The Indian Institute of Technology at Banaras Hindu University sent out a notice on October 10 undersigned by the registrar’s office. Referencing to previously held demonstrations and processions on the college grounds, the notice informed students and employees to not partake in “any act of indiscipline which disrupts teaching, study, examination, research or administrative work and harmonious relationship among various members of the Institute.” It went on to include specific examples of activities like “gherao, camping inside the premises/houses of teachers/officers, use of derogatory slogans, abuses, propaganda etc.” and ended with asking students to “not resort to any activity that is detrimental to the interests of the Institute.” It also notified the concerned readers about the disciplinary action that may be taken against those who exercise default or disobedience.
This notice came in the aftermath of a series of protests, demonstrations, marches and petitions which the IIT campus at BHU has seen over the span of the last couple of years. A few examples of these activities have been their protests against fee hikes in IITs (2016), protests against degrading health facilities of the Institute (2017), demonstrations against anti-Romeo squads (2018), candle marches against the rape and murder cases of Kathua and Unnao (2018) and a demonstration against the attacks on farmers who were marching peacefully to Delhi (2018), the last one being the most recent. The aforementioned activities were all organized by a students’ organization called Students For Change (SFC) for IIT BHU. Following the release of the notice, the SFC also released a pamphlet that called the acts of the administration a violation of the students’ rights “under article 19(1)(a), right to freedom of speech and expression and 19(1)(b), right to assemble peacefully.” The pamphlet expressed the SFC’s demands to roll back “this undemocratic and unconstitutional order” expressing the risk of a mass resistance by the students, should the administration fail to do so.
A third-year undergraduate student at IIT BHU and a member of the SFC said, “Although no official disciplinary action has been taken till now, yet some students involved in these [demonstrations] were verbally warned by the administration. This is for the first time that a written notice has been circulated against demonstrations, dharnas and all.” Along with the opposition from the SFC, numerous students have come out to criticize the administration’s decision on social media, resulting in a widespread discussion among the students too. Following this, an email sent out to the Registrar, dated October 12 and undersigned by the students of IIT BHU called the activities of expressing dissent and questioning norms as “essential parts of teaching-learning” and demanded the administration to withdraw the notice.
The unnamed member of the SFC also said, “During our last demonstrations, we were approached by the Proctors to ask for appropriate permissions, who then decided to delay the entire process, which we could not afford to do, and this is the technique they always resort to. This notice has just made the entire ideology of denying us official.”
The administration of IIT BHU has not responded to the requests of a comment on the issue, we will add updates if they do.