rights, IIT Madras Reinstates Dalit Student Body #RaiseYourVoice

Posted on June 8, 2015 in Campus Watch, Human Rights, Taboos

By Abhishek Jha

In a joint public statement issued Sunday evening, IIT Madras and the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle from IIT-M declared that the Dean of Students has “reinstated the recognition of APSC as an independent student body.
The independent student body had been de-recognised on May 22, 2015 by the Dean of Students and asked not to use the institute’s resources. It was later informed that it was being de-recognised on the basis of a letter from the MHRD, which sought comments from the IIT-M administration following an anonymous complaint alleging that APSC was spreading hatred in the campus.

 

B.R._Ambedkar_in_1950

Following the de-recognition, there was a nationwide outrage against both the IIT-M administration and the MHRD even as both tried to wash their hands off the issue explaining that the APSC stood in violation of guidelines. This was contested by the APSC, which said that it did not use the institute logo and identify itself only as “an IIT-M students’ initiative.” A Central Vigilance Commission guideline circulated over social media and a report in the Telegraph suggested that the ministry itself could have violated guidelines by responding to an anonymous complaint.

There were protests in front of the MHRD office, inside the IIT-Madras campus, and solidarity protests elsewhere in the country demanding that the de-recognition – which was an effective ban on any organized activity by APSC- be revoked. As is the case with bans these days, several Ambedkar Periyar study circles sprung up on Facebook from campuses of colleges both technical and non-technical. Authors Arundhati Roy and Meena Kandasamy lent their support to the student group and David Mumford, a Fields Medal winner and Professor Emeritus of Harvard University, wrote to Dr. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director of IIT-M, saying that he was “deeply shocked” by the d-recognition of APSC.

The joint statement issued yesterday said that, “The APSC representatives conveyed their views to the Director, in particular, that the guidelines for independent student bodies was publicized on April 18, 2015, while their meeting took place on April 14th, 2015,” removing the doubt of a technical roadblock in the way of APSC. Modifications in guidelines will be taken up by the Senate later, the statement said.

The APSC’s struggle was the latest in a series of student movements that can be traced back to Jadavpur’s Hok Kolorob protests. There were protests in the English department of Delhi University last year; the Kiss of Love protests spread all over the country; and there were protests earlier this year at IIT Jodhpur against the dictatorial practices of the director. If one dares to read into this string of events, it appears that college campuses in our country just might be becoming places of only contingent calm. That IITs- considered hitherto indifferent to politics- are joining the bandwagon is a welcome change. And why not? University as a place of innovation and creativity must be able to reinvent itself. Our friends at IIT know that equilibrium is only a place of contingent calm and not a stagnant position and have rightly conducted an experiment. If university students across the country want to find their own voice, they must shed the idea of university as a quiet place.

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