An article dated February 27, 2017 in the Postcard News website accuses the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Hyderabad of being home to ‘Breaking India Forces’ and that the students of the institute ‘glorify and support Maoist terrorists of Bastar’.
It further adds that the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jadavpur University (JU), Delhi University (DU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU) are among the ‘communist universities’ where students are ‘brainwashed to accept the leftist ideology’. It goes on to add that ‘anybody with a counter view’ in these university is ‘harassed and discriminated against’ till he or she is forced to accept the leftist leanings of these professors.
The article states that TISS Hyderabad is the latest addition to these anti-national universities. Apparently, here too, according to the article, anybody who raises a ‘different voice’ would be ‘bullied by left-wing goons and the communist professors of the institute’.
The article refers to a program where Malini Subramaniam, an Indian journalist known for her extensive reporting on human rights violations by the security forces in Bastar, was invited for a talk in the institute. Subramaniam is also the winner of the International Press Freedom Award in 2016, along with four other international journalists, for her 5-year reportage in conflict-ridden Bastar.
She spoke on the difficulties of the journalists in the region, and how the tribals there are trapped between the Maoists and the police forces. She was critical of both the Maoist and police atrocities on the innocent tribal population in the guises of ‘ideology’ and ‘national security’.
One of the basic fundamentals of every democracy is the right to vote and elect one’s representative. This right is not available to the tribal people in Bastar. Elections in Bastar are not a ‘people’s affair’. Instead, they are controlled and manipulated by the non-resident sarpanches, who are in fact puppets of the state. Otherwise, they are threatened and harassed by the Maoist forces to participate in the elections.
The issue of the tribals in Bastar is not only an issue of development, even going beyond the lack of access to basic necessities. It is primarily an issue of identity. Subramaniam told the students about the sexual harassment of women in Bastar. She also pointed out to the laws of Chattisgarh, which provided fertile grounds for these atrocities to flourish. She criticised the corporate agenda which resulted in the encroachment on tribal lands in the first place. Finally, she also criticised the insensitive manner in which the civil society treats the tribal people of Bastar.
The program was completely a student’s initiative to understand one of the most conflicted zones of India. The event also aimed at getting first-hand information about the status of the tribals, who stand at the centre of this battleground, between the Maoists and the police.
The students then performed a street play on the same issue, along with an ‘open-painting’ activity to bring forward the different perspectives on the issue. But the article stated that the program abused the Indian state and instead supported the terrorist activities of the Maoists in Bastar, who regularly attack the CRPF soldiers along with other police officials.
The article contains photographs of pamphlets and placards that read ‘azadi (freedom)’, ‘azad mann (free mind)’, ‘human rights’, ‘press freedom’, ‘sedition’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘Salwa Judum’, along with a poster of the program. The anonymous article then accuses TISS of bluntly promoting ‘anti-nationals’ and calls for unity between all people who ‘love’ the country for the sake of protecting it from ‘anti-national’ forces.
Being a student of TISS Hyderabad, I categorically reject all the allegations made in the article. To my knowledge, the institute has never discriminated against students on the basis of their ideologies. Instead, it has always maintained a fair environment where merit has been the only criterion of judging students. The faculty members of TISS are known to be broad-minded and also encourage different perspectives and point of views in their classes.
Debate and discussion, and not oppression and humiliation, is the nature of TISS. The open environment and the freedom of dissent is fundamental to TISS. No, it is not a ‘den of anti-nationals’. Rather, it is a place which takes debates beyond the confines of nationalism and anti-nationalism. The institute has often been at the forefront to spread new, constructive and progressive ideas among the student community.
Furthermore, it also inculcates moral ethics in its students encouraging them to stand up for the deprived sections of the society and oppose the oppressive forces. It is truly determined not to ‘corrupt’ the future of the country. Rather, it encourages its students to re-imagine futures for India with the maximum diversity. The institute has always provided space for dissent and debates, where students can enhance their abilities to ‘think beyond’.
The allegations made against the institute in the article in question were false and illogical. Personally, I think that this kind of hate mongering and malicious attempt is a move to malign the secular, progressive and dynamic nature of institutions like TISS, JNU, DU, HCU and JU, which have always contributed to the process of nation-building.